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RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 13:13
Guys when I was shooting MF I would get maybe 1-5 good shots on a roll.

This week I went out with 2 shots in mind and captured them but before arriving on location I found a new picture and captured it. Out of all three shots this was and is my favorite. I think its the most successful.

Then as I left I found another unpredicted shot and took it, again it works better than the shots I envisioned.

My question is what kind of success rate should in be aiming for realistically. This outing has changed my perception about finding shots and returning. Rather I am approaching my work much more organically now if I see it I shoot it then and there.

I know this is impossible to quantify but I'm interested in your experiences.

Iluvmyviewcam
7-Mar-2015, 13:46
Don't know what % I keep. The vast majority of my stuff is trash. I can't predict when I ill get a winner. But for me, my trash is as good as the best of the average forum photog. A great shot for me is one that is going in a museum or at least a top portfolio pix.

RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 13:49
I like what you are aiming for. I'm hoping to hear this a lot. It will temper my resolve. I have been thinking since LF requires so much more thought the success rate should be higher but I'm finding out that's not the case or my standards since moving to LF have been raised significantly.

bob carnie
7-Mar-2015, 14:00
Richard Avedon took 17000 8 x10 negatives and settled with about 140 for his In The American West series.

RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 14:22
Thank you for that stat they aren't easy to find like how many shots of Yosemite did Ansel take and how many made the final cut, Robert Adams, winogrand for sure was the consummate spray and prayer though on 35mm. We are talking about less than 1% for Avedon which although daunting is in some sick way making me feel comfortable. Thank you for sharing his work I did not know it and googled it to my delight.

bob carnie
7-Mar-2015, 14:27
Sometimes on large projects it will take you years to even understand or appreciate the winners... too often the first round of selects are the obvious and the real winners take time to appreciate.


Jeff Wall on the other hand contra to the numbers I gave you for Avedon has taken very , very few images in his career.. sometimes it takes him 6 months to set up one image.. google his working methods very interesting.

Ken Lee
7-Mar-2015, 14:31
it will take you years to even understand or appreciate the winners...

+ 1 + 1 + 1

Contrary to the notion of previsualization, IMHO it's often a good idea to make proofs and then put them away, not printing in earnest until we can see them fresh, as though they were someone else's shots.

Kirk Gittings
7-Mar-2015, 14:39
Seriously, if I get a dozen great b&W images a year (that is ones that I think will really bear the test of time-not images that just help fill out a theme but ones that truly sing) I'd think it was an extremely productive year-half a dozen and I am satisfied. Less than six and I resolve to work harder the coming year. That's from some 300-400 sheets of film a year (sheets-not separate shots). That doesn't mean the rest are trash by any means, they are just not the truly memorable ones-ones that are judged by my own satisfaction-not whether they are exhibited or published.

My standard for commercial work is different. The ratio of keepers is much higher.

Oren Grad
7-Mar-2015, 15:27
...winogrand for sure was the consummate spray and prayer though on 35mm....

No. He was paying very close attention to what was in his viewfinder, the exact opposite of "spray and pray".

sanking
7-Mar-2015, 15:28
I agree with the thoughts expressed by Bob Carnie, Ken Lee, and Kirk Gittings. The concept of a "keeper" in fine art work is subject to change so sometimes it takes many years to appreciate an image, and in some cases changes in one's work flow, or mastery of certain aspects of our process, make it possible to "craft" the print better than when the image itself was first captured.

That said, if I get 6-10 images a year that satisfy my personal understanding of a "keeper" I feel fortunate.

But, the more time you spend with both image capture and printing, the better you become. Hard work, if directed and smart, can make almost everybody improve.

Sandy

RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 15:35
No. He was paying very close attention to what was in his viewfinder, the exact opposite of "spray and pray".
You are right. I just meant he shot a hell of a lot.

Kirk Gittings
7-Mar-2015, 15:37
Also as per surprise keepers. If you mean unpredicted location where the light was great-that happens often. My "planned" shots might be a long way from home and not work out when I get there but "planned shots" are more to get me out the door and working. Or do you mean surprised by a negative being better than I thought it might be? Almost never. I work with the same simple materials and processes (one film, one developer etc.) over and over again and can largely look at something and know how its going to translate to a print.

IanG
7-Mar-2015, 16:01
It depends how many shots you make, whether you take the more dubious images (that you're not sure about), and also your confidence in your image making.

You can get on a roll and make many excellent images very quickly, that happened to me a few years ago. Most importantly ~I've almost always known at the time I press the shutter.

Looking back there are the surprise images, maybe they didn't quite fit how I felt at the time I selected for Exhibitions etc.

In terms of my LF work the % of keepers isn't bad, what I have found is the impact on my 35mm/120 work has been extremely significant over the past 30 years.

Ian

Tim Meisburger
7-Mar-2015, 16:12
I've never had a surprise image, but I keep trying!

I would say I get about one in 300 that I really love, but maybe its less than that. These days I scan and have a three step weeding process. Some digital images and negatives I toss from the get go. Some I toss the negative but keep the scan, and a very few I keep the negative to print. After that, I still may toss the negative, but if I get a good print, or think I might be able to when my skill improves, I file the negative. Every year or so I go though them and cull again, and while the number decreases the quality improves. If at the end of my life I have a hundred LF images I like, it will be enough.

