The Introverts Guide to Photographing People

The Introverts Guide to Photographing People


Being an introverted photographer is a challenge, especially if you actually enjoy photographing people. As introverts, we tend to be happiest on our own, with family or with close friends. We avoid large groups and people that we don’t know well. We’re likely the last to speak up in a group setting.

Unfortunately, not “getting out there” holds us back from achieving some of our goals as photographers. But when we do get out there, we get tired or burn out from people quickly. But it is possible for introverts to actually thrive among people and even run a successful people oriented photography business.

Introverts guide photographing people 1

Families cherish their home. I love making newborn photos for families in their own home. It’s so much easier for them than packing up their baby and venturing off for photos. The experience is all the more enjoyable for the family if they also happen to be introverted!

Let’s go through both the strengths and challenges of being an introverted photographer so that you can enjoy photographing people to your full potential.

Let’s Begin With the Challenges

It’s well known among photographers that constraints and challenges can actually help you become more creative. When you’re limited in some way, it forces you to find new ways around obstacles to achieve your goals.

So don’t worry that introversion can be a challenge to photographing people or becoming better known as a photographer. Finding ways to overcome these challenges will make you better than you would have been without them!

Introverts guide photographing people 2

Relationships flourish in smaller groups.

1) The Challenge of Being Around People

As an introvert, you likely keep to yourself outside of school or work. Evenings and weekends are spent on your own or with family. You avoid crowds and would prefer to get together with close friends and have deeper conversations.

Of course, none of this is a problem on its own. But as a photographer, you may not be as ambitious as you would like to be when it comes to photographing people. Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, or even running a business, sticking to yourself instead of being out among people means you’re missing opportunities.

You’re missing out on learning from other photographers or collaborating on a project together. Running a successful photography business will be difficult without the connections you’ll make among families, photographers, and fellow entrepreneurs.

Introverts guide photographing people 3

The scene suggests a neglectful mom, but that’s not quite what was going on. I often strive for a little humor in my photos!

A danger of not getting out there is that you might end up spending too much time on social media. But social media can present us with an illusion of how great other people’s lives are.

You’ll see the exciting lives being lived by everyone else and think that you’re boring and have nothing to share. You might get the impression that everyone else’s photography business is booming. Their mini sessions are booked solid, their summer is filled with weddings, and they’re a great success compared to you. But social media is much different than the real world of people.

How to Overcome the Challenge of Being Around People

If you love photographing people, you’ll need to focus on making yourself get out there more. A little practice will get you in the habit of spending more time with people. Think of it as exercising your social muscles.

Stop missing out on opportunities. Exercise those social muscles by finding a camera club or local Facebook group for photographers. Start now, and make it your goal to track down a group of photographers in your area in which to participate.

Once you’ve found a group, especially if it’s quite large, find one photographer to connect with. Maybe even another introvert. Start a project with them. Maybe you can assist each other in a project you’ve been wanting do.

If you’re extremely introverted, look around at what the extroverts are doing and pretend to be one. Listen to how easily they talk with new people and how the conversation just seems to flow. Begin to imitate them. You should also have some leading questions ready for new people you meet.

Introverts guide photographing people 4

Little guys want to grow up to be as strong as their daddy.

2) The Challenge of Being “Out There” Too Much

Getting out there and among people will transform you as an introverted photographer. You’ll begin to get some of those portrait photography projects started, connect with interesting photographers, and maybe make a good new friend. However, after all this increased social interaction, you may find yourself tired out.

My first job in photography was a school photographer. I was taking traditional school portraits for up to 200 students per day. I had to greet them, make them feel comfortable, pose them, coax a great smile from them and wish them, “good day!” At the rate of 1000 students per week, I was exhausted! Not physically exhausted but, socially exhausted. The part of me that interacts with people was tired out.

The danger of becoming socially exhausted for long periods of time is that you’ll risk resenting people for stealing your time, you’ll become too exhausted to give your subjects the attention they deserve, and you’ll eventually burn out.

