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Why do we care about keeper rate?

Discussion in 'Sports and Action' started by JDS, Feb 7, 2018.

  1. JDS

    JDS Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    San Francisco, CA
    David Schultz
    Hi everyone,

    I was listening to a podcast with Jamey Price, who is one of my all-time favorite motorsport photographers, and he was saying his keeper rate at races is under 10%- and that his rate of photos hitting his portfolio or social media accounts is a fraction of 1%. Also, on this site @ijm5012@ijm5012 has some beautiful planning shots from Daytona, where he was saying he pre-focused and shot, with a low keeper rate.

    It got me thinking: since digital photos that are deleted are pretty close to free / 0% consequence, why do we really care about keeper rate? Who needs 500 keepers from an event? As long as you come away with multiple beautiful shots, what's the problem with deleting a bunch? Obviously that's not the case with wedding photographers, or shooting the Super Bowl or something, where missing "the moment" could be catastrophic. But, it seems to me that there are so many high-volume shooting situations (like a car race, where I'll come home with 1000 or more photos from a weekend) where deleting a high percentage is just not that big a deal. Am I missing something?

    Oh, if you're interested, the podcast is called garagistaradio, and Jamey has an upcoming documentary about shooting the Spa 24 hour race (@FRAMESdoc)
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  2. dougjgreen

    dougjgreen Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 5, 2013
    San Diego
    Doug Green
    You're right, and for most subject matter that I shoot using digital, I really DON'T care about keeper rate. OTOH, when I shoot medium format film, I surely do. And I shoot differently and far more deliberately when I'm using MF film.

    The only sense in which the keeper rate really matters in digital is that it is a proxy for how likely you are to actually capture the decisive moment rather than missing it.
  3. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    I don’t care at all about keeper rate. More important to me is having the discipline to cull mercilessly, so I don’t find myself editing tons of photos, the bulk of which I won’t ever use. Even that rate varies, depending on my mood, how emotionally important the images are, how shutter happy I was when I was shooting, etc.

    I also don’t think it is a very good measure for how good a photographer one is, or how good a camera performs. It’s too arbitrary and there are so many other variables to consider.

    Just about every professional photographer I’ve heard dismisses keeper rate as well.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
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  4. The only place I think it matters is for the statistical evaluation of sequential shooting using continuous AF, where you are using it to determine how good the system is at such a thing. That has a human component too, so factors like the EVF refresh, blackout, etc, all contribute. To make it useful, however, so many variables need to be controlled for, and the sample size needs to be very large.
  5. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    I care about keeper rate because it shows that I'm still able to do what I set out to do and do it right without being one of those sorting through 8000 wedding shots to find ones I like. Even doing action with a manual focus telephoto lens I was happy that I only blew one shot in two.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    so for me its only a personal challenge , because of course storage is cheap. Probably you could just do 4K and pick the winners ...
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  6. panamike

    panamike Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 5, 2016
    Lincolnshire UK
    Being retired my only concern about keeper rate is that i dont want to take too many and wear my camera out too soon:biggrin:
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  7. Like the two posters above I have a similar attitude. A good keeper rate tells me that I must be doing something right and a low keeper rate doesn't do my sense of self esteem/worth much good. Also, I'm pretty anal when it comes to my gear and I think about all those wasted shutter counts depreciating the life of my gear. If you're a pro, I guess you "go with the flow" but as a person on flat rate pension, the latter means a lot because I know what sacrifices I have to make to replace my gear. One guy I know says he shoots about 3 to 5000 frames every weekend............that's a new shutter/camera every year!
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  8. speedy

    speedy Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Nov 27, 2015
    For me, it's not so much the keeper rate, but that the keepers are the shots that I took, that I really want to keep. If that makes sense.
    Let's put it this way. I go to the track, to watch classic/vintage motorcycle racing. There's a couple or three unique bikes, a bit rare, that I really would like an action shot of. The races are 4 or 5 laps long. That means I only get 4 or 5 chances, if I'm lucky, to get the shot. I'd like a good keeper rate in this situation. Because I don't have unlimited opportunity.
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  9. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    on the subject of shutter counts I have a friend who (for a business) does a fair amount of time lapse and some stop motion. He's said that so far he's never worn out a shutter (and he still presses his GF1 into service with an intervalometer jammed in the shutter release hole.... I've heard similar stories from a professional who did "copy stand" reproduction and at the National Library of Finland (where I once worked) our automatic book copier was based on a pair of 10D's ... I think that was in the hundreds of thousands of exposures
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    so don't sweat your shutter counts ...
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  10. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    I think this is a twofold question. On the one hand, depending of the subject, there are situations where the keeper rate is meaningless, in the sense that for instance in a motorsport race, you have X laps to make your shot, so there's not much worry to try things and keep only the cream of the crop. On the other hand, some subject are so fleeting that missing that exact moment is missing the image entirely, and mourning forever a picture that now exists only in the photographer's head. Think for instance, a crash at the same sporting event, because those situations can overlap in real life.
    In my opinion, trying to achieve a high keeper rate is good practice when encountering the second type of situation.
    Now I plead guilty as charged, and I have thousands of duds to shame me on my hard drive.