Jody_S
7-Mar-2015, 16:19
Right now I have perhaps 20 finished 'keepers' from a lifetime of shooting, perhaps 50,000 - 100,000 images. That's not a great ratio, but those are the images I'm happy with. If I learned Photoshop a bit more, I could edit quite a few of the 'good-but-not-quite-there' images and make something exceptional. I don't know how many shots would be keepers with that extra little bit.

And as Kirk says, what I consider a keeper today might end up in the dustbin tomorrow, and vice-versa. That's why I don't destroy my old negs, and archive all my scans/raw photos.

Bill_1856
7-Mar-2015, 16:22
St. Ansel said that it was 12 good images a year.

Rafal Lukawiecki
7-Mar-2015, 16:24
The percentage gets smaller as I get older even though I gain experience and I expose more negatives.

RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 17:18
St. Ansel said that it was 12 good images a year.
Amen

RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 17:21
I have been shooting LF for roughly 3-4 months and just now I have arrived at 2 negatives that are acceptable. Something I wouldn't be ashamed if someone else saw it, heck I might even be proud of them let's see how the printing goes. But for these past months I've felt very discouraged but I didn't stop. It has made me realize I'm in a whole different game now. That's where this question begins and I'm glad to hear your responses. They are at the same time affirmative though formitable.

jp
7-Mar-2015, 17:49
There are likely maybe two photos in my first six months of using LF that I consider nice. And that's probably with at least a hundred sheets of film or more. Even though I'd been a quality and prolific 35mm and digital shooter. Now I get about 20-60% keeper rate with lf where keeper is defined as something that I'm happy enough with to post online. Exhibit fine art quality is more limited by my time to print/participate rather than quantity of images. I don't take the time to print and frame and exhibit even the modestly suggested twelve images a year.

Tim Meisburger
7-Mar-2015, 18:06
I have a lot of old 35mm images that are good, but the LF process is completely different (usually) in that it is very deliberate. My 35mm is mostly reportage, an image captured in a fleeting instant that portrays a place and time, but in LF we build an image from the ground up and at every stage can fail. We know what we want and it is often difficult to create the image we envisioned and so are disappointed. Exposure errors that would be annoying but not disastrous in 35mm consign an LF negative to the trash. Errors in framing, development, etc. ruin the image we were trying to build. So often I have images that others think are nice, but all I see are the mistakes; a portrait with a hand misplaces, or hair falling in the wrong place, or un unwanted shadow in the background.

Its like Kirk says, when he is working he gets the professional shot, the shot that meets the need and satisfies the client, but when he is making for himself, adequate is not sufficient. And thats why six or twelve or even one a year that really satisfies is enough, at least for me.

Greg Miller
7-Mar-2015, 18:08
My question is what kind of success rate should in be aiming for realistically.

My opinion is that if your success rate is high, then something is wrong. I don't want to keep taking the same photos over and over. That would bore me and my viewers. I'm always trying to better my skills, learn, and create something new. That's a recipe for a bad success rate, but also for a recipe for pushing your boundaries, learning, and creating images that are fresh and new. There's nothing wrong or bad about that.

jnanian
7-Mar-2015, 18:17
i've been making workplace portraits since the 1980s
sometimes the ones i discarded/ passed over are the ones i look at now
30 years later and think they are THE photograph from the session.
when winogrand died he left thousands ( 10 thousand ) rolls of films unprocessed
because he knew it take distance to realize which exposures are the best ones ...
granted, death is the ultimate distance, but he used to wait a long while before he processed his film
and edited out ones he wanted from the rest ...

RodinalDuchamp
7-Mar-2015, 18:29
I really can't thank all of you enough for being so honest. When I started I did think it would be hard I really did but I had no idea how deep this goes. This forum is really full of amazing people always willing to help. From the bottom of my heart thank you. @labblack @corran @stonenyc @kirkgittings you guys especially.

Alan Gales
7-Mar-2015, 19:34
My opinion is that if your success rate is high, then something is wrong. I don't want to keep taking the same photos over and over. That would bore me and my viewers. I'm always trying to better my skills, learn, and create something new. That's a recipe for a bad success rate, but also for a recipe for pushing your boundaries, learning, and creating images that are fresh and new. There's nothing wrong or bad about that.

+1

I couldn't have said it better.

ic-racer
8-Mar-2015, 06:56
If I'm lucky I'll get one to five good ones each year.

Lenny Eiger
8-Mar-2015, 10:57
I think there are a few factors here. If we separate things out between technological success and aesthetic success, we should see that technological success should increase with practice until it is almost 100%.

Aesthetic success is another matter. Factors include:
Amount of time one is able to devote to photography
Understanding of one's own aesthetic, study of History and context of one's work
Shooting style - fast or slow. How many negs do you produce in a day's worth of shooting?
Ability to shift one's awareness from day to day to the hyper-awareness of photographing, where things are noticed.
I think it depends highly on were one is in their lives, their emotional state, etc. There appear to be "rich" periods.

In my early years, as I was developing my portfolio, if I took something I like very much, it often replaced another in the portfolio that was a bit weaker. The size of the case remained the same. It is different now, I showed my work to a gallery last year and they didn't want to see 25, they wanted to see 300.

There are all sorts of people doing the ubiquitous "site studies" where the concept is thing thing vs the image, it definitely needs more than one image to cover something, and they aren't all as strong, most can't stand by themselves, or without the text, etc.

