How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

By Tim Wainwright

Each year I refuse to participate in the game of sharing new year’s resolutions. Every year I refuse to make resolutions. I understand however, that for many people they are an important start to the year and new years resolutions offer a chance to at least pretend for a little while that this year will be better than the last even if just by wishing it so.

I do agree, however, that January is a fine time to ponder a few issues as one sits on a comfy sofa on a freezing and rainy Sunday afternoon, broke and waiting for the next pay day.

January gives us a lot of time to think about the year ahead, if for no other reason than there is very little else to look forward to. This strikes me as being apt as it is a time of year when we can start to see Old Father Time turning his mind towards the rebirth of spring and it seems a natural time for humans to ponder what the rest of the year may hold. The coming of a new year is also for many of us a suitable time to start to make changes – the sweep of a new broom as it were.

In mid winter and in middle age, this January I have stopped drinking alcohol, initially just for January, but as the end of the month approaches, I am thinking about keeping my abstinence going through February and maybe into March. I have also been going to the gym three times a week throughout the month. I am very much in favour of self reflection.

Misty Morning walker under the M25

In the interests of promoting self reflection, I know that I am not a great photographer, probably not even a very good one. Every now and again, however, I do take images which I think are pretty good. I think that the overall quality of my photographic output, my ‘body of work’, is decent enough and a small part of my inner photographer has started to whisper in my ear that some of the images are too good to just keep on my computer screen. Also, if I only keep them to myself, how will I ever learn anything, how will I ever be critiqued, how will I ever improve, or will I be doomed to just keep taking similar pictures for the rest of my life and watch as my photography atrophies?

Such pondering leads to much bigger questions, more difficult questions of what sort of photographers we are and why do we take photographs? Those are too much for me to think about right now. What I do know is that I take photographs because it gives me joy and because I enjoy being creative. I also know that I have absolutely no desire to even contemplate making photographs for a living. But in what sense do ‘non professional’ photographers have the right to show their work to the public? What forms can that take and how should I take my photography to the next step….and what is the next step?

Balconies overlooking Worthing seafront, West Sussex

The internet is rammed full of articles and videos about moving your photography on, but these seemed to be aimed at the beginner (which I am not) and about technique (which I know) or gear (which I have), but there does not seem much about what to do when you have mastered the techniques and know your style and what you want to visualise. The presumption seems to be that everyone who makes photographic images will want to become a full time professional. But where does that leave the presumably thousands of photographers who, like me, do not?

I do have an instagram account but I do not want to dive too far down the social media rabbit hole and pursue the ‘likes’ as this seems to me to have breadth but no depth (and I am too old a rabbit to learn new tricks). I generally tend to take pictures around London and the south of England, usually on days off or trips to see family and friends as well as for work. Ideally I would like to be lightly known as a local photographer and instagram does not really help with that goal. I don’t like (or understand) the mentality behind social media. It would be great to earn a little bit of ‘pocket money’ also, as however I may try to deny it, we do, on some level, equate payment with quality.

Therefore it seems to me that if I want to take my images off my computer and into the big wide world, I have a few options. I could try to host an exhibition which would be nerve wracking and has some practical hurdles to overcome, not least of which is what gallery would be willing to show pictures created by a complete unknown? I could set up my own website but surely this means that I have to be on it every day, chasing leads, trying to improve my web exposure, getting tech savvy and answering questions? I spend enough time on a laptop at work and one of the reasons why I love photography so much is it gets me off the computer, so I do not really want to spend my spare time managing a website. I could create a lovely photo book… but how do I get it out to the public and how to sell it and who to? Should it have words as well as pictures? What should the theme be?

Pondering fish for lunch?

The answers to these questions are all out there and deep down I know what they are, I just need to convince myself that I know what they are. I need to make some decisions and I need to be brave, to put myself out there and follow through with the promises that I make myself. Yes, it will mean spending some money and yes, it will mean effort and probably also time on the computer. But it will be worth it. I will grow as a photographer and learn a lot; I will find out if I am a decent photographer and if any of my images chime with the public.

On another level, the idea of publishing my images and putting them on public display in any form scares me, not least because it will mean that, on some level, that I have to start admitting to myself and others that I see myself as an artist and that is not something that I have ever considered myself to be and I would never hope to put myself in the same bracket as ‘proper’ artists. Nor do I believe that being an artist is a label that should be freely handed out to anyone just because they make art – it needs to be earned not adopted.

