Gloeden's talent in getting his models to pose gracefully when composing scenes, as well as the use of special filters and tints to enhance the effect of the pictures, added to the quality of his achievements. Thematically similar works by contemporaries, like his cousin Wilhelm von Plüschow, who lived in Rome, and his sometime assistant Vincenzo Galdi, though commendable in their own way, lacked the aura of Gloeden's pictures. However, they were sometimes much more blatant. Still, Gloeden's discreetly sensual message was well understood by those of similar interests. Most likely, comparatively direct pictures, such as embracing couples, were published in special magazines (already existing, particularly in Germany), rather than in mainstream ones.

Gloeden's house, with its splendid garden, was one of the sights of Taormina and his visitors' book contained illustrious names--men of letters like Anatole France, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Oscar Wilde; the actress Eleonora Duse; European aristocrats and American industrialists, such as Rothschild, Krupp and Vanderbilt; royalty, such as Edward VII, King of Great Britain and the King of Siam. It was largely due to the photographer that Taormina, which at the time of his arrival had been forgotten and impoverished, became a main tourist destination. As a contemporary tells it:

'One has the choice among no less than eight hotels, from five Grands Hôtels, where distinguished German businessmen and excellencies dine with Englishmen and Americans in dinner jackets, to simple but really cosy painters' inns, where everybody feels quite free and there are no conceited globetrotters to be found, but serious and studious philologists with sharply focusing glasses, always looking for antique monuments and inscriptions, and artists and writers thirsting for beauty, ardently in love with the gorgeous land Italy.'