Starting a Photography Business as an Introvert

Starting a Photography Business as an Introvert

I didn’t realize I was an introvert until I was well into my 20s. I’m not shy, and I don’t mind speaking up in a crowd if I’m asked a question, so I always assumed I was an extrovert. You can imagine my surprise, then, when taking the Myers Briggs personality test in college yielded the result that I was an introvert. It all started to make sense. I would constantly find myself shying away from social events, although I considered myself social and had many friends, and I never liked any job that included a high volume of social interaction within a day, it exhausted me. When starting my business, one of my biggest struggles became working with my introversion.

First and foremost, introversion does not mean someone who is shy, unsocial, or hates people. And in it and of itself isn’t a weakness that needs to be overcome. Being an introvert simply means that you draw energy from being alone instead of with other people. Because of this, social interaction can be extremely draining both mentally and physically. That's why some introverts can be perceived as shy or unsocial. And while both extroversion and introversion have strengths and weaknesses associated with both personality types, it's important to embrace your personality type and build off of your strengths - while also improving upon your weaknesses as a person.

As a photographer (and in my case, specifically a wedding photographer), I’m in the business of serving people. Wedding photography can be demanding socially, and as a result for an introverted person, their first inclination could be to shy away from anything that is deemed as socially demanding. Here are a few tactics I’ve used to help manage being an introvert who owns a socially demanding business:

Create an Introvert-Friendly Business Environment

Luckily for me, and other introverted photographers like me, the business of photography is really 30 percent shooting and interacting face-to-face with clients, and 70 percent desk time. I thrive off of my desk time. I’ve opted for an at-home office, instead of a coffee shop or studio space, and I hold my at-home alone time near and dear to my heart. Having an environment where I can revel in my alone time, as well as be productive and work on my business helps me to get out every week and create a great experience face-to-face with clients. By the time my one day a week wedding rolls around, I’m energized and all charged up for the entire day. 

I’ve purposely created an environment that caters to my introversion because I know I’m in a socially demanding industry. Being self-employed means we have the power to control our business environment and we are in control of the expectations we set with clients. When goal-setting or business planning, put an emphasis on what you’ll need mentally in order to not burn out. This is especially important for introverts.

Online Versus In-Person

Some would argue that in-person sales and meetings are more effective than online interaction. I can’t speak to that argument because I’ve only ever emphasized online interaction. If you’re introverted, online interaction may help with constant client interaction. 

The key to good online interaction is creating a great experience for current and future clients. For me, this includes making sure clients feel like they have a good sense of who I am, as well as thoughtful response templates that include a wealth of information that I can send to clients to help make the online interaction feel more complete.

Something else that is key to having a successful business while emphasizing online interaction is knowing your audience. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone’s target client is different so it is important to know if your target client will feel comfortable with online interaction. In my case, I am based in Vegas, so I get many international clients coming to Vegas to elope or have a destination wedding. They’re my ideal target client, and online interaction tends to be more convenient for them (and me!).

Infusing Your Introversion Into Your Brand

When I talk about running a successful business, I often mention that infusing yourself within your brand is key to building trust with your audience. As an introvert, it is important that people understand who you are and how you interact. It's part of the all-important expectation setting that should occur at the beginning of any professional interaction. As I mentioned above, introversion is not a weakness that needs to be overcome, so its okay to showcase what makes you thrive. If you love curling up and getting lost in a good book, or thoughtful alone time, make sure you mention this in your “about me” section of your website and social media. People want to make a connection with you. Often times its the connection, and not necessarily our great photography, that causes people to book with us.

Image used with permission from splitshire.com, under creative commons.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Lastly, for any person, extroverts and introverts alike, it's important to get out of our comfort zones. Stretching ourselves as people is how we grow. If you’re uncomfortable with social interaction, slowly begin attending networking events. You don’t have to do it often, but definitely, make it a goal to do something you’re not comfortable with. Like any skill, communication and social interaction need to be cultivated and the only way to do that is to embrace uncomfortable social situations and learn from them. Reach out and meet fellow photographers, or strive to find a mentor. There are a ton of ways to help grow your communication and social skills.

Starting a photography business as an introvert is not impossible. For any person, starting a photography business is dependent upon building off of individual strengths. Embracing your introversion, understanding it is not a weakness, and refining an environment that helps you thrive as the person you are will help you to not only build a successful business, but it will also help you to stay mentally healthy as well.

