Hawks, Peacocks, Owls and Doves

The idea for this article: Hawks, Peacocks, Owls and Doves… popped into my head as I was checking some camera gear for an early morning shoot. It wasn’t because I was planning to photograph these birds. My mind had wandered back to a number of years ago when I used to do a lot of business coaching and training work And, often made presentations to large business audiences.

One of the topics I regularly covered was interpersonal styles. I used Hawks, Peacocks, Owls and Doves as top-line descriptors of the four, fundamental interpersonal styles. I thought it would be fun to write an article that related these interpersonal styles to photographers. As you read through Hawks, Peacocks, Owls and Doves you may recognize yourself or some of your associates in the descriptions.

Obviously no one is 100% of one particular interpersonal style. Many of us will have a predominant interpersonal style, and perhaps a fairly strong secondary one. The key is that we can all exhibit different interpersonal styles at different times. None of the styles is any better or any worse than another… they’re just different.

The idea behind the four temperament theory goes back a couple of thousand years. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) is credited with developing the four temperaments into a medical theory. He believed that various human behaviours and conditions were caused by either abundance or a lack of certain bodily fluids. These included blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. Readers who are interested in the history of the four temperaments can do some additional research.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-220


The Hawk interpersonal style is fast paced and task oriented. The people aspects of a situation rarely enter their minds on a proactive basis. They focus on the goals they want to achieve and meeting the specific performance expectations they set. Hawks are all about results, power and control. They are performance oriented by nature and very independent.

Photographers who have a predominantly Hawk interpersonal style are easy to spot. They get down to business right away and typically don’t have too much time for small talk. While other photographers may gather together and chat about things photographic, Hawks view this as a waste of their time. They would much prefer spending their time looking for interesting photo opportunities.

Hawks often pursue a very specific photographic objective when out with their gear. Very independent by nature, they couldn’t care less about the camera gear other people own and use. The only thing that matters to them is using the camera gear that best meets their needs. Hawks are not interested in technology for technology’s sake. They are focused on achieving a competitive advantage, pushing their photographic limits, or improving their efficiency. If new technology can do that for them… they will embrace it.

Hawks are ‘big chunk’ thinkers who seldom concern themselves with details, especially ones that they deem as unnecessary. They would rarely, if ever, read a camera’s operating manual. When they do, it is often to learn about how to use a very specific feature, for a very specific purpose. They have little interest in understanding how a particular feature or technology works behind the scenes. Their focus is on what that feature or technology can do for them in terms of creating photographs. This attitude would be similar to saying, “I don’t have to know how an engine works to be able to drive a car.”

When it comes to researching camera gear they don’t give much credence to standard camera review websites. They would rather seek out the opinions and real-life experiences of professional photographers who are proficient in the same genre of photography as they are. Better still, they would rather test out some gear for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions. Their underlying fear is to be taken advantage of… so they like to deal face-to-face or with trusted sources when buying or selling camera gear. Hawks are not particularly brand loyal. They will use whatever best meets their needs.

Hawks are challenge oriented and regularly push themselves and their gear to see what they can achieve. They typically have no interest in entering photographic competitions, as they would question the validity and competence of a judging panel. Their primary focus is on self-improvement, not comparing themselves to others.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikkor 70-200 f/4 with FT-1 adapter @ 200 mm, efov 540 mm, f/4, 1/200 ISO-160


The Peacock interpersonal style is fast paced and people oriented. They love being out with other people and regularly spend a lot of their time chatting with other photographers. They are very expressive and can be quite humorous.

Peacocks like to be the centre of attention and are keenly interested in the latest and greatest camera gear. They often spend more time discussing and showing their camera gear to others, than actually using it. They frequently post their images on social media sites. Getting ‘likes’ registered on their photographs is very important to them. They often compare the number of ‘likes’ their images have generated with their peers as a way of achieving status within the group.

The Peacock interpersonal style is also a big chunk thinker, so they are not the best with details. Having fun is more important than honing their photographic craft, so Peacocks often capture fewer images for their time out than other interpersonal styles do. When conflict or disagreement arise, Peacocks can go on the attack quickly, and often in a personal manner. This is sometimes evident in photography chat rooms.

This interpersonal style is all about getting social recognition from others. To accomplish that, they tend to be on the leading edge of camera technology and techniques. It is important to them to gain status within their peer group and if using a particular camera, software program, or photography technique can do that for them… they will pursue it.

Peacocks can be quite fashionable and they often invest in upscale straps, bags and other camera accessories to enhance their image. They often join camera clubs and enter their work in competitions to help promote themselves amongst their peers. Winning photographic awards is something that appeals to Peacocks.

If they can afford to do so, Peacocks can change brands frequently. They like to be seen as being associated with the latest photographic technology. The underlying fear of a Peacock is loss of social recognition.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-800


The Owl interpersonal style is slower paced and task oriented. This interpersonal style makes very well researched decisions. When considering camera equipment they will use a wide variety of references and evaluate their purchase on a number of dimensions, and in great depth. They will often become very focused on a specific feature, which to other photographers may be very minor. The more critical an Owl becomes, the more a molehill can become a mountain.