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  11. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    an excellent example of how this isn't a black and white question, and has "known and unknown background assumptions"
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  12. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 23, 2010
    I think it all depends on your area of photography, someone who stages their images may have a near 100% rate on the other hand sports photographers could well have a less than a percent rate. Then it comes down to how you are classifying a keeper, if its images on a web site or book than it will be low if you are moderately prolific in working, but if its a case of that image may prove useful but I have use for it now then the rate would go up. Im not sure that its worth worrying about, unless you are unlucky a camera will go well over the makers quoted shutter count, they will give a conservative number.
  13. My original E-M5's shutter started malfunctioning well-before the rated number of actuations (but well after warranty). Everything was fine until about 1/3200s, when frames would randomly end up too dark occasionally.
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  14. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Why care about the keeper rate? Say that to yourself when the one in a million shot you've always wanted is botched because your camera didn't perform like it should have 90% of the time, or you didn't practie enough and your panning shots are a$$ 90% of the time.

    If we are talking keeper rate as in usable photos, most people have more than that. If we are talking keeper rates in the perspective of just nailed AF, exposure and such...then that is a whole different percentage.

    I strive for a maximum keeper rate because sometimes you never know when that once in a lifetime shot comes along. I'd hate it if I missed it because I was OK with my gear or my skill level not being where it needs to be. I evaluate both all the time and fix what is broken or mend what needs enhanced.
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  15. pake

    pake Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Oct 14, 2010
    With a higher keeper rate I could take (and delete) less photos. For example shooting sports or any fast moving object with my current E-M5 I know for a fact that it can't do well tracking the subject (or even do AF-C). So in order to get at least one decent shot I need to take multiple pictures. And usually that means many, many pictures to maximize the odds of getting that one good shot.

    Now if the keeper rate was better I wouldn't need to grab e.g. 10-15 pictures just to be sure I get that one usable one. I'd love to be able to get away with taking only 2-4 pictures and still get that one that satisfies me.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
  16. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I too listened to that podcast, it was a good listen.

    Regarding keeper rate, I find it important because it gives you more opportunities to get "that shot" (as you mentioned). That shot may be the pair of team cars crossing the finish line together at the end of the race, or catching a car during a downshift with flames coming out of the exhaust, etc. The higher your keeper rate, the more likely you are to get "that shot". It's like me saying "You can either get 10 shots where 1 will be in focus and you don't know which one it'll be, or you can get 5 shots where every one of them is in focus." Which would you rather have? Personally, I'd take the higher keeper rate.

    I'm really looking forward to the 18k Frames video when it's released.
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  17. gnarlydog australia

    gnarlydog australia Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 23, 2015
    Brisbane, Australia
    Damiano Visocnik
    I rarely care about "keeper rate" from the technical point of view since majority of my images are actually shot with manual focus, so I can't blame the camera for missing the focus. I do miss focus rather often on moving subjects, but that has little to do with the camera, rather my technique.
    Those few times that I find myself in situations where things are moving fast and opportunities are unique I very much care that my camera will function to my satisfaction, hoping that I selected the right spot for the camera to focus on.
    Now, if we talk about keeper rate in relation to images that I regard worth keeping and editing, well that is a totally different story. :oops: 
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
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  18. Having returned to photography just 4 years ago (from a 25 year absence - going back to B&W darkroom days) I was just happy to be back in the saddle again... shooting whatever I could and trying to get my head around the number of options this new technology (DSLR) was throwing at me.

    My keeper rate was at best, low... just way too many options to consider beyond what I had been used to before (Aperture/ASA/Speed - that was it, and it was easy at the time)... or so I thought. It wasn't until I started shooting Manual mode again that I felt comfortable with a digital camera in my hand... and my keeper rate started to rise.

    The question here though is "Why do we care about keeper rate?" and as much as we all know 'film is cheap!' these days (as we all have said at one time or another), for me, there two other variables to consider as related to keeper rate. These have a direct correlation to our travels.

