40 good frames in 60 rolls, what gives

Discussion in 'Nature' started by raul_lithgo, Dec 30, 1999.

  1. In an article in the May 99 issue of Photo Life the writer claims
    that on a recent trip to Churchill, he shot 60 rolls of film and only
    got 40 good pictures. Furthermore, only five of the pictures did not
    require digital 'massaging' to be great pictures according to the
    author.

    Shooting white polar bears on snow is probably a lot harder than it
    looks, but only 40 good images from 60 rolls! Is it really that hard?

    After reading that comment it left me wondering if this fellow's
    advice was worth taking. By the way, most of the pictures that went
    with the article were digitally massaged in some way. So maybe he
    isn't that good of a photographer, or maybe he just likes digital
    stuff, or maybe Churchill bears really are that tough.

    P.S. The same issue has a very nice primer on using flash for
    wildlife photography written, I think, by a French Canadian. Viva La
    Free Quebec!
     
  2. Depends on your definition of "good". I'd expect 90%+ of my shots to be well exposed and in focus, but I'm happy if I get a couple of what I would regard as "good" shots per roll when shooting wildlife (significantly more if shooting scenics). Wildlife moves, blinks, looks away just as you shoot and generally makes life tough. When shooting wildlife you (or at least I) tend to fire off shots when things aren't "perfect" because any shot is better than none and the critter might decide to move off at any time.

    The digital stuff is best left alone I think, or we'll descend into the usual battle of what's ethical and what isn't and the thread on that one never ends...
     
  3. If i had 40 Saleable Images,from 50 rolls, I would be tickled pink,lol
    Big difference between a good photo, and one that sales
     
  4. The vast majority of what I shoot is technically correct--sharp, well expsosed, good depth of field. Most here probably find the same results. But I feel lucky to find one really good shot in a (36-exposure) roll. Finding a shot that really grabs my attention, has a high "replay" value and is just plain interesting is not easy. It is likely the writer sees things the same way.
     
  5. You must be kidding! According to my definition of a good wildlife picture, I'd be lucky to get 40 good ones in a lifetime.
     
  6. Wildlife images that are technically correct & aesthetically engaging are rare no matter where or what you are photographing. Unique polar bear images are difficult to come by given the limitations of shooting in Churchill: tundra buggies, bunk houses, or 4x4's at particular risk. Add to that the daily snow and sun anxieties, along with a dash of local eco-politics, it can be very difficult to get good images. Given the logistics of photographing Churchill's wonderful Polar Bears- 40 good frames out of 60 rolls seems pretty good.
     
  7. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I guess there are a couple of ways of achieving your "good shots". You can wait for "the moment" when composition and light come together
    and only make photographs you believe could be excellent. Alternatively there's the volume approach- just keep firing and varying your approach and you're bound to get some good ones. Assuming
    35mm film, 60 rolls is 2160 exposed frames. If your writer was actively photographing for say 40 hours on his trip then he was shooting about a frame a minute. Does it surprise you that a high proportion of these aren't ideal photographs?
     
  8. After several years of drought finding grizzly bears to photograph, I was privileged to hit a windfall of them last spring and fall. One sow and 2 year old cub in particular were digging roots in the same valley 2 weekends in a row and gave me 2 days of the most wonderful photo opportunities I could ever ask for. The sow accepted me as part of her environment after the first few hours with them, and she fed much closer to me than any sane person would allow a grizzly to come, although the cub was not quite as impressed with my presence. In the 2 days around them I shot about a dozen rolls of 36 exp and spent much time just watching them. Although I got quite a few nice "documentary " pictures of bears including some full frame head shots and shots of the cub laying across her mothers back as she rested from her digging, I can honestly say that I only ended up with 2 pictures that I really think are good in all respects. On all the others there is always a bush thats out of place in the frame, or the low sun contrast is too harsh on the animals creating a bright and dark side, or there is a blade of grass in front of the nose....etc, etc, etc. So I would have to say that 40 pics on a good photo shoot is pretty good odds and I agree with the previous comment about getting one or two pics that make you turn and have a second look is about the norm for me out of a roll of film. But then maybe I'm just a lousy photographer. Btw you are a "free" Quebec. Maybe you just don't realize what a great country you live in yet!
     
  9. This all boils own to: what does the author consider a good shot? If he is looking for a slide to sell to a nature magazine, i.e. "Nature's Best" then I'd say he is doing great considering its wildlife. In my case, since I don't shoot wildlife, if I get one good frame in every five rolls I'd be doing great. Enjoy.

    Armando
     
  10. Good is better than poor or fair but less than excellent. If he had 40 good images out of 2,160 images, his percentage of good images is .0185 [i.e 1.85% -- moderator], and if only 5 didn't need digital help to be great, his percentage is .0023 [0.23%]. I would expect better results from random probability. I rather suspect he is one of those who wants the public to believe he suffers for art. Or believes that if the viewer knows how many images he has tossed, they will have a greater sense of awe for the remainder and for his dedication. Of course, in reality, the world does not care much about process, only results. (Well, and about the cost to produce the results if they are the payor.) For me, I wouldn't be interested in spending money or my time taking a photo class under this guy.
     