Owls are very precise and detail oriented. They are the interpersonal style that is most likely to read a new camera manual cover to cover. When reading photography articles they are sticklers for details and will criticize any material that is the slightest bit inaccurate, from their perspective. Of all of the interpersonal styles, the Owl is the one most likely to be a ‘pixel peeper’.

While Owls can be very critical of others with their criticisms, they very seldom if ever, post their own work. Their underlying fear is to be criticized personally or to have their work criticized.

Their obsession with details is apparent in how they approach photography. Owls want to know the precise camera settings used by others. They will research the ‘proper’ technique that should be employed with a particular piece of camera gear, and will criticize others when this technique is not followed.

Post processing is a science for Owls. They like to follow very specific and detailed workflows and they can be painstaking when working on an image. “Good enough” is not often found in the vocabulary of an Owl. They are very traditional in their approach to just about everything, and are very risk averse. While emotional under the surface, Owls show the world around them a very logical and process-driven approach to their life and work.

When out with their cameras Owls do not tend to congregate with others. They are more comfortable being alone with the camera gear and executing their specific procedures when creating an image.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 240 mm, efov 480 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-2500, subject distance 4.7 metres


The Dove interpersonal style is slower paced and people oriented. They like to make conferring decisions. When considering camera gear they like to get the opinions and recommendations of a host of other photographers. They tend to be active in online forums, enjoying both the social interaction and learning about the opinions of others.

They are frequently members of camera clubs and enjoy group activities and group challenges. Doves often enter competitions and enjoy giving and receiving feedback about their work. They tend to be very conscious of the feelings of others and usually refrain from direct criticisms. Their relationships are more important than the quality of work, or the performance generated.

Doves are the most change resistant interpersonal style and as a result tend to be the most brand loyal camera buyers. They tend to be quite organized and like to keep their camera gear clean, and in its proper place. This interpersonal style tends to be the one most influenced by online reviews and the opinions expressed in photographic chat rooms.

Much like Owls, they like to obtain performance documentation and verification about pieces of camera gear that they are considering. Doves can sometimes become focused on future risks such as a brand or camera format being discontinued. These fears may cause them to refrain from making a camera purchase decision.

Hawks, Peacocks, Owls and Doves are all around us.

The summaries in the article give you a quick overview of the four basic interpersonal styles. As noted upfront, no one will fit 100% of the time into one, specific style. Many of us will have a predominant style as well as a primary back up style. Many of us flex between all four styles to some degree throughout a typical day. Understanding interpersonal styles can help build relationships with others.

If you enjoyed this article, you may find our eBook, Balancing Eggs of interest. This eBook is written as a business parable. It discusses how to identify and work with various interpersonal styles. It also provides some practical information on the communication aspects of leadership. For those of you actively involved with business presentations, you may find the section on presentation tips of value.


Technical Note:
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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4 thoughts on “Hawks, Peacocks, Owls and Doves”

  1. I tend to be a Hawk (go for the kill!). However, when I was shooting a lot of sports I would frequently switch between Hawk and Peacock. For example: While shooting American High School Football I would concentrate on the action while it was happening, then in the lull times I would face the crowd and become a cheerleader. The same when shooting Horse Polo, Soccer and Lacrosse. My actual personality is listed as ISTJ, and damn near 100% in each category (the guy that administered the test said he had never seen anybody get results like that before).

  2. Tom,

    Interesting Hippocratic theory that you shared — it’s true, like body types (meso, endo, ectomorph) and personality temperament models (sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric , mixture of any two or perhaps three), there’s probably no pure hawk, peacocks, owls or doves. I see 2-3 “animal traits” in myself in varying ratios depending on the job at hand, the environment, the people I’m working with (ex. I can be a hawk if the deadline is looming and the model or client is stalling LOL) or a dove in good company I really like.

    Wonderful of you to share something like this instead of sites click-baiting people with new-fangled things to plunk money on (ex. new Leica! 47mp!) or salivate over (newest Sigma 24-70 f/2.8! 2019 edition!). It gets to be tiring seeing people fight over specs, prices, brands and refuse to discuss photography as a skill, an art, a tool for uncovering beauty in all its shapes, patterns and hues.


    1. Thanks Oggie… I’m glad that you enjoyed this type of article!

      Since I don’t have any paid advertising on my photography blog (and never will)… I have no reason to write any ‘click bait’ type of material. From the outset I wanted my photography blog to take a different approach than the vast majority of sites that are out there with a new product focus. Readers interested in that type of material have a wealth of other websites from which to choose.

      I’d rather share images and experiences with readers… hopefully so I can add a bit of inspiration so they’ll pick up their cameras more often and have fun creating more photographs.


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