Lastly, I think that AA had about 12 great images. Weston maybe 100. That's just my opinion and not meant to start anything... There is a huge difference between an image we sincerely like and one that will stand the test of time. Those are quite few, one doesn't know until they've been around for a few years.

Lenny

bob carnie
8-Mar-2015, 11:12
August Sander would be IMO one of the greatest photographers of all time... I never get bored looking at his amazing bodies of work, and there were quite a few keepers.

Lenny Eiger
8-Mar-2015, 12:32
August Sander would be IMO one of the greatest photographers of all time... I never get bored looking at his amazing bodies of work, and there were quite a few keepers.

I agree, on both counts.

One has to look at what a photographer (and their publisher) was willing to put into a book, then maybe double or triple that. How many of those would any one of us consider "undeniable"? I'm sure its quite a moving target. Often depending on one's own interest.


Lenny

Alan Gales
8-Mar-2015, 15:32
August Sander would be IMO one of the greatest photographers of all time... I never get bored looking at his amazing bodies of work, and there were quite a few keepers.

I agree. His portrait of the Pastry Chef is one of my all time favorite images by anyone.

Kirk Gittings
8-Mar-2015, 17:32
Yes I love his work too, but have no clue as to his percentage of keepers-what we get to see is what proportion of what he shot?

Merg Ross
8-Mar-2015, 21:05
This is an interesting topic, probably of more concern when I was starting out in photography. That was over sixty-plus years ago.

Now, as I look back on a life's work, approximately 500 prints will define my career; those are the "keepers". I make a distinction between "keepers" and the truly "exceptional" --- of the latter, perhaps 100 will stand the test of time, likely less. A few already have. Keeping the level at 500 necessitates continual purges of negatives and prints. Who needs more?

Of course I have not answered your question because I have no count of the exposures made, only of those saved. However, from my experience, Ansel was not far off with his estimate of a dozen "keepers" for an annual output.

As your vision is identified and matures, you will not consider percentages, nor should you now. Experiment! The creative process should be a fun experience, not taken too seriously thus destroying the passion.

N Dhananjay
8-Mar-2015, 23:56
Let me play devil's advocate here for a moment....

I'm hearing two themes - 1) expect a small number of 'keepers' and 2) your idea of 'keeper' changes over the years....

I feel a little uneasy about the first theme. OK, maybe every tenth image is a 'keeper' but I seriously doubt you could make that tenth image without making the nine that came before it. The second theme also has me a little uneasy and seems to reflect the discomfort we have about this idea of a 'keeper'.

On the one hand, you might have misgivings about an image that you thought was wonderful at one point in time - maybe that reflects growth but it seems an arbitrary standard to use. It does reflect the path your growth has taken and as such, seems important. Alternatively, you might suddenly see merit in a photograph that you were disappointed in earlier. Maybe that represents growth. But how did you make that photograph before you had your new found sensibility? It was either an 'accident' (in which case, taking credit for it seems a little dubious) or an unconscious flame of recognition sort of thing (in which case, it was your lack of insight into yourself that should be taken to task and not the photograph itself).

In essence, I think this isn't a question that leads anywhere. All we can do is do the work, and it finds resonances. Or not. I would argue that the fact you made a photograph means it has some significance, whether you are aware of it or not. And the only way to discover that significance is to just continue to do the work and think about it.

Obviously, this is completely inapplicable to certain kinds of work (e.g., commercial photography) where getting it right is the difference between getting paid and starving.

Cheers, DJ

Ari
9-Mar-2015, 04:02
Well said, DJ.
To answer the OP: I'm really happy if I get four solid images in a calendar year. I don't keep track of how much film I go through, but it's around 250-400 sheets per year.
Having more time to shoot would hopefully mean a better success rate, but I'm also inclined to think that some shots will grow in my estimation over time.

Jim Becia
9-Mar-2015, 05:14
This is an interesting topic, probably of more concern when I was starting out in photography. That was over sixty-plus years ago.

Now, as I look back on a life's work, approximately 500 prints will define my career; those are the "keepers". I make a distinction between "keepers" and the truly "exceptional" --- of the latter, perhaps 100 will stand the test of time, likely less. A few already have. Keeping the level at 500 necessitates continual purges of negatives and prints. Who needs more?

Of course I have not answered your question because I have no count of the exposures made, only of those saved. However, from my experience, Ansel was not far off with his estimate of a dozen "keepers" for an annual output.

As your vision is identified and matures, you will not consider percentages, nor should you now. Experiment! The creative process should be a fun experience, not taken too seriously thus destroying the passion.


Merg,

I think your last paragraph is the most important one, at least to me. One thing I have learned about my photography is that the experience of photographing and being there is paramount. I am guessing that I can easily shoot 400 to 500 pieces of 8x10 color film in a year. I am also guessing that most might think that extravagant and expensive. Film is my "drug" of choice. I really would rather spend my money and time on photography than anything else. I also tend (now) to think in terms of projects, and those projects have come about after years of photography, going to places over and over again. So I find that keepers come in different "flavors," those that are good enough as images on their own, but then also those that help define an area or project. Hope that makes sense. Also, I sometimes think we get caught up with hitting "home runs." I don't mind hitting the doubles, triples, etc. The "home runs" will happen, but there is nothing wrong with hitting the doubles, etc. I hope my baseball analogy makes sense. Anyway, I don't worry too much about how the percentages play out, some times they are good in a year, sometimes they aren't, but I can say that my experiences have always been keepers!

