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Personality Type: Does it influence the cameras and lenses we choose to work with?

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Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you know which one you are? Many are innately aware of their personality type in this regard. Some of you will know because at some time in your employment you’ve undertaken the classic Meyers Briggs personality test.

Another way to decide whether you are an extrovert or an introvert is to consider the following: After an exhausting day’s work, do you like to hang out at the pub? Or do you prefer to slink off quietly go home?

Wayne Gerlach is one of our several Australian authors who enjoy submitting the odd article to Macfilos. This one is likely his oddest yet

If you aren’t aware of your type, here’s an easy check for you. Just ask yourself the following question: “After a hard day at work do I prefer to wind down by mixing with your friends, perhaps at the pub? Or do I choose to head home by and just put up my feet up and quietly relax?

If it’s the former you are an extrovert. If it’s the latter, you’re an introvert.

Other questions along the same line are: Do you look forward to the office Christmas party? Do you eagerly anticipate school reunions? Do you choose to spend big birthdays low-key with family, or do you try to have a big party with lots of friends and guests?”

Again, your answers will generally tell you what you already know about yourself.

So, Introvert or Extrovert? That decided, let’s move on to something completely different.

Photography comfort zone.

We’re all aware that specific lens characteristics are preferred for the different types of photography: Macro for macro, wider angles for landscapes, mid focal lengths for close portraiture and bokeh. And most photographers choose the most appropriate kit for the subject at hand. But, let’s put all that rational decision-making to one side and instead consider your deep-down photography comfort zone.

Please think about what type of camera gear is inherently most agreeable to you, particularly what the lens. Don’t think about the genre, just think about the camera and lens that you prefer to pick up and hold, and imagine using it for nothing in particular. Is it a shorter focal length lens? Let’s say 28-35 mm or even wider. This classifies you into the short focal length set. Alternatively, do you choose a longer focal length for everyday comfort photography? Let’s say 40 mm or a nifty fifty or even longer. This puts you into the longer focal length set.

You pays your money, and you takes your choice. Above, its a choice between a semi-wide fixed focal length in the Leica X and Q and a trio of zoom cameras, one from Panasonic, one from Leica and one from Sony. Which of these cameras do you feel most comfortable with?

In considering these options, let me reiterate that we most of us have a range of cameras and lenses to cover all possibilities, and, generally, we choose the best tools for the job.

But for the different purpose of this exercise, the question is which type of lens you feel most comfortable with: Short focal length, longer focal length, zoom or prime?

Another way of thinking about it is to ask yourself what lens you would choose if you were allowed only one for the rest of your life. A sort of Desert Island Digital.

Theory versus hypothesis

Theories are all well and good, but many people are too loose with the statement, “I have a theory, blah blah blah”. True theories are rare; they emerge from rigorously tested hypotheses. But hypotheses are easy to formulate, and the best ones are simple ones.

Therefore, if you’re still with this article so far, we can bring the above-considered concepts together. Let’s consider our personality and lens preferences to test two simple hypotheses.

Hypothesis 1. Extroverts prefer shorter focal length photography. Introverts prefer longer focal lengths.

Basis for hypothesis: Extroverts don’t mind getting in close to subjects. They are quite comfortable with close photography, being noticed and moving around subjects. They are people people. Introverts, on the other hand, are more comfortable when more distant from their subjects. It’s just the way they are hard-wired.

Hypothesis 2. Extroverts prefer fixed focal length photography. Introverts prefer zoom lenses.

Basis for hypothesis: Extroverts don’t mind moving around close to subjects with a fixed focus lens, often referred to as zooming with their feet. They don’t mind the interaction and being seen. On the other hand, introverts like to be less conspicuous and less interactive, living in their world and preferring zoom lenses to do the work of moving and composition.

Landscape, either with zoom or a wide-angle prime, such as here with the Leica Q, is fertile territory for the introvert (Image Mike Evans)
Landscape, either with zoom or a wide-angle prime, such as here with the Leica Q, is fertile territory for the introvert (Image Mike Evans, from Schynige Platte, overlooking Lauterbrunnental in the Berner Oberland, Switzerland)

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you by instinct a short or longer focal length type, a primer or a zoomer? I’ll start by declaring myself as an introvert, longer focal length zoomer, that’s my profile, and how I’d prefer to shoot if I had only one camera and one lens forever.

