Do things always go right?

February 01, 2013  •  1 Comment

Kitty Hawk dunes on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.Outer Banks-0848 People often comment about posted photographs and ask "Are the photos you take always that good?" My first response is "Sure," but in actuality no one takes perfect photos and all photographers have a certain "failure rate" for their photos. This prompted me to look back over the calendar year of 2012, when I was traveling and photographing full-time, to see how many shots I actually took and how many were 'keepers.'  

Acquiring digital images allows one to have a tremendous amount of data regarding one's images. The camera counts every shot and the editing and post-processing sorts the images so they can be graded and then deleted or saved with the grading. So, how did I do?

Let me set up the review process for you.  I was shooting from about mid-February until the end of December. I shot exclusively with my Canon 7D except for several days on a boat trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada where I used my old Sony H5 for convenience. I shot 16,018 photos during the approximately 315 potential photo days or about 51 shots per day. Now these figures a skewed because I really didn't shoot every potential day - some days were travel days, some down days, some bad weather days and some just plain lazy days.

In my personal work-flow I down-load the images from the camera daily and re-name them and apply key word tagging in a software program called Adobe Lightroom. I do my initial editing, classification, and storage in this program. After the photos are imported from the camera, I delete all obvious technical failures - bad focus, motion blurring, extreme exposure errors, and bad composition. Next, I do my first cut editing and remove additional, technically flawed images and near duplicate images I shot of the same subject at about the same time and viewpoint. These processes reduced my number of 'keepers' to 10,497 or only about 66% of the shots taken.

While I am doing the first cut editing or in later review I subjectively grade the images as to how they appeal to me.  I use a 5 star score with 1 star being a very good image that I like, 2 stars being an especially good image, 3 stars being an outstanding image of special significance, and 4 stars and 5 stars being something I have yet to attain. I have never shown any image to others that didn't get at least 1 star except occasional fun stuff posted on Facebook.  Last year yielded 1,071 one-star images or 7% of the total shots and 50 two-star images or 0.3% of the total shots. I didn't capture a single image rating 3, 4 or 5 stars last year.

So there you have it, an average of about 3-4 'good' images per day of shooting and 1 very good image in every 6 days of shooting. Now there may be more images from the 35,000+ keepers that I could use with further editing and some of these are variations on other images that might appeal more to other viewers but the bottom line is if I shoot a really good image in a day of shooting it has been a good day.  The point of all of this is, if you like photography, go out and take photos whenever you can, enjoy the time shooting, and don't become frustrated if every shot is not a winner.  We all improve over time and with experience so take a lot of shots and critically review every one.  Your keepers will increase steadily.

"Twelve significant photographs in any year is a good crop."  Ansel Adams


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1.Natural Photography - Jackson, Wyoming
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