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More ratio considerations

Published October 14th, 2011

My post last week on ratios between photos shot and photos kept sparked some interest here with a few comments and a lot more on twitter (thanks to @SteelToad @spectaclephoto @One_Stein @sandrarugina @rwyoungimages @Jwainke @ShutterSociety @EvanescentZA @gerlo @tsilo_ @cristiantruu @theNetImp @photographybird @Mauri_go @KevinROBrien @ratzlaff @Tochilin @JayPovey and my good friend and talented photographer @sineadw). I thought it would be interesting to synthesise the responses as a follow-up to the discussion.

The first thing that came out, which I kind of expected, but it's interesting to have confirmation of it, is that a number of people don't eliminate anything. A number of the photographers who keep everything seem to have experience in film photography, where no one destroys their negatives, and perpetuate that on digital. These contributors to the debate therefore expressed ratios of 1:1, and maybe that's my fault: in my original post I described my own process which does involve axing a fair proportion of the photos I shoot, but the point of the discussion was more to compare the number of shots to the number of keepers in the sense of "good shots you'd be willing to share". Still, as @EvanescentZA points out: "I have this thing where I never ever delete photographs from my camera or computer. I really need to start. 1 year = +/- 300gb"

Another trend seems to be that as photographers become more mature and technically accurate, they shoot less and prepare their shots more, hence higher keeper ratios than for beginners. Also, shoots that involve a fair amount of preparation (like landscapes in specific locations or studio work) seem to result in a higher ratio of keepers. Both of these trends make sense, and I suspect if I had monitored this closely, I probably would have concluded the same for myself. Porter Yates says in the comments that he's "noticed [his] ratios have changed as [he has] become a better photographer. [He] think[s] [he] take[s] fewer throw-away shots and feel[s] like [he is] editing more of the shots [he's] kept."

Film photographers in general tend to have higher ratios (again, not surprising when each shot has a cost associated to it.) Furthermore, as @sineadw pointed out, the bigger the format, the higher the ratio: "the more I think, the more I keep. I tend to not think so much with digital."

All in all, 12 people contributed actual numbers (myself excluded), here or on twitter. If I average these twelve numbers, I get an average ration of 1/16 or a little above 6 keepers for 100 pictures shot. Not a lot, eh?

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