Bruce Barlow
9-Mar-2015, 06:57
A beginner once asked me how to just skip making the non-keepers, and how to, basically, bat 1,000.

I am rarely speechless.

Jmarmck
9-Mar-2015, 08:22
Merg,

I think your last paragraph is the most important one, at least to me. One thing I have learned about my photography is that the experience of photographing and being there is paramount. I am guessing that I can easily shoot 400 to 500 pieces of 8x10 color film in a year. I am also guessing that most might think that extravagant and expensive. Film is my "drug" of choice. I really would rather spend my money and time on photography than anything else. I also tend (now) to think in terms of projects, and those projects have come about after years of photography, going to places over and over again. So I find that keepers come in different "flavors," those that are good enough as images on their own, but then also those that help define an area or project. Hope that makes sense. Also, I sometimes think we get caught up with hitting "home runs." I don't mind hitting the doubles, triples, etc. The "home runs" will happen, but there is nothing wrong with hitting the doubles, etc. I hope my baseball analogy makes sense. Anyway, I don't worry too much about how the percentages play out, some times they are good in a year, sometimes they aren't, but I can say that my experiences have always been keepers!

As I often told my brother after our rock hound excursions, it is about the journey. That said, memories of the journey can create opinions that viewers cannot fathom. There are those shots I consider successes but only in my eye. Then there is the other side of the coin where and image I do not deem worthy strikes something in another. It is subjective; thus, the percentage rate is subjective. As an amateur I never toss a piece of film, or digital for that matter. They all have value even as a learning tool on what not to do.

I have no idea what my rate would be. It would be too colored by the experience. I have entire trips where I thought either "what was I thinking" or "well that was a bust", then others where the supposed success rate was very high. On my last trip I came conclusion that I would take what nature and fate would give. Seems silly to put so much into faith but what else can one do? There is always something there in front of the lens. It is up to the photographer to open the shutter.

Toyon
9-Mar-2015, 08:53
No. He was paying very close attention to what was in his viewfinder, the exact opposite of "spray and pray".

The truth was closer to the middle of those two extremes. He certainly concentrated on his subjects (shooting from neck level, not the finder) but he shot so frequently, that there was a large element of serendipity in his shooting style. More like "frame and pray".

Bruce Watson
9-Mar-2015, 11:34
Guys when I was shooting MF I would get maybe 1-5 good shots on a roll.

When I was a teenager shooting football and basketball for the local newspaper using 35mm Nikons with motor drives (at least two, usually three), I improved to getting one published shot per three rolls, or about one-in-120 frames (we cut our own rolls, and most of us put on about 40 frames per film cassette) so on a given Saturday, I could expect to place as many as three or four images. So I'd rip through 10-12 rolls of Tri-X per game.

Then there were the night games, which devolved into printing wet film, running up a couple of flights of stairs with barely fixed prints that were already starting to stain, and getting that stare from the sports editor -- the one that says "what the heck took you so long". And yes, I'm actually old enough I've had the presses held for me at midnight on a Saturday.

And all this experience was just about completely useless when, decades later, I decided to try my hand at LF. Speed <> quality. And all that implies.


...what kind of success rate should in be aiming for realistically?

A certain very successful LFer, I believe his name was Adams, used to talk about having a goal of creating keepers at the rate of one a month. Now, his keepers are pretty frellin' good.

But I did have a day in Yosemite valley where I climbed from the valley up past Vernal Fall, up that damnable granite staircase to the top of Nevada Fall, then back around the loop to Vernal, and back to the valley floor. Caught the last shuttle of the day. Used every sheet of film I had with me (10 holders, 20 sheets). That single day, I made four photographs that are keepers to me, still on my walls because my wife loves them too.

Best day of photography I've had. Best day of photography I'll likely ever have.

So what does all this tell you? Absolutely nothing. Whether you'll make some art or not depends too much on where you are, how you see, having the right equipment with you, having the right conditions (I've seen some outstanding possibilities from the car in during torrential storms, one I sat and looked at until it was too dark to get a reasonable exposure, that I've never captured), and the biggie for me: whether you are in the right frame of mind to make art. That last one's a killer. I find that I seldom make good art the first day of a trip for example.

But absolutely, if you're in the right place at the right time, capture what you can. When you come back, it might well be gone. My favorite big color print that's on a wall in my dining room is proof of that. Dogwood in blossom in GSMNP. Got there right at dusk after it had been raining all day. Nice white blooms, nice dark saturated bark. Nice contrast. 15 second exposure.

Next year there was a freak storm system that developed huge winds in the park. Took all the leaves off the trees to the point where they had to use their snow removal equipment to plow the leaves off the roads (in places a meter thick they said) and make them passable. And... dropped a nice big tree right in the middle of that beautifully balanced composition with the beautifully asymmetrical dogwood. Cut the dogwood in half. Didn't kill it, but absolutely maimed it. Sigh...

I'm just sayin' that it's OK to strike while the iron is hot. It's also OK to walk the same trails over and over, and visit the same spots over and over, looking for just the right light. Whatever works for you is what works for you.

swmcl
9-Mar-2015, 14:47
If I might make an observation. It seems to me that LF photographers - by the very nature of their photographic task - are very critical of their own work and therefore of others. Is there no end to the criticism ? Even the 'keepers' of some of you would be 'rejects' by the standards of others.