A jogger running over a canal on a cold morning

By putting my thoughts down and stating my fears into this article, part of me is also forcing my own hand, making sure that I cannot hide behind my natural introvert, my embarrassment and my fear of putting my work in the public eye. By publicly stating that this is what I intend to do through 2023 as the next step on my photographic journey I have to follow through; I cannot keep those thoughts to myself. This is surely of value in itself and will help me grow as a person.

It seems that, after all, January is a good time to set new challenges.
A statue overlooking a fog shrouded pass on the Lake District
You can find me on Instagram

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Comments

Erik Brammer on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 06/08/2023

Thanks a lot for your positive feedback, Tim! Maybe one day I will be brave enough to write an article for 35mmc as well, if I have something interesting or meaningful to share. And if Hamish allows me to do so. The language barrier thing is a bit of an obstacle, but hey, Christian Schroeder, another fellow German, managed to post some great articles here, and otherwise deepl.com will be my friend. I really love this community here! Have a nice Sunday! Erik
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Erik Brammer on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 06/08/2023

Hi Tim, Having just read the latest article from Bob, Peter and yourself, I reread this post of yours. Your photography is absolutely stunning. Every single image delivers a mood - which is what I aim to accomplish with my photography as well. And can sympathise with all your thoughts, doubts and emotions around the meaning and purpose of your photography 100%. I have a few friends following my iCloud album where I post images taken in and around our town of Darmstadt, Germany. Showing the (very scarce beauty) but even more so the ugly face of it. I earn some positive comments here and there - not sure whether it’s purely a matter of courtesy. Also, a friend of mine runs a dermatologist practice, and when I remarked a good year ago that her walls are quite naked, she immediately agreed, purchased 10 B2 size frames from Halbe Rahmen, and ever since I can exhibit some of my stuff in her practice, with he sets being exchanged once a quarter on average. Her team and she herself loves it as it seems to give them something to look forward to about once a quarter, and something to look at throughout. And there is always positive feedback from the patients as well, e.g. if they know a spot or think a known spot has been shot from a very unique perspective or in a special light or weather atmosphere. Typically the sets of photographs shouldn’t be too experimental or show the grim face of our town, but they should rather be the pleasing images that pretty much every one will like - and no one would ever purchase prints of, it seems. But like yourself, I am not after the money, I am after the balance to my day job which actually needs to feed our family. I will say that I always try to sneak two to three more experimental images into each set of ten to see whether there will be any reactions. And come autumn, sure they will see fog and mist galore! If anyone is interested in my local album, you can find it at: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0R5VaUrzaSkLU Pretty much all digital so far as I only started doing film again about a year ago. Keep up the great photography, Tim! Best regards, Erik
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 06/08/2023

Hi Erik, thanks for your kind words and suggestions. There has been a lot of very positive interactions as a result of my article on the insecurities that I have been feeling, so there must be quite a few of us out there with similar feelings! You have some really good ideas and like wise, I am also looking for a wall space in one of the cafes / shops etc who do hang artworks, so hopefully I'll be able to update my initial article sometime over the winter. Looking at your iCloud page I can totally see why you get so much positive feedback and people wait with excitement for the next set of photos, they are a really intriguing and interesting set of images, congratulations. Thanks again for the thoughts and advice and watch this space...!

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Geoff Chaplin on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 05/08/2023

Tim, first your pictures are excellent (particularly the 2nd, 3rd and last), in many ways better than mine and I've had exhibitions at a dozen or so third party galleries for free. Most criticism I find is not helpful, other than professional critics it's often just personal taste, and yours is what counts. Unless you want to rent a gallery (very expensive) then private exhibitions for invited friends in a church hall, garage, or whatever available space you can find may be much more rewarding - emotionally not financially.
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 05/08/2023

Dear Geoff, thank for your support and comments. Certainly an exhibition of sorts in a gallery is something I would like to pursue more. This summer I have had a small exhibition at the Worthing Artists Open House in Sussex which was an enjoyable experience and also supportive, so a goo way to start. I'll be looking for more opportunities and I like your suggestion. Cheers, Tim

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Scott Mackie on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 26/03/2023

Tim, Thanks for a really thoughtful article. And the images - the first three really spoke to me. As you can see from the excellent comments so far, you’re not alone! I’m another solo photographer who also wonders how to resolve the tension between taking photos and displaying them. I worked for a brief period of time as “semi-pro” but I found it absolutely stressful and disabling. I realized quickly back then that I didn’t want to be a photographer as a career - taking photos scratches a fundamentally different creative itch for me. I now take photos for myself - utterly selfishly. I think one of the main struggles is accepting that. I take photos that please me and it’s hard to balance that with wanting people to see your work (which inevitably involves some degree of subjective judgement). This is one of the reasons I left Instagram as I really didn’t like the push for engagement. I do have a website tho - this is a remnant of my pro flirtation and I still push myself to put photos up there. Usually galleries with a connecting strand - either place or theme. A focus when you work by yourself is absolutely critical, IMO. I love picking small projects for myself and wandering with that idea in mind. The key is to not let it stress you. It’s a conceit to frame how you view making images that day, not a hard and fast rule. If something else leaps out, go with that. Cheers Scott…
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 26/03/2023