What’s your poison? What’s your one-camera-one-lens-forever ideal? Does it align with your personality? There’s no right answer, of course. Vive la difference.

So, for you dear Macfilos readers, I’d request that you consider whether you align with the two hypotheses above. YES you do, or NO you don’t. Please consider, regardless of whether you are a contributor, a regular commenter or a casual Macfilos reader.

Here endeth an unusual Macfilos article. Just thinking out loud on a rainy day. Let’s have your views.

But no matter what your personality type or camera gear, sometimes there simply isn’t a great deal of subject matter to indulge your hobby of photography. Gobi Desert as seen from a carriage window of the Trans Mongolian Railway (Fuji X100)

Read more from Wayne Gerlach on Macfilos

32 COMMENTS

  1. I prefer shorter lens with time. Never telelens though, or zoom. Perhaps I’m a middleverts. I drink very little now: no way the pub just for a spring water. I love people anyhow. Pehaps the point rather than lenses are subjects: are you a landscape, still life, or a portrait (lots of medals these guys) or street photographer?

  2. This reminds me of ‘Life of Brian’ and the little chap who replies ‘I’m not’ to the statement ‘we are all individuals’. Self perception is a difficult subject and most of us are bad at it. I’m not sure if I am extrovert or introvert, probably multi-polar with the range of items I have in my collection. As a photographer I am respectful rather than introverted. Some subjects invite the photographer in, such as the two old military dudes with the rows of medals who are effectively saying ‘please photograph me’. The same applies to the young couple with discs saying ‘Slurp’. In those cases the subjects are the extroverts. Whatever about what my choice of camera and lens might say about my personality or mood on any particular day, I often find that if I bring out 2 or 3 lenses with me, the one that I put on the camera first thing in the morning stays on it all day. It probably just means that I don’t like the trouble of changing lenses too often or that prevarication is my game.

    William

    • I had forgotten that scene in “Life of Brian”. Your reminder evoked a broad smile on my dial.
      Great movie, many great quotes.

      Also I hadn’t considered whether our read of whether the subjects are inviting us to photograph might influence how closely we approach them. For me, I think I still prefer distance, and COVID makes social distancing an imperative (maybe that’s the only positive that some of us can find with this damn virus).

  3. A good chuckle – thank you !

    One of the jokes about Meyers Briggs is that people typically take it only once, after which HR will earnestly wring hands and talk about teamwork being made up of complementary personalities. Take the test two days later and the results, and which square you’re supposed to reside in, have shifted. I guess that keeps HR employed…

    I have a friend who is both a teacher and an actress. If I shoot with her she will always engage people and get terrific shots as a consequence.

    I can do it, but it’s a mindset that has to be clear of other mental distractions or pressures. At that point I can shoot people with a 24mm if I want. On other occasions when I take a camera with me, maybe the mindset is not so completely focused on taking pictures (yes, yes, it’s a pun!) then I will likely prefer 50 to 85mm. Under Covid it’s more often the long end of the focal lens options.

    I think you simply have to know yourself and what mood you’re in, pick the right camera/lenses combo and off you go. Today is a beautiful sunny 70F day with low humidity so will likely go and sit on the lake front of Lake Michigan and see what happens. The simple 18-56 lens on my CL will capture most of what I imagine will be there – sunset-watching couples, body builders, and small children scampering about as the sun dips behind us…

    • Ah I didn’t think of COVID when I was editing this article. We need a new convention, Social Zooming or suchlike. And do you have to wear a mask if you use a 28mm lens and not if you use 85mm? The options are endless.

      • Glad it made you smile Le Chef. It was a weird one to write, and I think it sometimes had our editor Michael tearing his hair out as he assembled it.

        The 18-56 onto an APS sensor is a favourite of mine. It’s a natural system for introverts.
        But your observation that you can comfortably shoot shorter lens with an engaging subject is interesting. It mirrors William’s observation above. Good call.

