The Importance of Good Taste to Being a Successful Photographer

There seems to be a black hole of information on the topic of taste when it comes to photography, despite it being critical for what most of us strive to achieve. In making this video, I discovered why it's such an avoided topic.

If you own a shop, sell a product, or in this instance, work with still images, then your personal taste is going to be one of the biggest factors in your success. Granted, in my day-to-day work, I am hired by art buyers and creative directors, and I don't personally make the creative decisions all that often. However, I am more often than not hired because of my personal work, the curation of my Instagram account, the aesthetic of my studio, or my personal take on life (being mad about photography and cycling is a big selling point in photography). Being a photographer means that you are judged from the moment you enter the room until you leave. You are surrounded by creatives looking to hire someone who they can push their vision through, and they need to know that you are the right fit for them.

In this video, I try to delicately offer advice on how to achieve a desirable taste (a good taste) and the importance of this, how drilling down into a single genre and a subgenre within this will help you find your style and showcase your visual taste, as well as increase the number of bookings that you receive. 

I believe that taste is something that is formed over time, I was a chav in my youth (not sure what the US equivalent is), but I have done my best to absorb as much as possible, and it is perhaps the aspect of my photography that I work on the most. Anyone can take a photograph with a phone, and with a very small amount of training anyone can recreate the technical aspects of a studio photograph, but knowing what looks best is something that only a few look for.

The topic of taste can often be like treading on eggshells. It is very hard to tell someone that they have bad taste or that they perhaps are trying to achieve a goal where their personal taste, beliefs, and perspective just don't match. Hopefully, I avoided putting my foot in my mouth too much while getting the point across. 

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6 Comments

Daniel Medley's picture

Excellent video and I believe it's nearly spot on. Approval and/or criticisms of other photographers has a very limited worth in my opinion.

Taste is one of those things that is nearly impossible to quantify, but at the same time people are nearly universal in what is presented tastefully and what is not. Notice I said, "nearly" universal. Most can't explain what is good taste, but we know it when we see it.

Tony Clark's picture

I like to describe it as an esthetic, it’s the way we see our own world and control those things that we can control. Whether I’m shooting for Food Clients, an individuals portrait or creating my own project it still reflects who I am. Of course, when you shoot large projects most of it is determined by the client but you still need to add something of yourself or it leaves an empty space in the end.

Blake Aghili's picture

And in many cases those that don't have the taste are the ones spending the most on GEAR too :D They think gear is their problem!

borisschipper's picture

Absolutely agree and this is what I have been trying to explain many times.
It’s also possible to have a taste level that’s too advanced for the general market, here you get into another thing you said a while ago about specialization and niche.
Really enjoy your articles

Michael Carey's picture

Thanks so much, Scott! Finally some discussion about this most important quality.
My thought about why this is generally not talked about is that it can't be taught. Sure, there are zillions of tutorials about composition, but that's just one arrow in the quiver. The rest arises from the sum of the entire person making those creative decisions.
Can't be taught, only some have it, and we know it when we see it.

Dana Goldstein's picture

All your videos are great, Scott, and I want to compliment you on making sure that each one is full of real, relevant information, presented clearly, and actionable. So many of the YouTube photo channels (and websites) could learn many lessons in professional presentation from you!