Thanks Scott, I appreciate your comments. Like, you, I have started to focus more on projects which has been good, but I also sometimes just like going for a walk with no particular photographic destination in mind. I think balance is the key, like so many things in life. One thing I do find hard sometimes is judging the quality of my photographs as I find that I can mix up how happy I was when I took them, or how I felt, with their final qaulity as a subjective photograph - meaning that while I might like them, others will not!

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Wouter Willemse on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 21/03/2023

Great thoughts, and I think a subject many can relate to. For sure, add me to the masses. Yet, I have tried several things and in my experience, it's all tricky. Ultimately ideally you find like-minded people who are willing to discuss photos in an honest and open-minded way. Who aren't afraid to be blunt, but yet empathic. Who have a similar level of understanding of technique to be able to share tips and tricks, but who do not get hung up on it, and can appreciate content of the image. Social media has never been the response to this for me. There is too little open discussion there. Many moons ago, there was a forum I frequented that did this well, if you put in the effort to find those like-minded. But it worked, and then trolls marched in. Photo-clubs can be great, and can really be the trick. But risk is big that the discussion tilts towards the technical side of things or adhering to some "rules", and then it stops being great. And there are always those who get all defensive - you need thick skin and absorb critiques, and that's not always easy. I've done a course that was focussed more on various approaches to doing projects (as mentioned above), and that was very useful. It also created a good situation for good discussion on photos. Perhaps check local arts courses, hopefully they have something similar on offer. That's my journey so far :-) No, it's not easy and yet there is so much we can learn of each other. Self reflection is very important, but in the end it only gets you so far.
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 21/03/2023

Thanks Wouter for your input. My problem is finding those people who you can discuss photography in a non judgemental way - I completely agree about the dangers of social media in this regard. I also have no idea how thick my own skin is in regard to photography! I'll keep searching and thanks for your thoughts.

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Michael J on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 18/03/2023

Gosh! This has touched a nerve- I'll admit to nodding along with quite a bit of it- and I daresay 35mmc's attitude to publishing all kinds of contributions from all kinds of photographers might mean that there's a concentration of readers whose curiosity is as much intellectual as technical, which is somewhat uncommon in a tech-obsessed field. I have a zine project that's been ticking along very slowly for a couple of years (working title "Snots") but apart from Instagram it's all pretty much for me. One thing I've found really inspiring is a podcast series called "A Small Voice" which celebrates the personal relationship with photography of a lot of well-known photographers (most of whom are interesting and relatable people) - inspiring to improve my relationship with myself as a human being through or even despite the photography. I like your photos!
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 18/03/2023

Thanks Michael for your comments and thoughts. I'll definitely check out the pod cast; it sounds great.

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Michael Krause on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 18/03/2023

This topic has also preoccupied me. Loving and practising photography, but not knowing for whom and for what, can be torturous. My thoughts were similar to yours and so were the insecurities and doubts. Fortunately, I found a book at that time that was made exactly for this situation and shows very well-founded, practicable solutions: Martina Mettner "Fotografie mit Leidenschaft" (Photogragaphy with passion). Unfortunately, there is only a German edition. The advice is: Work on photographic projects. Look for a subject that really interests you, that you have a connection to. Make it a project that has a beginning and an end and then move on to the next project. Start with a small, simple project but work on it intensively. This way you will meet people who are interested in your photos and appreciate your work. For example, your local fire brigade or grocer or the authority responsible for the roads in the mountains that you have photographed so beautifully. This in turn naturally leads to your images being shown and viewed - by people for whom your images have real relevance. Whether that's an exhibition or a book or on social media will happen. For me, it works very well. Here you can find the website of a larger project that I did a book on afterwards (that was not the project I started with) http://awo-rennkollektiv.de/ As you wrote yourself, it takes more than pleasantly exploring the area with your beloved equipment. It is sometimes real work. But it is worth it. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 18/03/2023

Hi Michael, it is interesting what you say as part of my reflection after writing this piece was that I was inspired to start to think about projects not just taking photos as and when I saw them, but to have a focus when going out to photograph and that has bene really useful. However, they are not based around people and groups - that is an interesting slant and one I shall have to ponder further. Thank you!