        • The said editor is immune from hair-tearing, he just doesn’t have any. It was all a matter of cash. I discovered about 15 months ago that the only time I had to use cash was at the local cheap barber where my remaining tufts of hair would be fashioned in approximately five minutes at the exorbitant cost of £9+£1 tip. It would have cost even more if I’d gone to the sort of advanced place where I could use the Apple Watch to pay.

          I also didn’t much like the social interaction at the barbers. Anyway, at the beginning of last summer, the barberess suggested a Number O instead of my usual No. 1. What a good idea. I liked it so much I can now maintain the lawn myself. Result: no more need for social interaction at the barbers, no more cash, and a satisfying £260 a year to put towards that 1,000mm lens I need for next-street photography. I can buy it with the Apple Watch. Or, better still, buy it from Amazon so I don’t have to speak to anyone, not even the delivery driver who now retreats to his van in panic as soon as I open the front door.

          Introverts love cashless payments. Introverts see benefits in lockdown.

  4. Choosing just one lens is a tough call. I’ll probably choose 28mm lens but i know I’d miss the 50mm. That covers aller my needs. I’m definitely à prime shooter.

    • Hello Jean.
      Yes, your enjoyable Ricoh GRrrr images that you present here on Macfilos show how a short fixed focal length can perform…….and you are clearly very comfortable in that arena. Probably you wouldn’t really miss the 50mm in the one camera, one lens, desert island scenario.

  5. I am a massive extrovert – according to Myers Briggs. I have been tested to death since my early 30’s, and all I can say is that little much has changed up to 50, except the end letters that seemed vague in my early 30’s have decided what they are. According to the 16 personalities test I share the same personality as Winston Churchill – high five the world, and sadly Donald Trump, perhaps less said the better. Somethings you cannot make up, and I hope and pray that I have very little in common with the latter. Apparently this makes me an Entrepreneur. I am also not a total convert to the fact that Myers Briggs got it right, I think she provided a foundation that can be built up with other tests – like Emotional Intelligence testing, and understanding your Hogan’s darkside. hee hee hee hee, fnarr fnarr fnarr.

    As for my lens choice – its going to be 35mm all day long. I have no drama getting up close and personal with people, or asking them to pose for me. In fact the one thing I love about doing the Dickens, Goth or Steampunk events is that the people want to be spoken too, they want to be engaged, and most of all they love to show off what costume they are wearing. It is part of the character they create, the charade, and I love to engage them in helping me to create some of the images I do. Those personal moments in my articles, where people pose, have a whole back story of engagement. Where I have taken a few shots closed in, circled, let the other photographers move on to other subject, dialled in the person I want, and then asked the question – at these events they want to be photographed, so you rarely encounter rejection. In fact i cannot recall be rejected at any event of this nature – perhaps that is half the fun.

    When out on the street, I still love 35mm, it gives a handy balance – I find the 50 on my Df just a little too close, but 24mm a little too wide, unless I am looking for a specific shot, then I appreciate the 14-24mm angles, but they are useable in very unique moments. In fact 14-24 gives such unique moments they need to be considered, thought through, and then taken – but they are unique, often once in a lifetime images. In my humblest of views.

    This may explain my love of my X type 113, and its 23mm lens, which equates to a 35mm on its APS-C sensor. I feel at home with what it views, I am comfortable to shuffle my trotters where it needs a little adjustment – if I can. I can crop if I need as there is always a little more available around an image. For me it is perfection, I had a 23mm on Nikon D300s, well I still do. My GAS always looks eagerly at an M with a 35mm cron. When I did my mini-stint with the M10, I opted in advance to have a 35mm lens on it.

    Perhaps this says more about me than I have ever considered. Plus its always a prime too. lol.

    Thank you Wayne, and Mike, for opening up a whole new layer of consideration to our favourite past time.

        • Gday Dave. Or should I refer to you as “Big E”.
          Yep you fit the hypothesis to a tee. Extrovert, shorter focal length, get in close. As a big time introvert I get a rash on my forearm just thinking about it!
          Keep on enjoying the 113 and Df, and keep on sharing images, maybe even a selfie with the bouffant…go on, you’re an extrovert, just do it 🙂

          • I am a little unashamed of my Big E 🙂 It helps in overcoming those awkward moments, and can make people settle and feel comfortable I sometimes wonder if some of those personal images are purely on the basis of how I got in the situation in the first place. I have learnt to manage the bit, where I can be a little too up front, so that I people are included, and feel comfy around me.