Introverts guide photographing people 5

Rest is one of the most important parts of life. It comes naturally to cats and some babies, but not always for busy grown-ups.

No doubt, many introverts running a photography business burn out from being socially exhausted. If only they had overcome this challenge, they would still be enjoying their photography business.

How to Overcome Being “Out There” Too Much

I learned an important lesson from my first portrait photography job. After a lot of social interaction, I need to rest from people. It’s similar to resting from intense workouts at the gym. Give your muscles a rest and you’ll be ready to go again in the morning.

Introverts need to take a rest from being social. After resting, you’ll be energized and strong again. Resting doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping. As an introvert, it means spending time on your own. You can spend this time reading, writing, editing photos or enjoying a movie. It’s just a rest from social interaction.

Introverts guide photographing people 6

Don’t resist rest. It’ll bring back your energy and joy for life.

Look for signs of being socially tired or exhausted. When your social energy is drained, take a break. It could be for a couple hours or a couple days. But as soon as you’re ready, get back out there.

If you run a photography business then you should take part of the week to rest from social interaction too. You could spend that part of the week editing your photos. That way you’re still working on projects that need to get finished but you’re resting at the same time.

3) The Challenge of Making Sales

We’ve covered “getting out there” and recovering from social interaction. But what about something like sales? If you want to convince people to be involved in your photography projects, sell your prints, or run a photography business, you need to be able to sell.

The key is to find a way to “sell” that works for you as an introvert. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Instead, work with your nature, overcome your challenges, and develop a method that works for you.

When you talk with other photographers or see them on social media, does it seem like they’re getting more work than you? Maybe it’s because they’re getting out there more, they’re talking, they’re enthusiastic, they know how to sell naturally.

How to Overcome Weaknesses in Sales

Selling doesn’t just mean making money. It means convincing people you’ve got something worthwhile to offer. Maybe it means persuading someone to be part of your project.

You already know that the first step is getting out there more. The more you’re around other people, the more opportunities you’ll have to sell. You’ve got ideas for doing that now. But there are other ways to sell yourself that will work comfortably with your introverted nature.

First, focus your efforts on being an incredible photographer. When people experience your photography services they will naturally refer you to other customers. That means they’re doing the selling for you.

Second, the extroverts that you have been getting connected with will sell for you. I constantly get referrals from extroverts who tell people about me. Extroverts are well connected with lots of people and will love to discuss your photography work if it’s good.

Remember, when your work is good, other people will sell it for you.

Finally, turn your website into a salesperson. Your website should have a good sales message on it. Everything that you would say in person should be on your website. But because it’s on your website, you write it once and then it does the talking for you.

People will find you as they search for the services you offer. If they like what they read on your website, they’ll want to hire you. You don’t have to go out there and sell yourself, let people come to you instead.

Your Strengths as an Introvert

By now, hopefully, you can see how to overcome the challenges of being an introvert. You can exercise your social muscles, get all the rest you need, and let your friends and website sell for you.

But there are advantages to being an introvert, so let’s look at your strengths.

Introverts guide photographing people 7

Sometimes one-on-one time is the best.

1) You Work Well on Your Own

Because you do so well on your own, you’re especially suited to landscape and nature photography. You can pursue these projects on your own and then share them with the group later.

Street photography is ideal for you as well. You don’t have to interact with people to do street photography. Candid photography is perfect for capturing street or travel scenes. You can stand back and enjoy watching people while pursuing a candid or photojournalistic style.

Since you can work well on your own, you can spend a lot of time studying photography in books and online. Taking lots of time to learn, think and reflect will allow you to go much deeper with photography. Remember, the better you get, the more word will travel about you.

Running a photography business takes a lot of lonely work behind the scenes (learning, planning, editing, marketing). Since you’re perfectly happy to work on your own, there will be fewer distractions while getting your work done. Extroverts really struggle to spend long hours on their own, but this is where you excel.