    Time: A better keeper rate means I have more time to enjoy the sites I am there to see (and not just photograph for later viewing). As I become more proficient with the tool in hand I expect to enjoy more of these sites both while I am there and after (with better photos). Because I tend to do multiple backups while traveling and if my keeper rate is higher then I expect the time backing up every night will be shortened and I'll have more time to either: a) go out and shoot more night scenes, or b) socialize more with fellow travellers, or c) even do a bit of on site culling and editing. So, better keeper rate = more efficient use of time while travelling

    Money: I know I will only get one chance to visit some of the places we've already been to, or will be heading in future. I'd like to be able to visit a location knowing that my keeper rate is not a chance thing. I'd like to know that as my composition skills improve as does my knowledge of my camera knowing that if they do, my keeper rate will also go up. I'd like to know that my equipment is both reliable and capable of producing the memories that are bouncing around in my head while on the trip. The last thing I want is to knock something off the old bucket list, only to find out that my hard copy memory of it is nothing but a out-of-focus digital photo. I don't want to have to settle for the one shot that was in focus either. I want options and a better keeper rate means I have more options from which to choose. I don't want to think I've wasted money on the trip or feel I have to return if photography was part of the reason for visiting. So, in this case, a better keeper rate = better use of the $$$ spent with the bonus of having more memories for when I can no longer travel.

    Thanks for posting this question @JDS@JDS ... :bravo-009:
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  19. Are your sure you'll get "that one usable one"?

    So you're posing the question, "is it the right tool for the job?" If your keeper rate is low with your current rig, then you have to ask yourself have I got the right tool? and not keep trying to shift a 3/8th nut with a 1/2" wrench! Yes, I know that if finances are limited that sometimes you have to just use what you've got and hope for the best but you can also use traditional skills where your "cheaper" technology is lacking such as pre-focusing and not just hoping that a couple of bursts will get you at least one keeper............many times it won't, where pre-focusing would have.

    I had a Canon7D for general purpose photography but then I got into low light photography (UK stately homes, castles etc) so I sold everything I had for the 5Dmklll and a 24-105 which although not ideal, was a good all rounder having a constant f4 and a samyang 14mm. Then my granddaughter who travels extensively working with birds of prey, got me into birding................in 50 yrs of photography I had never photographed a bird! Now I do so almost exclusively as it challenges me. Again, I sold the lot to get longer reach with the 7dmkll and the 100-400mkll....................and that's all I had, (until I recently got back into M4/3 with going back to "the street".........that one camera, and that one lens and my keeper rate is always above 50%, much less for BIF's as I have bursitis and struggle holding the rig high.

    I had the right tools for the job. Now I'm thinking yet again of "will I manage with what I've got" (M4/3 wise) or should I sell the 7d combo to get top of the range M4/3 lenses? To be honest, nothing will ever match (IMHO) the Canon 100-400mkll for sharpness at ALL apertures and range, wide open it's as sharp at the short end as it is at the long. It's magnificent, and initially, coming back to M4/3 I was a bit disappointed with IQ but then again, after shooting with Hasselblad and then going to 35mm 40 yrs agi, I felt just as I do now. It's "horses for courses" I'll stick with the 7D combo for birding, even if, as I get even more older, I won't go birding very much. Why then? Because I know that if I do stick with it, I will always have the best hit rate that I possibly could, all factors considered and that 9 times out of 10, it will be down to the right tool and not totally my technique.

    A long winded diatribe I know, but IMHO, low keeper rate invariably comes down to not appreciating what your gear can do, or not do, and not making the best of it and an opportunity. Sport is another matter, but even then, the old basics of knowing the sport and the likely movements of the competitors and pre-focusing, can overcome any misguided reliabiltyon modern technology to track being the answer to all that ails your photography. (That said, the 7Dmkll tracking is superb) No matter how experienced you are in understanding the basics and complexities of photography without the right tools, you're fecked! eg A bricklayer can't lay bricks with a spade.
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  20. JDS

    JDS Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    San Francisco, CA
    David Schultz
    Great responses, everyone - you've helped me learn more about the subject, again! I guess it's very subject-specific, for example if tracking doesn't work you're just not going to get much out of shooting soccer or hockey, for example. Or if your keeper rate is low while traveling, you might not have a record of someplace you went. Missing the shot when your kid scores the game-winning score would be bad...

    I guess where I'm thinking about this is when people get super frustrated with gear because they come home with a bunch of blurry shots, whereas (in my case at least) there's really not that much advantage to having more keepers. This is especially true of motorsports, where I can end up with a ton of very similar "there's a car in the corner" shots.

    I don't have enough time to look at most of my photos again. I'll just put a small percentage in a favorites folder or online, and those are all anyone will ever see. Having a greater number of photos sitting unloved on my hard drive doesn't make a huge difference to me. Other, more serious photographers shooting different subjects will obviously need more of those photos to be good.
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