            Sadly if I wanted to develop a decent bouffant, I suspect non of us will have sufficient life left in us to see the result – even if I had a hair transplant. Friends who video called during the lockdown period, and whom turned in to covid cavemen, noted that i never changed. Thankfully owing to a clause in my living arrangements, in that I have my own personal hair dresser, who has always manicured my top crop.

            I do have a bank of images that i am slowly pulling around for an article. But I keep adding new stuff, and I keep tweaking, and I have some gems (i think) to show off to the Macfilos readership when it comes together.

            Keep safe.

  6. ZOOMS are for peeping TOMS or other intrusive,but don’t want to be seen individuals, like divorce detectives. Me go for prime but go w landscapes. X’s and Ricoh and tbd next purchase. Next Wayne survey on short and tall and which lens each prefer.

      • Hi John.
        Your do like your short-tall suggestion. I like it.
        But. dangerously, it sets me thinking again. Now I’m wondering whether there is a relationship between camera/lens type and preferred breakfast choice – healthy high fibre types compared with fried eggs ‘ n bacon ‘n hash browns.

  7. Hmmmmmmmm. For me, I definitely a prime and not a zoom. It’s been years since I used a zoom on anything other than it’s widest or longest setting, or at equivalent of 50mm, which is my favorite focal length. I own two separate lens kits for my Leica; small vintage and modern fast, but strangely I have about a dozen 50mm lenses.

    I can force myself to go outside my comfort zone and spend the day with just a 28mm or 35mm, and have been known to put on a 75mm or 90mm when specifically out to shoot headshots, but far more often than not, it’s a 50 for me.

    I’m an extrovert and have no problem walking up to and talking to people, but I find that people, their activities, and things just look better to me through a 50mm lens, except of course, for when they don’t.

    My most expensive lens is my 28mm (Leica 28/2 ASPH v1), and my highest quality and technically best lens (Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon ZM) is a 35mm, but I don’t use either as much one of my many 50s.

    I’ve got cheap 50s (Industar 55/2.8 was actually free) and expensive 50s (Leica 50/2 Summicron). I’ve got super-fast 50s (Voigtlander 50/1.2 Nokton), ancient 50s (1937 Carl Zeiss Jena 5cm f/1.5 Sonnar) and quirky, collapsible 50s (1950 Leica 50/2 Summitar). Honestly, I have a harder time choosing which 50mm lens to put on my camera than whether to shoot with a 50 or a something else.

    So, I guess that was easy. I’m an extrovert, shoot primes, and while I can and often do go talk to people, I like to photograph them with a 50mm lens more than any other. Now, as to which one lens if I could have only one? That’s tougher, probably my ancient 5cm f/1.5 Sonnar, but definitely a 50.

      • This has turned out to be so interesting in terms of our personality’s, and our lens choices. It is an interesting experiment in to the most complex area of human psychology. What fun.

    • Hello Andrew. Thanks for your input. Echoing your Hhhhmmmmm, you are a strong extrovert who loves 50mm and has a great collection of them, presumably because they are really comfortable for you, as you say. Modifying the fixed-lens hypothesis I’d have to propose that you really like them because they help you get in even closer to the subject image.
      But I’m not trained as a psychologist so this area is really quicksand for me.

  8. Hi Wayne, I really enjoyed your fun article.

    I was tested for my MBTI countless times even though I wanted to skip as I had a thorough knowledge of it. I was a severe INTJ which if I recall are rare and less than 1% of the population. I was in the 90 plus percentile in all 4 categories. My feeling wife is a challenge on my patience and maybe hers but we have been married for 40 years because I eventually was smart enough to learn “yes dear”. When I took courses such as the Human Interaction Laboratory they were delighted that I was there when they saw I was an INTJ so I always had to do a role play with some feeling person who was not comfortable firing people whereas I liked to fire groups since I was an extreme introvert (dry humour, clarification for those feeling people).