Lead image by rawpixel.com, used under Creative Commons.

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14 Comments

Great points. I'm in the same situation, and struggle with weddings and events, but I often get complimented on how natural and spontaneous my people pictures are. Why ? Because I'm hiding in the corner with a tele lens, unnoticed, waiting for the defining moment. Posing and interacting can result in some great pics, but I've chosen fly-on-the-way to deal with my introversion, and my clients like it.

Mark - if you think that is a great picture... YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!

Really wonderful work!

Danette Chappell's picture

Absolutely! Being able to blend and not draw attention to ourselves is a definite asset in capturing great candid photos!

Cathleen Shea's picture

I really like the reminder that "people want to make a connection with us." Encouraging article for me... wrestling with PTSD, and well-meaning friends that tell me I should sell my work.

Danette Chappell's picture

Thanks for reading Cathleen, and I'm glad the article encouraged you! PTSD is so hard, and I hope you're able to take everything one day at a time. Cultivating an environment that you feel safe and comfortable in is key to not having mental burnout with photography.

Kirk Darling's picture

I've said before that I learned decades ago in high school that my camera was both a ticket and a shield. The camera was my ticket to be there, but it shielded me from having to be personally involved.

Over the years, I've overcome introversion within my work by realizing that the camera also puts me into two particular interaction situations: Either I'm operating as an observer with very little interaction or I'm operating as a director with authority over the situation.

And even back in the day, I really enjoyed the darkroom hours. Sitting at a computer isn't quite as nice.

Danette Chappell's picture

Kirk, great points. You're absolutely right about our cameras being both a ticket and a shield. Having my camera helps me to feel totally comfortable taking the reins in a social situation with many people who I don't know.

I still enjoy darkroom hours! Film and developing helps me stay inspired and refreshed!

Geoff Thompson's picture

Some good comments and introspection here Danette.I too am an introvert and did weddings for many years. I found that like clowns and actors who are often introverts and shy, that you can be someone else behind the camera rather than in front of it.Being an introvert also can make you a lot more sensitive to what's going on in the lives of your clients. I heard in a talk by Gary Fong who was talking about the late Rocky Gunn,his wedding photography mentor, that Rocky was very good at "reading" the emotions of his clients and new when to take a pic and when not.I don't regard my introversion as a problem but a blessing.I think we are all born with one of the 2 personality types. Introvert or extrovert.What I did struggle with and still do sometimes in life, was overcoming feelings of rejection.You might think this is related to introversion but I believe it is not.I have found my Christian Faith was very helpful in dealing with all these things.I was once photographing a wedding and in moving from the grooms place to the brides I had a "meltdown". A dreaded sudden onset of the "black dog" of depression. It was a struggle that day but I found that while actually concentrating on the picture taking the depression was momentarily kept at bay.When I examine the photos I took on that day I can remember what was going on in my head but no one else knew. Apart from my wife who was assisting me.The photos largely are fine.So I like you would encourage people to not allow these issues to hold you back. Embrace your introversion and develop your people skills as you go. A bit of a ramble but your post triggered a lot. cheers. Geoff

Danette Chappell's picture

Thanks for your comment Geoff! Understanding that introversion is a blessing and embracing it can be so powerful. Thank you for sharing your story!

Geoff Thompson's picture

Thank you for taking the time to respond to people's comments Danette. I am sure some are greatly encouraged. Keep up the good work!

As an INTJ I have to point out that the Myers Briggs test has absolutely no scientific validity...

Danette Chappell's picture

Haha, David, thank you for pointing that out! I would expect any true INTJ to do the same. :)

David Hynes's picture

yea, I'm in the same boat. I've mostly stuck with one on one interactions and small teams that I know and work with on a weekly basis. I don't think I could ever do weddings - so I've stuck with fashion & portrait work.

I have a list of mental health issues that stem from my childhood but I do my best with what I have. I double down on what I'm good at to make up for what I lack in. Without a camera in my hand social situations become very difficult for me, I'm working on taking small steps outside my comfort zone but sometimes easier said than done.

Great article and totally resonated with me.

Danette Chappell's picture

Thanks for sharing David. Taking it one step at a time is all any of us can ever do - and though sometimes it may not feel like we're progressing, when we look back on the bigger picture we're able to see the progress we've made! I'm glad the article resonated with you!