  11. Apparently Chris has a different opinion from other posters. I must say that I agree with statements from both ends. My percentage of quality images is certainly much greater than 1.85% (although still not great). However, it does ultimatley depend on what the photographer considers "good" and wether or not the photographer is a hobbyist or submitting photos for sale. I recently shot 24 rolls in a tern breeding colony. Of the 24 rolls (864 frames)I kept 180 of them. However, I considered only 4 to be "knock your socks off" type images. The rest were technically correct but were lacking in strong emotional impact. In general, the percentage of "keepers" in nature photography is very low. But the actual percentage of "keepers" depends tremendously on the skill, opinion, and type of photograhy (commercial or personal use) of the individual photographer.
     
  12. Once again.....there is a hell of a difference, between a great, superb, technically perfect photograph, and one that sells. A photo doesnt have to be technically good,to sell....but a technically good photo, does not mean it will sell.
     
  13. The definition of a good shot is of couse very personal.
    My biggest asset when viewing my pics is my waste-basket ...
    When I look - say a year - later and hopefully have improved, I realise that by my new standards, I 'd throw even more pics away.
    The French magazine Chasseur d'Images once publicised an article on how to select pics : it consisted of selecting a number of criteria ( such as technically correct, atmosphere etc ) and view every piture seperately against each criterium. Only a picture that was acceptable in all criteria was retained.
    In thais case, I guess 40 shots out of 60 rolls is not too bad ...
     
  14. Very good point Randy. To see examples of this, look at the work of Franz Lanting and images published in National Geographic. Many of these images are soft and/or grainy, or lack sufficient depth of field. However, they have a tremendous emotional or asthetic impact, and thats why they are published.
     
  15. Welcome to the world of nature photography. :)
    I've got pretty much the same problem myself. I'm perhaps a bit less critical of my work because I tend to save about 3-4 shots per roll when I'm photographing birds. I'm not sure, however, that many of them are publishable. I keep them for personal reasons. For PUBLISHING purposes he may very well be right that only 40 shots are worth keeping. (I once met a woman who photographs wolves and eagles for a living, and she is so finicky that she has her film pull and push processed at 1/6 step increments. I'd like to see how many shots out of 60 rolls she keeps.)
    One tip I'd like to give to readers---pay as little for film and processing as you can. (Gee, haven't I just stated the obvious.) A local shop charges less for a roll of Ektachrome Elite + processing than it does for a roll of E100 or E200 by itself. Granted it's Ektachrome Elite isn't pro film, but it's still very good. As a result I'm less concerned about going through a few rolls of film than I would otherwise be. That gives me a more of a chance to practice my shooting, which I hope will eventually lead to a greater percentage of keepers.
     
  16. I guess my point of view is similar to Chris. Many photographers seem to take great pride in the few number of images they keep per roll. I find its usually very exagerrated, especially for non-wildlife shooting. Many of those whom I've photographed with that do keep few per roll tend to fire away at anything, putting little thought into lighting, compositions, etc. Thus the few keepers.

    Of course there is also the myth of the "publishable photo". It doesn't always take a masterpiece for a photo to be published - just the right image for the right use. I've had a lot of mediocre images published, while some of what I consider my best sit in my files, simply because nobody has had a need for them.

    Unless you're shooting wildlife (and maybe even if you are), if you are regularly throwing away 90 percent of what you shoot for stock, it seems that it might be time for some training.
     
  17. While I do not do nature photography professionally, I do DO sports that way. Since Aug, I have shot at least 15,000 frames. I have 6 that worked their way into my portfolio. Ones that I would call "Great!" shots. Only two that still make me jump up and down with joy.

    How many of my 15,000 frames were sellable? A vast majority of them. My clients really like them. See the difference?
     
  18. Interesting comments. I rather suspect the gentlemen in question is probably his own worst critic. It probably takes much more to please him than it would anyone else looking at his images. I know I'm the same way. I can show images to someone and they will like ALL of them, for they are TECHNICALLY good, BUT, are they saleable? To some extent that is a subjective decision. I try to critique my images for those that REALLY reach out and grab the viewer, especially if that viewer is a potential buyer. I may pass over many images that are technically good in this sorting. He didn't explain this, but I suspect that is what he's doing also. From my experience (little though it may be) and what I've read concerning nature photography, it pays to be your own worst critic, you wouldn't want to put "run of the mill" images out there, you want the best you've got on display.
     
  19. I once read somewhere that National Geographic photographers take over 3,000 slides for each one that appears in the magazine. So 40 shots in 60 rolls is really pretty good. I find the longer that I've been in photography the more I throw away.
     

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