I’m not gonna lie. Being a wedding photographer when I’m a naturally shy introvert can be pretty tough. I feel, probably like many of you that are reading this right now, that this job is much easier for outgoing extroverts. As if I’m at a disadvantage because of my personality. As if there is an extra hill (or mountain depending on who you are) that I have to overcome in order to be just as good as my counterparts, much less become better.
And I think it’s true. Every bit of it. I do have to work harder at what I do because that is the nature of weddings. A photographer’s job is to connect with and document subjects beautifully and artfully, and our subjects just so happen to be people. People require connection, and as the photographer it’s my job to take that first step and make the connection. Doesn’t that sound like something that’s right up an extroverted alley?
I know for a fact that I’m not the only one out there who is an introverted wedding photographer. And my guess is that I’m not the only one who has struggled or is struggling with their shy personality. I feel many times that this job was meant for extroverts, and that I need to somehow change who I am in order to be successful.
The truth is, I do need to be different when I shoot, but I don’t necessarily need to change who I am.
In all honesty, I thought for a long time that I needed to be a certain “something” in order to be good at what I do. I thought that I needed to be fun and crazy and laugh loud and talk loud and not be afraid of anything. Even though I sat through dozens of conferences and talks that told me to just be who I am with our clients, my core beliefs didn’t change. I felt like “myself” just wouldn’t cut it. “Myself” does not make people comfortable or authentic. “Myself” is quiet. “Myself” is not true photographer material.
But this is what I’ve learned so far about my life as a wedding photographer. I’ve had to be coached. I’ve had to be trained. I’ve had to refine my skills and abilities in order to be excellent at what I do. And for me, learning how to coach subjects and step outside of my introverted comfort zone has been the largest part of my training. And it’s taken a lot of time behind the camera, but I have learned how to be extroverted in the ways that I need to be while I am shooting. I have learned how to laugh with my clients, how to be excited and fun, how to connect with their emotions, and how to direct a huge crowd of people into an organized group photo. (Now THAT is a skill that can only be learned on the job!) And all of these skills have become natural and real for me. I am not faking or creating anything when I shoot – I am still authentic while creating my art, but I am just more excellent at what I do.
But in the middle of all of this extroverted training, I learned the most important lesson – that being an introvert is also an enormous advantage in what I do. I have the gift of observation and intuition. It’s easy for me to withdraw from situations and feel the emotions that are taking place around me. I can connect deeply with individual people and feel the beauty inside of them. I am drawn towards details. All of these things are ME, and nobody can ever replicate my eye or my heart. Even though we hear leaders talk about the importance of marketing your individuality quite often, actually discovering your unique skills and talents is another hurdle altogether. Its not easy, but that’s why it’s so worth it.
This past week, Jeff and I joined Miles Ahead Ministries in the Cayman Islands as part of the production team for their Do Something World Festival, and we finally arrived home in the wee hours of this morning. I feel exhausted and renewed all at the same time. It was a big departure from what we normally do – it was pure photojournalism. No directing, no intervention – just documenting stories in beautiful and creative ways. We worked side by side with a group of incredibly talented videographers to produce quality material for future marketing projects, and we LOVED it. It was challenging and stretching, and I feel refreshed after a week of peering through a camera in totally new ways. Well into our trip, Jeff grabbed this shot of me between takes at an interview. I think I look really happy here. I WAS really happy here. And yes, I was probably tucked back into my own mind thinking some random thought about reflectors. But that’s the nature of my introverted world. Can I get an “amen” from all of my introverted friends out there??
Make sure to check out the Do Something Daily Updates to see the images and videos our team produced.