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Peter Roberts on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Tim, A few random comments if I may. Firstly, you've made the first move by baring your thoughts (a product of SAD perhaps? Don't worry, I get it big time) and taking the plunge to post here on 35mmc. You write well and your images are impressive and reflect that you have acquired your own style. Not only that but you also have plans to exhibit for which I salute you. While I have no ambitions to exhibit publicly apart from the occasional post here I've got into the habit of putting together an annual yearbook for distribution to family and friends. It helps banish the winter blues and evaluate my "work" such as it is. There's nothing like seeing your work on a printed page rather than a computer screen. Incidentally because of this my son and daughter, both good photographers who have had things accepted and published, have become my worst critics! Although a loner at heart when it comes to photography I would be up for Bob's mini meet-up as long as it is indeed mini. I don't think there's a collective noun for photograhers although a phalanx would be suitably alliterative but at the same time rather intimidating. I look forward to further posts from you here on 35mmc. Pete.
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Ted Ayre on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Ahh Tim this article speaks to my heart! I think there will be many others who won't comment too who share your worries about 'putting yourself out there' and sharing your photos. I struggle calling my photographs 'work' and have looked into setting up a website, but I can't think to what end? If it's just sharing photos then I like Instagram, and I've joined a local photography group with an online chat via Discord - North West Film Photo (https://www.instagram.com/northwestfilmphoto/) that is really encouraging and also offers the chance to meet like-minded people. Who knows, maybe you could put a small book or zine together and it could even go on sale at an independent book shop or gallery - there are lots of options to try out, good luck!
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Ted, thank for your comments and thoughts. I think a zine is a good move and since I wrote this article I have been starting to put one together. Joining a local photography group is a good one also and not one that had really occurred to me for some reason. For me photography has always been a rather solitary pursuit, so I will have to mull that one over.

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Roger Bergeron replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Tom, I feel same about photography being a solitary experience. Just to throw out an idea … It might be interesting to explore interacting with a different kind of artist; like someone with imagination for poetic (or prose) expression, and might find inspiration with some of your particular images. A partnership working together for fun, each experimenting, offering pleasurable talents. Could shop around. You are very straightforward about who you are. That brings a solid foundation to any collaborative efforts (Could even be done in a virtual realm. Anyone from around the world is a possibility)

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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Roger, that is a great idea. It might take some searching to find someone who resonates with you even in a different medium. How did you / would you find the right person?

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brian m cox on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Great article and photos. I recently created my first social media page at the age of 42 for most of the same reasons you mentioned. I'm still not sure if it was a good move. Knowing your work will be viewed on a tiny phone screen where details and composition can get lost. When I take pictures now I sometimes find myself wondering if what I envision looking through the lens will transfer to where I know it will more than likely be viewed. This sometimes makes me compromise what I want to do just because I know it would be lost on somebody's phone. I will also admit I really don't have a great understanding of how Instagram works and the more I learn the more I want to delete my account and go back to my social media free life. When I get frustrated that one of my photos doesn't get the likes I feel it deserves and get in my head I try to remember why I do this in the first place - for me. I supposes its like having a love for playing an instrument that you just like to play even when no one is around to listen. Having validation is always motivating but I am finding social media might not be the place to find it. I wish you luck in getting out there and would welcome any follow up articles of what you discover.
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Thanks Brian, I am hoping to try a few things soon and since I wrote this article I have a put a few things in place to get me out of my comfort zone, so I will hopefully have some more insight in a few months. I agree that at times one has to look hard for a reason for social media.

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Gordon Lafleur on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Lovely work, worthy of putting out there. It's a conundrum. We seek validation I suppose. Who knows if people like Vivian Meir cared or not if anyone saw her work. Would her work have looked different if she had been always conscious of people seeing her work, or did it stay pure because she didn't. I struggle with this too. I post virtually every day on Facebook, looking for "likes". Does it make me a better photographer? It probably does I believe. I do far more personal work now than I ever have, and think I'm probably doing my best work ever. Is there really such a thing as pure personal work?
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Gordon You make an interesting point as most people who I talk to seem to suggest that social media tends to lead them down the path of producing what they believe others will want to see rather than producing work that makes them happy, so it is interesting that you have a different experience. Thanks for your comments on the photos too.

