My Low Keeper Rate - Reasons and Remedies
I’ve noticed that my keeper rate is abysmal, as in 10% or less, abysmal. That’s a bit discouraging, which points to a problem in how I’m taking photos. Why do I end up with so few good shots? (And it is a problem when you spend hours taking photos, and in post-processing, to end up with 19 out of 100 shots.)So why? A few reasons came to mind. Reasons
1. Taking way more shots than I’ll ever keep. I err on the side of more is better, which adds to time in post-process, but I figure it’s better to discard a shot you have than to not be able to discard it because you never took the picture at all.
2. Not making the first cull in camera. This leads to having way more shots I toss out immediately. Whether it’s a good idea to have multiple culling rounds is an open question, but it’s how I currently operate.
3. Duplicates/multiples of the same scene. This comes from #1. Often I take multiple shots of the same scene, which leads to an analysis of which is better. You know what? The first shot or the last is usually the best. I do this because I’m often not sure if different apertures will make a difference (they usually don’t) or if different exposures do (yes). So some of this comes from learning and some of it from #1. Using the camera preview, a shot at f/5 and f/9 look exactly the same, which leads right into the next problem. 4. Insufficient preview ability. What looks good on the camera LCD is very deceptive. You’re looking at what, a 15% size? When I get home and import them into the iMac, then I can see the pics at 33%, 50% and more, which helps a lot. I have a lot of shots that look good to the eye, look good at 15%, but are junk in reality. If they don’t pass muster at 33%, then out they go.
5. The magic goes away. It’s an exhilarating feeling, finally capturing that scene that you’ve worked to get the right angle, the right composition, the right light and so forth. Then when you get home, you look at the picture and go, “meh”. Sometimes I take pictures of what I thought was funny, but when I get home the humor isn’t compelling any more. What can you do? I don’t know how to fix this one.
6. Visual clutter. This is probably the most annoying thing, because it reveals that the eye works differently than the camera (all together now: “Duh!”). What your eye focuses on becomes what you pay attention to, and the rest of the stuff in the scene doesn’t matter. That’s fine for a memory. However a picture you see again and again, and the camera captures it all. Also, the camera tends compresses distances - at least if you’re shooting above f5 or so — so all the things that seemed far away are brought closer, leading to the problem of visual clutter. I’m sure that every photographer has his or her own pitfalls. Just writing this down helps me analyze what’s been going wrong and gives me ideas on how to fix it. So what am I going to do differently to fix this? Remedies1. Slow down. Think about composition more. If you see too much stuff in the background, the shot will look like junk later. And no, it’s not worth the time trying to remove everything in the background in post.
2. Make the first cull in camera. Getting rid of the overexposed images takes very little time.3. Take your best shot first and maybe one more if you’re not sure. No need to flood the memory card with nearly identical images. Doing these means I have the potential to lose some shots, but I’d rather live with that than chew up time sifting through nearly-identical shots that I end up throwing out anyways! These three solutions hit everything except for problem #5; having only one major operating problem instead of six is a hit ratio I can live with.
Photo credits: Alain Lauga.