Don’t forget to combine your rest periods with study or work periods. When you’re resting from social interaction, use that time to do important business tasks on your own.

2) You Will Become a Better Communicator

As you interact with more groups of people and work hard to communicate your ideas in person or on your website, your ability to articulate yourself will improve. As I work on my family photography website, I make little adjustments to my sales message. Over time, my message has become very strong and families love working with me.

Remember to watch how extroverts interact, and you can begin to imitate them so that your social skills will improve.

3) You Excel in One-on-One Conversation

As an introvert, you’re likely really good with one person at a time. This is good news because there are many other introverts out there that feel the same way. They may be drawn to you as a portrait photographer.

Consider working on your sales message with another photographer. The two of you can help each other flesh out your thoughts and find the perfect wording. It’s a lot more fun to craft a sales message with a like-minded photographer when there is no pressure of actually selling. Remember, that message is going to do the talking for you later.

Over to You

As an introvert, you can thrive among people and run a successful photography business photographing people.

Exercise your social muscles and recover by resting from social interaction. Without that rest, you risk burning out and resenting people.

Let’s continue the conversation. Leave a comment below letting me know how you struggle with photographing people. Together, we can overcome our challenges and grow as people and photographers.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Mat Coker is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.

  • It’s like this is a post written for me. 😉 I’m probably more than an introvert (like socially-awkward), have never tried to photograph people (I shoot cityscapes at blue hour). Well, maybe it’s high time to go outside my bubble and exercise social muscles. I’ll need to find another introvert photographer first!

  • Michael Barnes

    i hate street photography for the sole reason im such an introvert. the idea of being in a busy street taking pictures of people turns my stomach. but your article is right… its an entire avenue of photography that we will never explore if we dont try.

  • Rob

    Just a personal observation, but I suspect that a majority of photographers are introverts. By its very nature, photography involves us being the observer in events, not the participant. Look at family photos, we are rarely in them, we are the ones behind the camera, where we feel safer or more in control.
    This article really strikes home for a lot, if not almost all of us. The people that observe, preserve and take in all the subtleties of light, mood and emotion but are more comfortable not being a part of those events.

  • Mat

    Yes, you might be right, Rob. Perhaps it’s our quiet way of participating and taking things in. Even though we’re not part of the crowd for long, we do help preserve the memories.

  • Mat

    I can feel that stomach turning! I think this runs even deeper than our introversion. We face a lot of anxiety over people (ie. weddings or street photography) and then find ourselves withdrawing and turning deeper into ourselves. I always take on some uncomfortable photography projects just to resist my anxiety and introversion!

  • Mat

    Joey, social-awkwardness could make for a very long article. I could almost write a book about it! Yes, why don’t you find another nervous photographer and do portraits of each other? What a great exercise!

  • Pls write a book! Ohh, it was an unexpected suggestion. While I don’t like (not interested in) shooting people, I also don’t like being photographed! I often look awkward in photos. With your family portraits business, have you come across any uncomfortable-looking dads, moms? Then, how do you handle those people to get the best out of them? Sorry that it’s going off-topic a bit!

  • Alan Bird

    So true adout life as well. I got more out of this article in more ways than just the photography side. Thank you.

  • Thanks for sharing these tips and also for focussing on the positives of being an introvert. I must confess to using another technique when I was doing a series of group photographs at my work: I took an extrovert with me. The way I saw it, I could bring along a person who was naturally good with people and who could make them feel comfortable while I focussed on the practical things like setting up the shoot. It worked a treat!

  • Mat

    You’re welcome, Katie!
    Taking an extrovert along with you is a genius idea! I like it when they’re in charge of the group and the camera. That way I can hang back and take some candid photos of the group. This is perfect for groups at weddings.

