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Introverted and Inspired
There are three kinds of people in the world. Introverts, extroverts and photographers. How does your personality impact on your exploration of the world through a camera?

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I have never been an extrovert, and never will be. Most of my life I have been painfully shy in addition to enjoying a more contemplative way of life, a double whammy when compared to my more gregarious colleagues. I don't enjoy drinking cheap beer in a crowded Bangkok nightclub and have had to learn to step outside my comfort zone in order to pursue the treasures of travel.

That is why I am intensely aware of how hard it can be for us photographers to walk the streets of a foreign country and approach strangers with a camera in hand.

"Bold and brash" is not the only way to approach travel photography, and indeed can often be counter productive. Engagement is essential for good portraits but the quality of engagement is where your personality can make a difference. Hit and run photography has never been my style because there is no depth in such images, likewise posing subjects for a shot is rarely desirable for me as both the subject and composition can end up contrived or laboured.

Slow and gentle wins this race, patiently earning your intimacy instead of taking by stealth or force. Slowly slowly. I design my travel around removing the rush factors, and design my day around taking time to maximise the experience before taking exposures.
(See my book ReIMAGINE for an entire chapter on this). It means you see fewer places but you also get a more detailed and accurate experience of those you do visit.

This ideal is simply a reflection of my personality, my preference for knowing a little more about my destination and wanting to take time to absorb the information properly. My work is influenced by my personality, and being aware of this has proved very valuable.

At times I have been compelled to cultivate a little more boldness, because on a commercial shoot you often need to step into different shooting styles to get the result you want. Certain situations demand that you, as the photographer, take control and instigate the moment. Weddings for example are often run on a scheduled based around the photographer instead of the bride, such is the imperative to ensure the magic of the day is captured forever.

So there's a reason I don't shoot weddings. Not even for friends, and especially not for friends. I also don't do weddings for friends.

Understanding your own tendencies gives you the chance to challenge them at times and explore what's outside your comfort zone, while staying safely clear of your disaster zone. Every time you go out and take photos there is an opportunity to either expand your boundaries a little or play to your strengths. Either is valid, depending on your confidence on the day.

Extroverts have one other limitation that often steps in the way of their potential for creative expression. In addition to searching for the bold and bright in preference to more subtle moments, extroverts are less likely to spend quiet time after a day of shooting to delve into their photos for post-processing and reflection. It's hard to make mental space for reflection when you're still busy looking for new stimulation.

Time spent with your day's work is invaluable, and not just when learning a new skill. Every single day of your life is a chance to learn something new, however modest or magnificent.

I spend a lot of time with my images. They are my friends and my muses. On a commercial shoot I will spend the evenings fully immersed in my work from the day so I can take stock of what worked well and what didn't. I look for the gaps in the collection, list where I need to step forward a little more or where I need to be more patient and take time. I want to make each day better than the last, and I cant rush the process of reflection anymore than I can hurry the rising of the sun.

This process is more than just being attentive to a shoot list, it's a deeper engagement that extracts a rich vein of creative potential. Hidden in the visual record of each day are patterns of success and failure, and looking for ways to improve on those failures is precisely how we take strides forward in our skill level. No other situation will push your development so rapidly or substantially. Quiet and attentive reflection is essential.

This part of the job is intensely solitary and fills my mind with information on a very small range of subject matter. It's exactly what you expect of us introverts whether photographing for work or pleasure. Having spent all day mixing with people and cameras we retreat to the comfort of a quiet room and reflect on the day. It's emotionally restorative as well as educational. With captures for companions we can walk through the day over and over, examining in detail the intricate outcomes of our photography or the experience itself.

Such reflection is demanding, but for some personalities it proves ultimately grounding and satisfying. You wake up the following day ready for another opportunity to implement what you studied last night, ready to push a little harder on engagement with strangers or switch modes to try something different.

If you are one of those people who identify themselves as introverted then you need not feel that photography is in conflict with your personality. Be encouraged that the care and patience that comes with your natural tendencies are extremely valuable when working with a camera, and with people.

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This entry is deeply inspired by Susan Cain and her book called "Quiet" which explores the nature of introverted people and why we should celebrate the power of our deeper sensitivity. It's a wonderful read, and Susan is a uniquely skilled communicator of immense grace on both the page and the stage. I first came across her ideas watching the following TED TALKā€¦
This feature was last updated on Thursday 27th June 2013
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