To me, I wouldn't be surprised at all if I thought that most of your 'rejects' were quite acceptable. People don't get into LF photography without being pretty focused on their task. I would think that every practitioner is pretty damn competent in the grander scheme of things.

Greg Miller
9-Mar-2015, 15:06
If I might make an observation. It seems to me that LF photographers - by the very nature of their photographic task - are very critical of their own work and therefore of others. Is there no end to the criticism ? Even the 'keepers' of some of you would be 'rejects' by the standards of others.

To me, I wouldn't be surprised at all if I thought that most of your 'rejects' were quite acceptable. People don't get into LF photography without being pretty focused on their task. I would think that every practitioner is pretty damn competent in the grander scheme of things.

On the other hand, LF photographers tend to be very process oriented, and many seem to consider a photograph a success if the process worked (even if the resulting image is quite ordinary)(e.g. it is LF so it must be good; or; it is an alternative printing method so it must be good). The question posed by the OP will have as many answers as there are membes of this forum.

RodinalDuchamp
9-Mar-2015, 15:08
On the other hand, LF photographers tend to be very process oriented, and many seem to consider a photograph a success if the process worked (even if the resulting image is quite ordinary)(e.g. it is LF so it must be good; or; it is an alternative printing method so it must be good). The question posed by the OP will have as many answers as there are membes of this forum.
That's OK. Wisdom comes from listening to as many points of view as possible and discerning which ones apply to each individual.

Greg Miller
9-Mar-2015, 15:13
That's OK. Wisdom comes from listening to as many points of view as possible and discerning which ones apply to each individual.

The trick is in discerning which points of view to consider, and which to disregard. Its difficult on the internet to know where each person is at in their photographic journey, what their value system is, and what their goals are. Knowing those things helps to frame a point of view and process it into something meaningful for ourselves.

Toyon
9-Mar-2015, 15:15
A beginner once asked me how to just skip making the non-keepers, and how to, basically, bat 1,000.

I am rarely speechless.

Sounds like you didn't get his joke.

Toyon
9-Mar-2015, 15:18
If I might make an observation. It seems to me that LF photographers - by the very nature of their photographic task - are very critical of their own work and therefore of others. Is there no end to the criticism ? Even the 'keepers' of some of you would be 'rejects' by the standards of others.

To me, I wouldn't be surprised at all if I thought that most of your 'rejects' were quite acceptable. People don't get into LF photography without being pretty focused on their task. I would think that every practitioner is pretty damn competent in the grander scheme of things.

I agree in the sense that nearly all larege format photographers are technically competent. But aesthetics, imagination, courage.... are needed for outstanding photographs. LF photographers don't have any special insight or ability in those areas relative to other film shooters.

Bruce Barlow
9-Mar-2015, 16:59
Sounds like you didn't get his joke.

Trust me. He wasn't joking. He had that beginner's earnestness.

Kevin J. Kolosky
9-Mar-2015, 17:08
what exactly is a "keeper"?

Eric Biggerstaff
9-Mar-2015, 17:13
I think that if I get 3% of what I expose per year as keepers then I am doing OK, that works out to around 10-15 images a year I am happy with. I normally go through about 500 sheets, so not a great deal of film each year. Then, every few years, I go through those that excited me and dump about half of those. So, it takes a LONG time to get a good portfolio together or have enough to show.

But what I think may be keepers others may think suck, so ....................

Oh, one more thing, I don't worry to much about the technical success at this point in my journey, so for me it is about the image itself. I guess if I am REALLY honest with myself, then 10 images each year that I find interesting and pleasing would be a good year.

Merg Ross
9-Mar-2015, 21:12
what exactly is a "keeper"?

My personal definition: A "keeper" is a photograph that, at first inspection, meets self-imposed criteria for inclusion in my portfolio. It is subject to continual evaluation and can have a life expectancy of days or decades. A very small percentage of "keepers" rise to the next level.

Kirk Gittings
9-Mar-2015, 21:26
I have never really thought to much about what is a
"keeper". I think for me it is about whether I am satisfied enough to hang it in a show-few of the images I create every year rate that-a percentage similar to Kens pretty much. I show a lot but much of it is requests for my vintage work. I have a few shows every year that for my own satisfaction I simply want fresh work. I get tired of my old stuff no matter how good I once thought it was. That need for fresh work is largely an internal motivation rather than market driven-though it also helps with sales too. I am terrible at predicting what will sell so I rarely ever think of it when shooting or showing (unlike commercial work-which is totally sales driven).

maldoror
10-Mar-2015, 07:26
Jeff Wall on the other hand contra to the numbers I gave you for Avedon has taken very , very few images in his career.. sometimes it takes him 6 months to set up one image

I randomly came across a video interview with Jeff Wall where he states that, in fact, he takes 500 photos of a single (staged) scene before he finds one he likes. He also suggests that most other major fine art photographers are working at similar ratios.

Great interview - and he even discusses his love of large format cameras and film-based imaging.

Relevant quote around 25:42: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqMoXMyEStU&feature=youtu.be&t=25m42s

bob carnie
10-Mar-2015, 08:04
That would make sense, but he produces the one image, so these images of the staged scene are is Poloroids if you like .. to help him get to the final .. I admire his work .