    Your picture “perfect party for introverts” is me. I love sitting in a pub or coffee shop with a book well away from noisy groups. I wonder if all woman are extroverts as they all seem to get up in a herd and go to the washroom. I, of course, prefer to go to an empty washroom.

    Enough seriousness. My favourite lens when I started out in photography was a nifty fifty. I tried out a Nikon 20mm in the early 80s and immediately sold it at a loss. I rarely used my 35mm mild wide angle. Only used it when I could not back up enough with the 50mm. My second favourite lens is the 135mm. My third choice would be 200mm. I like picking out details.

    However, since I purchased the Leica 28mm/f5.6 I am using that amazing lens for street photography a lot more. I sold my 28mm/1.4 because it did not get any use beyond testing it was ok. My Summaron is a delight in size and gorgeous rendering. I was surprised at that as normally my preference is for more technical perfection.

    Contrary to your introvert theory for zooms, my perfectionist personality (possibly bordering on needing medication) dislikes zooms for “serious photography”. I find I see more clearly with a prime and also prefer the rendering of good primes. I do use a 24-105 zoom for event style photography and again I like the extra reach of 105mm or 135mm. I love the Panasonic S 24-105/4 and made the mistake of selling it and then just repurchased it. I used to own the incredible Leica SL 24-90 but sold it as it was overkill for my purposes and killer to carry for hours in my hand – people were starting to point out that my right arm was becoming much more muscular than my left arm. The Leica SL 24-90 was the closest lens to a prime I have ever used.

    As a matter of interest, when I use as zoom I always pick my focal length and then use my feet as I am choosing the look I want. The viewfinder is too tiny to judge what distortions are in the final image whether wide angle distortions & depth expansion or telephoto compression. A zoom is also my choice if whether makes changing glass risky for the sensor.

  9. Gday Brian.
    Big time INTJ…..Snap….Welcome to the secret handshake club.
    Maybe not an empty washroom, but I do sometimes heave a sigh of relief as I head back to the car after a social function. Strangely, one social function that I did enjoy was a big family wedding, but having a short zoom camera with me helped a lot. Quite telling actually.

    And as an introvert I too liked the lady with magazine shot and also Tom Lane’s couch image. I identify with them. However, credit for those images goes to t’Editor Michael who spent some time massaging this article and chose to put those images in there. When I saw the draft of the article I did like how he had thoughtfully chosen and included them – Are editors introverts or extroverts?

    Keep enjoying nice zooms, I’m with you on that. But what’s this about using a zoom, then setting focal length and further zooming with feet. The concept is messing with my brain, Brian 🙂

    • I feel terrible messing with people and their brain. You almost inspired me to write an article on what lenses a woman would use versus a well-adjusted male but then I figured you might do a better job and not have Mike ban me.

  10. Thanks for sharing this Wayne. I don’t know how I fit in here, but I am introverted and have a 16mm prime on my Fujifilm X-Pro2 (24mm full frame equivalent). Perhaps an introvert’s camera (?) with an in-your-face lens. By the way, the Leica Q has a 28mm lens (like in the photograph).

    • I’ll just cut in here, Brett. That 35mm was slopping captioning on my part, not Waynes. As a Q and Q2 owner I am very familiar with the 28mm, so can’t imagine how my fingers came to type that. I’ve changed it on the article so we don’t cause any more confusion! Thanks for pointing it out.

      • Thanks for message Brett.
        I was wondering whether we’d get anyone who was strongly outside the hypotheses. Not a problem tho – “Treasure your exceptions” is an adage that is important in Darwinian evolution.
        (And mea culpa me too. I should have caught the Q caption at proof stage).

  11. Wayne, I am outside hypothesis no. 2. Although I am definitely introvert, I never use zoom lenses. But then again, I never take photographs of people… 😉

    My fixed focus lens of choice is 50mm. Anything beyond that is either hysterically wide or absurdly narrow.

  12. Fair enough Nico.
    Seems like you do fit hypothesis #1 though……and maybe if you were given the choice of only two options on the desert island viz. short fixed focal length or a zoom, then perhaps you’d choose zoom?
    All good fun to consider.

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