How to Develop Your Photographic Taste

Your photography journey hinges on developing a refined taste, something that goes beyond just technical skills. 

Coming to you from Adrian Vila with aows, this insightful video explores the essence of developing your photographic taste. Vila starts by reflecting on his own beginnings, acknowledging that he initially lacked a clear sense of what made a photo exceptional. Without understanding what resonates with you, it's challenging to create impactful images.

Vila distinguishes between internal and external taste. Internal taste is your unique response to visual elements, what you personally find appealing. External taste, on the other hand, involves universal principles of composition, light, and color that are widely recognized as good practice. Developing both is essential. Vila admits that he initially focused too much on his internal taste, neglecting the wealth of knowledge available from established photographers. This approach hindered his growth.

The video emphasizes the importance of studying the work of photography masters. By examining their compositions and techniques, you can learn what works and why. Vila shares his experience with Joseph Koudelka’s book "Exiles," noting how studying Koudelka’s work has profoundly influenced his understanding of powerful imagery. This highlights the value of immersing yourself in the work of those who have mastered the craft.

Vila also discusses the gap between taste and ability, a concept popularized by Ira Glass. For many creatives, good taste develops faster than technical skill. However, Vila experienced the opposite. He had decent technical skills but lacked refined taste. This gap is where many photographers struggle. Modern cameras can produce technically perfect photos, but without a strong sense of taste, these photos can lack impact.

To develop external taste, Vila advises taking as many photos as possible while also studying the masters. This practice helps you understand the visual language of photography. He points out that photography is like learning a new language. Initially, your photos may have many mistakes, but with practice, you start to create images that resonate. Understanding how the placement of elements in a frame affects the viewer's perception is crucial.

Developing internal taste involves a continuous loop of inspiration, practice, and reflection. Vila stresses that this is a lifelong journey with no shortcuts. It requires relentless effort and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures. Collecting pieces of inspiration from various sources and experimenting with different techniques helps refine your unique voice in photography. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Vila.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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