I randomly came across a video interview with Jeff Wall where he states that, in fact, he takes 500 photos of a single (staged) scene before he finds one he likes. He also suggests that most other major fine art photographers are working at similar ratios.

Great interview - and he even discusses his love of large format cameras and film-based imaging.

Relevant quote around 25:42: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqMoXMyEStU&feature=youtu.be&t=25m42s

Kevin J. Kolosky
10-Mar-2015, 21:05
I was just thinking the very simple thought today that the less one has to talk about a photo, or describe a photo, or say how its made, or what its made on, or what it was made by, to anyone else, whether its your own or someone elses, the more it is a "keeper".

Kirk Gittings
10-Mar-2015, 21:12
Really? Sometimes there is nothing to say because there is nothing there. Good photographs, mine or others, tend to make me very verbally expressive.

Kevin J. Kolosky
10-Mar-2015, 21:25
Really?

Kirk Gittings
10-Mar-2015, 21:27
Really.

Kevin J. Kolosky
10-Mar-2015, 21:40
or maybe your trying to make it good by talking about it.

Merg Ross
10-Mar-2015, 22:05
I was just thinking the very simple thought today that the less one has to talk about a photo, or describe a photo, or say how its made, or what its made on, or what it was made by, to anyone else, whether its your own or someone elses, the more it is a "keeper".

Photography is a visual language --- no need for words if you have utilized the fullest potential of the medium, and have an enlightened audience. However, if you are concerned with an audience that needs educating, yes, words may be necessary. It really depends on one's purpose for making photographs.

Kevin J. Kolosky
11-Mar-2015, 09:43
I wonder - sometimes when photographers (not your Merg) say "enlightened" audience are they just using fancy words to say an audience "that thinks like me". Not everybody is going to "get" every great photograph, but I would think that the really really great ones that transcend the human condition are pretty universal. If your human, you get it, and there is no need to talk about it. A keeper.

goamules
11-Mar-2015, 09:55
I like to get at least one shot I'm happy with, from each photography session. The session length depends on the goal. To capture an amazing sunset I have 90 seconds to do it, and usually shoot about 4-5 shots. A still life, perhaps 3 shots. A portrait session, perhaps 20 shots.

But there is a different number of shots per format too. With 35mm or a digital, sometimes 15 to 20 shots. With wetplate, a session means about 5 plates. With 8x10 large format, usually 2 sheets. My care in taking the shot increases as the format does!

Vaughn
11-Mar-2015, 13:09
The percentage of 'keepers' can vary by how much I edit before the camera gets set up, how much I wish to experiment and risk some film and time. The experiments by their nature tend to have a lower success rate.

Almost 30 years ago I spent 6 months photographing by bicycle in New Zealand, and a little time in Australia. I took a 4x5. I exposed 75 sheets of film. I had some damaged negatives due to high humidity static discharges, but I ended up with a 20-print portfolio. If I were to reprint images from that trip I think I would end up with a very strong 12 print NZ portfolio...I am more picky now. But this is a high number of 'keepers' -- probably helped by the fact that I was traveling solo with the intent primarily to photograph -- might be due to it being an intense photographic period.

David_Senesac
12-Mar-2015, 17:22
The term isn't appropriate for my narrow purposes.

The keeper term has been used for decades and for many of us meant slides or negatives that were not even worth storing so tossed. A fair percentage of 35mm film people shot much like with digital cameras today, was not always for aesthetic purpose but rather informational. Like taking token shots at some social event or a along the route of a Sunday drive down a highway. So keeper is a non issue for such subjects as long as technical issues were reasonable. Initially with large format view cameras one has to overcome technical and skill issues so many tossers early in the game are about technical flaws as exposure so one tosses for those reasons. Eventually that should become a non-issue or one goes back to simpler systems. Thus the term keeper is more about creative and aesthetic imagery. With cheap small format film one could waste lots of film without any cost to time or money. And with digital cameras machine gunning subjects bears little pain beyond boring oneself cull on a computer. But with larger formats we increasingly neither want to waste time or cost.

As a hobby landscape and nature photographer, did massive shutter clicking a bit on road trips as a twenty-something and was disgusted. So long ago as a 35mm SLR photographer, keep or toss was not enough for my own evaluative purposes so created a 30 point system between 7.0 and 10.0. Anything less than a 7.0 was likely to be tossed as without aesthetic or informational value. So 7.0 to 7.9 were good images, 8.0 to 8.4 fairly strong images but not enough so to make public, 8.5 to 8.9 strong images but maybe less then perfect, and 9.0 and above the kind some seem to be discussing as keepers herein. However as noted I don't toss 7s. And as some have mentioned, it sometimes takes time to better appreciate some images that are initially dismissed.

Over a period of years my skill at both evaluating subjects and resulting camera captured images has considerably evolved and like to think has always gotten better. Thus my rate of success has been generally high for years. I'm so picky that many days have just carried the heavy daypack over miles without taking the Wisner out. And other days am so busy I find its late morning with light getting harsh and I never bothered to eat or even drink any water since waking. With landscapes much depends on subjects.

