Seven Tips for the Introvert Photographer

A guide for shy photographers book cover mock up
Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

If you’re an introvert photographer you will find it difficult to take photos of people. If you don’t find it challenging it means you avoid it. Being shy does not mean you have to avoid photographing people. You just need to learn how to do it.

Here are seven tips for the introvert photographer. These are from my book, Photographing People – A Guide For Shy Photographers.

Asian woman taking a photo with a camera

Tip #7: Know Your Camera Well

An introvert photographer should know their camera well. Every serious photographer should be able to pick up their camera and adjust the settings with ease. Being able to do this means you are free to connect with your subject.

Building rapport is essential and not something to be hesitant of. How well you relate to your subject impacts the outcome of your portraits. This is as important as setting your exposure and focus well.

“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.” ~ Peter Adams

Using your camera often is the key to getting to know it well. Choosing to control your exposure in manual mode will help you get to grips with your camera. This takes time and effort, but is well worth the commitment.

Two women on a photography workshop being shown the functions of a DSLR camera

Tip #6: Be A Determined Introvert Photographer

If you’re an introvert photographer you will have to be  determined. A disciplined approach will help break through your self-conscious habits. For some people, this will be easier than others. I know because I found out the hard way.

My journey from an introvert photographer to one who loves photographing people was challenging. It still is at times. Experience has shaped my thinking. Determination is the measure of how successful you will be. It’s up to you and the most difficult aspect it keeping your thoughts positive. When you learn how to do this, you are well on the way to developing your style.

Kevin Landwer-Johan with DSLR Camera - Why I Believe Using Manual Mode Is The Best Option

Tip #5: Use Your Camera As A Bridge

Cautious, introverted photographers generally find it uncomfortable approaching people to take their picture. What reason could you have to want to talk with someone?

Your camera is the bridge. It is the reason for you to connect. Thinking of it this way can help build your confidence. Without a camera in my hands, I am way more socially awkward than when I have one with me.

Your camera allows you to traverse the distance between your intention to photograph someone and the actual portrait. Not only to make the picture but to connect with your chosen subject. 

Let your camera become the solution to your hesitancy to approach people. It is not only the equipment you use to take photos with. The camera is also the means to help you build rapport with your subjects. This is especially true when you have mastered Tip #7.

You need to master your camera and not hide behind it. Doing this it becomes a barrier, not a bridge. Being aware that you can use your camera to help you connect will assist in your development.

Kayan girl and Arab woman with a DSLR camera during a Chiang Mai Photo Workshop
Our customer in a close moment of photography love with Malu at Baan Thong Luang.

Tip #4: Start By Photographing ‘Easy” People

“It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” ~ Alfred Eisenstaedt

Some people love to be in front of a camera. These are the ‘easy’ people to photograph. As in introvert photographer, they will make your job less stressful.

My sister was the first to encourage me to photograph people. As a young guy, I was painfully shy. I loved taking photos, so long as there were no people in them. She encouraged me my photos would be better if they included people. So I started photographing her. 

She was not thrilled with this, but got used to it and learned to enjoy the process. We used to hang out a lot together so she didn’t have much option.

People who are comfortable in front of the camera are much easier to photograph. They are more relaxed and, because of this, they will most likely enjoy seeing the photos you take of them. Someone who doesn’t like being photographed will be up-tight. This will show in their expression and they won’t like the pictures.

Choosing to photograph someone who’s going to have a good time while you are doing it is positive. Both of you will enjoy the experience. 

A young woman thinking about an introvert photographer

Tip #3: An Introvert Photographer Should Communicate Well

As an introvert photographer, you will struggle somewhat with communicating well. This is one of the key aspects of people photography that’s rarely taught much. I think the reason is that many introverted photographers never push past their timid nature and learn to do it well.

Capturing a great portrait requires as much good communication as it does camera skills. Inappropriate conversation, or none at all, will lead to lackluster photographs usually. Your portrait depends a lot on the way you talk with your subject.

Of course, the conversation will be different with someone you know than with a stranger. Make things easy for yourself. Take note of Tip #4 and make it someone you know. The balance of these two things will help you overcome your self-conscious nature.

Tip #7 is pertinent here too. The more you have to concentrate on your camera, the more unmanageable good conversation becomes. Knowing your camera well will free you up to give more positive energy to building a healthy rapport. Even if you know them well. When you’re worried about your camera settings you are not likely to dedicate yourself to connecting well with your subject.

People love it when you are interested in who they are. Photographers are often curious people. It’s a good idea to develop this when you want to photograph people. Show interest in who they are and people will more likely warm to your request to photograph them.

Dacncing Couple for introver photographer

Tip #2: Be An Introvert Photographer With Purpose

“To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye, and the heart. It’s a way of life.” ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Your camera is not the problem, it is the solution. Not only to take the pictures, but to assist you in communication. You have a purpose when you have your camera in hand. Make use of it, not only as a tool to make photographs, but to form relationships.

Having a longer term goal for your photography is helpful on many levels. Focusing on the same photography project over a period of time will aid your learning. When you concentrate on the same topic your photography efforts are more fruitful. 

Working with the same person for more than one or two photo sessions will build confidence in both of you. Finding that person who’s easy to photograph may be tricky. But when you do find them, work hard to convince them to let you photograph them on several occasions.

Photographing the same person many times in different settings is a great way to learn. Each time you get together you’ll interact differently. Communication becomes more relaxed and your photos will improve. When you are confined to photograph someone only once you may not have time to build rapport with them. This is more noticeable when you are first starting out.

I had no option but to develop my skills as a people photographer. I’d landed a job in a newspaper and wanted to keep it. Working in the photography department of the Auckland Star was wonderful. I realized early on that I could no longer be an introvert photographer. Virtually every picture in the paper had at least one person in it.

Circumstances and my desire pressed me to overcome my timid nature. I had a purpose. Most photographers will not have this same motivating force. So you’ll have to give yourself a reason to succeed. Photographing people is not easy, but the more determined and purposeful you are, the more likely you’ll overcome.

Pineapple Bite for an introvert photographer

Tip #1: Practice People Photography

Picking up your camera often and photographing people is the best way to learn. Practice these tips and do so often. The more often you can find someone to take photos of the quicker you will learn. 

Every successful creative person practices to become better. The best artists are usually prolific. They also study. Photography is best learned with a combination of study and hands-on camera work. Theory must be transformed into action. To achieve this, frequent practice is vital. You must also have a plan and a purpose. Then you can learn to take better photographs.

Using your camera every day is the best way to improve photography. For an introvert photographer, taking pictures of people every day will build your skills and confidence rapidly. You’ll learn to remember your camera settings and develop your photographer’s communication skills.

Study, reading, and learning from other photographers will develop your abilities. To learn to be confident with your camera settings check out my online course. Master Your Camera – Master Your Creativity will teach you camera skills. 

Read more about overcoming your self-conscious photographer habits by reading my book. You can buy Photographing People – A Guide For Shy Photographers on Amazon. It’s available for Kindle and as a full-color print edition.

But these things must be balanced with frequent camera use. You can learn as much theory as you like, but it remains limited until you put it into practice often.

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Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post you will also enjoy “5 Tips That Will Improve Your Photography”

Kevin Landwer-Johan photographer
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