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How Do Introverts Navigate the Difficulties of Posing Clients?

Introverts find joy and comfort in being alone, not because of a dislike of other people, but because they are happiest when they're in their own space. So, how can a truly introverted person switch to a full-on social situation where clients need to be directed or posed in a confident manner?

In this video, portrait photographer and YouTuber Manny Ortiz sits down with wedding photographer and fellow YouTube creator Taylor Jackson to talk about how they overcome the massive obstacle that almost all people photographers suffer from, especially when starting out: posing clients. Posing clients is a skill, and like any other skill, it needs to be honed. For the introvert, however, this can be a huge barrier to even starting, never mind progressing. 

Listening to the guys talk about their own methods, I can't help but think that to a certain extent, they may be conflating introversion with social anxiety. This is by no means a criticism, as confusing the two is a common misconception and something that I also struggle with when trying to analyze my own neuroses around people-posing. Added to that, it's possible to be both introverted and suffering from social anxiety. What's the difference? It is my understanding that an introverted person who doesn't have issues with anxiety can "switch on" being extroverted without overly worried about how they are behaving, whereas an anxious person can be extremely self-conscious and self-critical in the same situation. Both can be exhausting, but the socially anxious person might perceive the experience in a much more negative way than the introvert.   

Regardless of my pedantry, the advice from both photographers here is solid for anyone who struggles with interacting with people. Their tips are something that I will certainly try in the future. 

Are there any introverts out there who would care to share their experiences? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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michaeljinphoto's picture

"How Do Introverts Navigate the Difficulties of Posing Clients?"

Very awkwardly.

Eric Salas's picture

It comes down to experience and the ability to communicate your vision for the photo you BOTH want.

When a model or client is involved you have to work with them to achieve the end result. Simply going out and telling a someone to, “just act natural” isn’t direction; that is the epitome of lack of direction. As soon as a photographer says those magic words, they’ve lost all control of the photoshoot and left all pressure and responsibility on the shoulders of the client.

Covering up your lack of experience in working with models or clients by saying, “I suck at this because I’m an introvert” is only putting icing over the sh*t cake.

There is no magic involved in communication only a lack of experience. Communication is a skill, not an inherent ability/trait you’re born with.

Kirk Darling's picture

I agree with what you've said about introversion and it's applicability or non-applicability in working with models.

With regard to "just act naturally," this is where posing comes into play, and photographers should understand the psychology involved in what they're doing.

Being photographed by someone else is not a "natural" activity for most people. Most people have not identified what "acting natural" is for themselves in such a meta-phyisical way that they can turn it on by command.

So when you say, "act natural," they don't know what that really means for themselves. So the are either flustered or they put on an act of what they think "natural" might mean. You get everything but "natural."

What we think of as the so-called posing "rules" are really posing "hacks" compiled by visual artists by observation of naturally graceful people over the last couple of thousand years. The posing hacks are an understanding of how people of different social positions and emotional states naturally stand or sit.

So when we place the person into the unnatural situation of being photographed, we have the responsibility to helping them back into a position that will look natural in the photograph. Part of being a photographer is knowing what "natural" should look like.

Jacques Cornell's picture

If I can make it fun for them, it's fun for me. It's taken me YEARS of practice, but this is the place I've arrived at. I suffered a lot of joke flops along the way, but they weren't fatal.

Robert Nurse's picture

THIS in spades! Shoots with people I've never worked with always start off somewhat awkwardly. But, 30 minutes to an hour in and we're good. The first thing I tell everyone I shoot is there's nothing they can do to mess this up. It's all on me. So, let's have fun! To lighten the mood, I'll demonstrate some girly pose for female subjects which usually gets them laughing and, subsequently, they and I relax more.

imagei _'s picture

My personal advice would be to be open and honest with the model (this part should be easy for an introvert, possibly less so for socially anxious person). Speak your mind, describe what you are after, perhaps show some examples (either printed or on your phone). If truly unsure don't bullshit, just say so and ask the model to work with you to find out what works -- keep in mind by doing this you are still in charge of the shoot. In other words, treat the person in front of the camera with respect, as a real, thinking and feeling person that can help you.

If you try to fake being an all-knowing superstar extrovert you will come across as an idiot. If you utilise your introvert side and create a more intimate connection you will be OK.

And, most importantly, speak, speak, speak. Describe what you are doing, what you like and what you are seeing in the viewfinder. Speak out loud of what you think could be done next. Just keep talking to create the communication. Even if done awkwardly (but always politely!) it is infinitely better than being silent. If you keep talking you will get better with time, even if some of this training may be cringeworthy.

Also what @Jacques Cornell wrote in another comment.

That comes from an introvert with a bit of social anxiety :-)

Jacques Cornell's picture

"If you try to fake being an all-knowing superstar extrovert you will come across as an idiot."
LOL. Been there, done that.

Michael Comeau's picture

Yes, they are mixing up social anxiety/shyness with introversion.

Introverts feel drained from communicating too much, and need alone time to recharge. Introverts can be shy an anxious, but they are not the same thing.

I actually wrote in-depth about this topic here:

Kirk Darling's picture

I actually know a socially awkward extrovert. The poor guy loves being around people, he loves being sociable, he loves being in groups, contacting people, joining clubs.

But he never manages to say the right thing. He always expresses himself in ways that either put people off or makes him look like an idiot. But he's actually extremely intelligent, and if you look through the way he says things, he's actually saying things worth hearing. He tries hard to be friendly and helpful, but it just comes out wrong.

It's really pretty sad.

Greg Turner's picture

Introverts don’t take joy in being alone; that idea is a pop psychology misconception. The introversion/extroversion scale measures the degree to which an individual extracts energy and motivation from either internal (introvert) or external (extrovert) sources. Thus an extrovert needs engagement with their social environment in order to feel energised and motivated, whereas an introvert is more independent of this.
It’s fundamentally wrong to believe that introverts don’t like being with others or find social situations awkward; they just don’t need that experience to feel motivated; introverts are more flexible in that they can operate successfully in either high or low social engagement environments. The challenge actually comes when you ask an extrovert to function in a solitary environment where they will struggle to be motivated.
Of more relevance to this article is the concept of agreeableness, which is the degree to which you want to please others and be amenable to them. Highly agreeable people are likely to put others more at ease more readily (a plus for portrait photographers) but may struggle to ask for ask for just one more shot or be reticent to ask too much of their subject

Kirk Darling's picture

I'm an introvert, but I have no problem being loquacious about certain things I know and like. If I'm in a social gathering and can find the corner where the other Star Wars or Star Trek or photography geeks are hanging out, I'm good for an hour of conversation until I feel the need to go home.

This works as well when I'm photographing a human subject. I love creating portraits, and I know what I'm doing. I have had people say to me after a session, "You were really in your zone, weren't you?"