For example in 2005 I visited Death Valley NP twice in March and April after an exceptionally wet period that produced the wildflower bloom of the century, which made capturing strong images far more likely than usual. Thus at least for L&N once one has acquired the photography and equipment skills, much about success depends on where, when, and conditions. A lot of people on this site have technical skills equal to mine so could come back with strong images IF they were at the same places. Tuesday I returned from a long road trip down to Antelope Valley where wildflowers are peaking, probably with best blooms in at least 8 years. A region I've much experience over many years occasionally visiting and photographing. I spent two days in the best area midweek without hardly seeing any other people much less photographers about and yeah a lot of keepers.

appletree
18-Mar-2015, 09:39
I often wish I was a better photographer. But, alas, that is in my hands, and with hard work and learning, I should only "improve" as time goes on. Although, I would lose a bit of the joy, or perhaps all of it, if I never am happy with the photographer I am right now. Yet, a caveat to this conversation is, everyone's keeper is different. Different views/opinions/preferences/etc. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sort of thing. Not a single photo I have taken may be a "keeper" to many of you.


I have been shooting for 5ish years since I graduated college, just about. I have 3500 scans in lightroom. For the first two years I scanned every single negative and editted everyone (albeit minor, but still). I now weed things out drastically because I am soooo far behind. Still editing photos from 2012-2014. Probably 20 rolls still left to develop from the past 6 months. If I can tell from the rough preview scan that it "won't make it"...not even online it does not even get scanned. But the negative strips are always kept...even on ruined rolls. I just mark the page ruined in my binder. Then if it is scanned I give it 3, 4, or 5 stars. 3 meaning online (facebook...so far behind, flickr, etc), 4 meaning my website, 5 meaning I want to print it or I am really happy with it. I would say (guesstimate, since I am at work) that I have 30 5-stars...max.

Now this was all 35mm or 6x6 work, but about 1% of that scanned is good to me. And even of those, many are sentimental and not for a portfolio. Only a handful are actually good, in my eyes. That said...I am all self taught. Had a huge learning curve...and still learning. I often bracket shots, use to not even have a light meter until a year ago. So my process was very mysterious. I never knew until I held the neg up to the window or lightbox if I even got an image! This has definitely changed and my quality of images has gone way up. Metering and taking my time/taking notes, etc.


I still don't have a great vision. Often things I think will work, don't look like I thought through the viewfinder or the neg itself. And randomly shots I never expected are gems out of a group of rolls. Since taking notes a year ago, I now take shots on various f-stops and shutter speeds and just trying to learn.


I hope with LF perhaps I will know in a scene what is optimal. What the output will/could be depending on where I position myself, the subject/landscape/person, and camera settings. Add rise/tilt/shift/swings and I feel like I won't get any "keepers" for another many decades. I do wish I was technically more sound and aesthetically understood photography better. I need to implement what I have learned from Bruce Barnbaum's book.

jp
18-Mar-2015, 10:38
I still don't have a great vision. Often things I think will work, don't look like I thought through the viewfinder or the neg itself. And randomly shots I never expected are gems out of a group of rolls. Since taking notes a year ago, I now take shots on various f-stops and shutter speeds and just trying to learn.


I hope with LF perhaps I will know in a scene what is optimal.

To get intuitive about how f stops will affect the photos, shoot ALL your MF (or LF) on one camera & one lens & one film. Sounds crazy, but you get a real feel for how certain scenes will render as time goes on. For me, I come close to obeying that with MF with my old 1950-ish Rolleiflex. It pays off.

For LF, it's good advice I don't follow as I use about 4-5 lenses and three cameras as it's more experimental for me. Photo history is good for learning how other people saw with LF. books covering early modern and pictorialist photographers, etc.. No one author can cover the good vision of photographers past.

Vaughn
18-Mar-2015, 15:09
To get intuitive about how f stops will affect the photos, shoot ALL your MF (or LF) on one camera & one lens & one film. Sounds crazy, but you get a real feel for how certain scenes will render as time goes on. For me, I come close to obeying that with MF with my old 1950-ish Rolleiflex. It pays off....

It worked well for me, and also starting with a 50-ish Rolleiflex 3.5...and for 4x5, 5x7 and the first dozen years with the 8x10. And keeping with an approx normal length lens for each format. But that was me. Any approach will work if enough intensity is applied towards it.

Over the years I have had a few keep'ers that with age and experience have turned into What-was-I-thinking'ers. And some hidden gems, too, found in the piles of negatives. Hidden keepers. Thankfully I am not a high-volume image maker, and that I have only tossed obviously damaged negatives or that are hopelessly focused/exposed.

Kirk Gittings
18-Mar-2015, 15:46
Over the years I have had a few keep'ers that with age and experience have turned into What-was-I-thinking'ers. And some hidden gems, too, found in the piles of negatives. Hidden keepers. Thankfully I am not a high-volume image maker, and that I have only tossed obviously damaged negatives or that are hopelessly focused/exposed.

yep

Kirk Gittings
18-Mar-2015, 15:49
I don't shoot a ton and print even less-only printing for specific projects or shows. So sometimes even really good images get left behind in the files if they don't "fit" into whatever I am working on at a given time. Sometimes I dig through them and find some really good images that are languishing away in the depths of the archives.

Drew Wiley
18-Mar-2015, 16:18
I don't follow baseball. We all know that Babe Ruth cumulatively hit a lot of home runs. But does anyone know how many times he struck out?

appletree
19-Mar-2015, 10:06
Thank you all for the advice. Hopefully I keep practicing for many years, a never ending process/goal.

Vaughn
19-Mar-2015, 10:30
I don't follow baseball. We all know that Babe Ruth cumulatively hit a lot of home runs. But does anyone know how many times he struck out?