  • Mat

    That’s so great to hear, Alan!
    Becoming a working photographer has really transformed my personality and the way I relate with people. I had to get myself sorted out… or quite. And I had already promised I wouldn’t quite 🙂

  • Mat

    The people I photograph are ALWAYS uncomfortable!
    There are many ways that I help them to relax.
    1) I don’t rush things at the beginning of the session. There is lots of time to begin to get comfortable.
    2) I always tell them the first few photos don’t matter at all… we’re just warming up!
    3) I assure them that everyone feels uncomfortable. Knowing that it’s normal really relaxes them.
    4) I crack jokes and catch them smiling and laughing.
    5) I focus on lots of candid moments when they are unaware of the camera.
    6) I do anything I can to keep the attention off the camera and photos and on the deeper connections that I’m trying to photograph.
    Hopefully that helps a bit!

  • Thank you Mat for these advice! Very helpful. 🙂 I’ll take note when I have an occasion to be photographed. Thanks!

  • Mat

    you’re welcome, Joey!

  • Stacey

    Im just going to argue the point that being an introvert makes you a bad communicator – in general aI think the reverse is true actually. Extroverts are all about the big sales pitch and making a splash, but introverts often pick their words more carefully, communicate more specifically and with more accuracy. It isnt always the best way to make SALES as such, but being an introvert is not a barrier to effective communication. You generally say something when you have something specific and meaningful to say rather than waffling on because you like the sound of your own voice.

  • Stacey

    Actually a REALLY good way of learning about how people react in front of a camera…… is to use yourself as a model. That is really important because when you need to guide someone to do a particular pose, you can describe very specifically what you want their body to do, because you know how it feels. Its a powerful tool.

  • P?nar Efe

    When i saw this article, i got so excited and couldn’t wait to read it. I really love this article. It’s broaden my viewpoint and enlightened me,thank you so much. ?
    I struggle with taking photos in the street. I really love street photography but i think i have a fear of rejection. I hesitate to ask people whether it’s okay or not if i take photos of them. I think of what to say if they ask me why. I missed many moments because of that, which i wanted to shoot.

  • Mat

    I’m so glad this article helped you 🙂
    I know the fear of rejection that you feel. Chances are if you ask people to photograph them they WILL reject you. But they’re not really rejecting you. Perhaps they’re really uncomfortable in being in photos, or they’re just uncomfortable that they don’t know you.
    One great way to get passed things that scare you is to practice them slowly. The more people you ask, and the more you get used to rejection (without taking it personally), the easier it will become to approach people. But don’t ASSUME they’ll reject you and don’t think they’re rejecting YOU. They’re just nervous like the rest of us!
    Who knows what overcoming your fear will lead to…

  • Mat

    Yes, this may actually go beyond the introvert / extrovert distinction. I know introverts who are wonderfully communicators and some, like myself, who aren’t. Likewise, I know extroverts who ramble on and on without saying anything valuable and others who are wonderful at articulating themselves. This may getting into the broader idea of social awkwardness as some commenters have mentioned – just not knowing what to say, or saying too much without saying anything at all.
    But I do take your point that being an introvert is not necessarily a barrier to communication.
    Thanks for weighing in 🙂

  • Stacey

    Social awkwardness is one thing. Not having a clue about how to effectively communicate in different environments is actually an entirely separate issue. Knowing how to speak to people of different cultures and backgrounds, knowing how to direct people in a way that encourages them rather than ordering them around, learning how to sell and upsell or cross sell subtly, how to have a basic conversation with people with no agenda other than actually spending time with them and get to know them – they are all skills that can be learned. Mostly it involves asking an open question and then SHUTTING UP and listening and hearing the answers. Something extroverts are not good at, but many people in general are not good at it, cos we are always in a rush to say what we have to say. Communication is an art form, its a “soft” skill that is looked down upon as not important. But if we can’t communicate well, how can we get anything else to happen?

  • Thank you for the tip!

  • P?nar Efe

    I can’t thank you enough. You’re the best. I appreciate it

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