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Harry Harrison on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Actually don't be too down on having a website, you don't have to promote it, you don't even need to tell anyone about it, but it can be a useful exercise in seeing your own pictures in the same way as you see the majority of other photographers' images. It needn't cost more than £100 a year and once in a while it might be a useful 'calling card' if you do make contact with someone. It does take a bit of time to set up of course but most providers (Wix, Squarespace, Format, Photoshelter etc.) have 'themes' to make it easy. The difficult bit is deciding which pictures to put up there but then that's almost the point of the exercise.
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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Harry, One day I am sure I'll look into the web site possibilities and some of them look fantastic. I agree that the decisions that have to be made about which images to choose is a vital exercise. Wbb sites are definitely something that I will build towards and it is good to hear that you do not find them too time consuming or onerous.

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Tim Wainwright on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Don, thank you for your comments, very interesting. I like your instagram also! Since writing the article I have tried to follow my own advice and I have committed to exhibiting over the summer as part of the Worthing Arts Open House exhibitions and, like you, I am starting to design a zine which I will look to publish this year. I now notice far more coffee shops and cafes locally that have local artists work on their walls so I will be approaching them also. As you note, a lot of it is about overcoming fear or embarrassment but I do think it is vital if we do not stagnate as picture makers. I hope your endeavours are successful, however you define success and please send me links of any books etc that might be widely available. thanks again for your insights and comment. Tim
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Don Goodman-Wilson on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

I am in _exactly_ the same place as you, precisely the same, feeling the same frustrations. Thank you for sharing this, it is really good to know that I am not alone. For what it's worth, I've done two things already this year that have helped me, albeit in limited ways. The first is that I am lucky enough to live very near a vintage camera shop that has a gallery space, and was looking for new artists to exhibit—I had a series of photographs up for the month of February, and the shop threw a modest party for the analog community during that time. It was fun! I had some nice conversations about my photography, and met some great people. But it's hard to see where it goes from here. The exhibit didn't really open doors to more opportunities. The second is that I published a zine. A very simple affair made with the help of my local copy shop. I made 25 copies at a cost of €1 apiece. And again, the local camera shop was extremely happy to put them out and sell them. I even sold one! But again…it's not clear that this actually opened more doors for me. But both experiences helped build my confidence, which is going to be important for what I need to do next: Approach more people on my own. So, I'm planning to visit some of the larger photo galleries in town (larger than the camera store that is), as there are a couple. But I don't know what I should be doing at those visits to get involved and get them interested. The unknowns here are terrifying. I'm also working up the nerve to visit a photography book shop across town, to see if they are interested in carrying my zine, or future works. Also scary. And possibly then also pitching a book idea to a local photography book publisher—even scarier. And I think this is the strategy—finding places where you can put yourself out there, and overcoming the fear that comes from being bold, and of not really knowing what you're doing, and I'm lucky to have found some small steps along the way to build my confidence. And I think too that's why there's no manual for this. There is universal advice good for all beginners, but as you advance in your art, the possibility of offering universal advice declines to zero. It's all so context-dependent. Which leaves you and me guessing at our next steps, and grasping at things that might or might not be realistic. I wish you the absolute best of luck, and I hope that in the spirit of sharing helpful experiences for others to read, you'll keep us updated on your progress!
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Bob Janes on How do I put myself ‘out there’? – The next steps for an introverted photographer – By Tim Wainwright

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

To start off with, can I say that the first two shots in this article are lovely - and the rest are not too shabby either. As for growing as a photographer: By nature I'm a solitary photographer, I like to wander and linger and look - however, I find that when I shoot with other people my eyes are opened. I'd suggest joining in with a photo-walk or just meeting up with one or two photographers. I stress they don't need to be better photographers than you (just as well, or you would have your work cut out), they just need to be looking with different eyes.
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Bob Janes replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

...and if you did fancy trying a mini-meet-up, I'm based in SE London and I think a few other contributors are as well...

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Tim Wainwright replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Thanks Bob, I'm glad that you liked the photos. It took me a while to decide to write this article and post the photos, so lovely to get some positive feedback. Photography for me has always been a solitary past time and I generally find if I am with others, such as my family, I feel rushed and they 'headspace is totally different. So I like your idea of a photowalk with other photographers as there would be an understanding and I think positive critiquing is vital - but difficult to find. I live just inside the M25 in Surrey so meeting up would not be a geographical problem. A mini meet up would be a great idea - when and where....?

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Bob Janes replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

I'm in Greenwich, and I drive, so most places are reasonably accessible. I'm retired folk, but do some voluntary work, so I'm available during the week but do have commitments.

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Tim replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Hi Bob, apologies for the delay in replying...work and all that. How would we arrange a meet up? I work as a teacher, but usually have free time on Thursdays and school holidays also. I live in Surrey, so maybe central / south east London....Borough Market sort of area? What do you think?

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Bob Janes replied:

Comment posted: 17/03/2023

Excellent idea!

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