Funny...I thought I would look that up and found something called the SLG (Slugging percentage -- guess I do not follow baseball enough, either.) It does not just takes hits into consideration but how many bases per times at bat. A single is 1, double 2, etc. So for a single game, if one is up four times...one single, one double, one homer and a strike out, then that is 7 bases/4 times up = a SLG of 1.750. Babe's highest was .0847, a record finally broken in 2001 by Bonds.

But you can't hit the ones you don't swing at! Go photograph!

TXFZ1
19-Mar-2015, 10:56
I don't follow baseball. We all know that Babe Ruth cumulatively hit a lot of home runs. But does anyone know how many times he struck out?

2062 strike outs

8399 at bats

714 Home runs

David

Vaughn
19-Mar-2015, 11:57
And if you look at the spread of the type of hits he got (lots of singles, not so many doubles, few triples and lots of home runs), it does not appear that he was quick on his feet!

Someone may have already said this -- but if you get nothing but keepers, your standards are not high enough.

Drew Wiley
19-Mar-2015, 16:23
Well, the reason I asked about Babe Ruth is probably to console myself for the fact that my stack of "forget it" sheets of film is a lot bigger than my stack of,
"to print".

Rayt
6-May-2015, 17:44
Someone in one of the previous posts said to increase the percentage of keeper just shoot less non keepers. I think this is one of my problems. There were times when I have gone a long way to reach this destination and then maybe the light isn't great or there are no clouds or the wind is high I would shoot anyway because hey man I am here. But then the negative isn't what I wanted. My own fault really.

Alan Gales
6-May-2015, 21:01
Someone in one of the previous posts said to increase the percentage of keeper just shoot less non keepers. I think this is one of my problems. There were times when I have gone a long way to reach this destination and then maybe the light isn't great or there are no clouds or the wind is high I would shoot anyway because hey man I am here. But then the negative isn't what I wanted. My own fault really.

Back in the 1980's I used to go out shooting 35mm cameras with several friends. We would shoot when we could get together and unfortunately, rarely at optimum lighting. One of my friends told me I was the best at making something from nothing in bad lighting. No, the photos were not that great and if i reshot them in the best light they would have been much better. I will tell you this, the exercise did make me a better photographer so I don't think your time is wasted. When you can make the best out of nothing it really trains you to make the best out of something.

sun of sand
6-May-2015, 21:38
If you play every hand in poker you get no matter how well you can read the other players eventually it comes down to cards
You're going to lose a lot of hands

If you play only the best hands that come along and you're a good reader of people you've got the best odds at winning that hand out of everyone at the table
But they don't come around too often

This is large format

Problem in poker is luck
Problem in photography is nature

In poker you aim for not much more than 20% of hands
If you can win 40%? Of those hands you keep you're doing wonderfully well

Few hands kept even fewer are winners

Probably about the same odds

Oddly enough people have said 10%

Which is probably about the odds michael Jordan could hit a shot from 38+ feet


The quality of winners is what matters
You can win over time by winning moderately well
Or you can win big by winning exceptionally well

Getting to exceptional requires everything and a hardcore editorial process practically every shot to be reasonably sure you're not running in place

John Kasaian
7-May-2015, 20:46
It depends.:rolleyes:

Liquid Artist
16-May-2015, 22:50
The more it costs me the more fussy I am.

I just developed a 36 exposure roll of 35mm Delta 100. I had 6 keepers in it, which is probably about my average.
Some of the photos were taken over 2 years ago, and the last 2 weeks ago so I don't think I shoot 35mm very often.

With 4x5 I usually keep 1 out of every 3 or 4.

With 5x7 I probably keep 3 in every 4.
I should mention that I pretty much only grab out the 5x7 when I know I've got a good shot. If I don't I grab out the 4x5.

Bruce Barlow
17-May-2015, 03:26
Back in the 1980's I used to go out shooting 35mm cameras with several friends. We would shoot when we could get together and unfortunately, rarely at optimum lighting. One of my friends told me I was the best at making something from nothing in bad lighting. No, the photos were not that great and if i reshot them in the best light they would have been much better. I will tell you this, the exercise did make me a better photographer so I don't think your time is wasted. When you can make the best out of nothing it really trains you to make the best out of something.

+1

David_Senesac
3-Jun-2015, 16:44
To the novice the visual world for outdoor nature and landscapes is boundless, endless easily filling camera film or sensors without much filtering. But what are keepers to novice photographers are unlikely to be so to a many years experienced photographer. Thus with experience most of us become increasingly discerning in acceptable aesthetics. All we elderly folk would likely be embarrassed publicly displaying work we were proud of from our early years. Additionally with specific similar subjects one may not bother capturing subjects that have a noticeably lesser aesthetic than something already in a body of work. Thus after capturing a grand colorful cloud sunset at Grand Canyon one is less likely to bother in following years with more common ho hum end of days. Accordingly we with little museums of dusty camera gear and greying hair may find it increasingly difficult to easily locate worthwhile subjects... keepers.

jcoldslabs
3-Jun-2015, 21:04
Saw this the other day and it made me laugh. It applies even more to LF:


http://i.imgur.com/XbtBiOP.png

Jonathan

Pamelageewhizz
27-Jul-2015, 22:04
Saw this the other day and it made me laugh. It applies even more to LF:

Love it!
http://i.imgur.com/XbtBiOP.png

Jonathan