This is one from “The Vault” here on the blog, but I still get this question fairly often today, so I thought I’d kick this new week off by sharing something I think can help a lot of folks.
To answer this question of “How many keeps do I get from a shoot?” I can tell you straight out — it’s not as many as I’d like, that’s for sure. When I posted some of my favorites from a Bucs/Eagles shoot a good while back on my Facebook page, I got a number of questions along these lines, so I thought I’d cover it here:
Q. So, how many shots did you take at the game?
A. Exactly 1,873
Q. That seems like a lot
A. I know, but I’ve been told I under-shoot by quite a bit. I talked to another shooter at a game a couple of weeks before and he had taken over 4,000 shots that game, and he chuckled that I only had taken around 1,600.
Q. So what ratio would you like to have of keepers to ones you delete?
A. When I go to a game I don’t have any ratio like that in mind whatsoever, but since you’re asking, ideally I’d like it to be around 95% keepers. Unfortunately, in reality, it’s more like 5%. In fact, for this shoot, it was almost exactly 5%. I had around 92 shots that were “contenders” to send to the sports wire I shoot for.
Q. So, how many did you actually send?
Q. So, you cover an entire NFL game and you only get 46 publishable images?
A. Uh huh.
Q. Is it because you’re covering the Bucs and they were 0-5 that season?
Q. OK, why so few keepers?
A. Well, there are a number of reasons (and this might take a minute), so let’s look at a few:
One reason is that we take LOTS of shots that aren’t publishable because they’re simply not interesting. For example, look at the series of shots I took above. I wanted a clean shot of Eagle’s Quarterback Nick Foles, but once the ball was hiked, two players moved right into my frame, but I stayed on the QB until they moved out of the frame a second later. Out of this series, the first two frames are “unusable.” maybe the 3rd frame would be OK, but I felt the fourth frame looked best (and it’s the one I submitted), but the rest just look awkward or aren’t very compelling (well, at least I didn’t think so). This is a short series — just seven shots — often it’s 10 or 12 and we’re lucky if there’s a good one in there at all, but either way, you’re only “keeping” one from this series at best.
Q. OK, what else?
A. You cover a running back, and you’re dead on with your focus and you’re tracking his every move, but it’s just a “messy scene” — there’s just too many players and you can’t clearly see him or what’s going on (see above). There were 13 shots in this series, and I couldn’t use any of them. This happens quite a bit during a typical game.
Then there’s these (above). Plenty of ’em. Every game. However, this only happens after you’ve been tracking a player who breaks out for a big run and you’re waiting to capture that moment of peak action — of course, the refs sense this and race to get right in your field of view.
A. No. But it sure feels that way.
Q. OK, I’m with ya. What else?
A. After big plays, you have to stay on the player who made the big play because capturing the “jube” (short for jubilation) is huge. These are some of the most marketable shots (provided the guy’s team actually wins the game, because there’s virtually no market for shots of a guy on the losing team celebrating), so you definitely want to “stay on” the player after the play. In this case, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper had a big catch and run for a 44-yard gain and so I stayed on him just in case, and sure enough, he was pumped up and made a big gesture (I don’t know what else to call it) and I was right on him to capture it when the play was over (shown above).
Q. So, what’s wrong with that?
A. Nothing, it just took 19 frames to get that one frame — the other 18 frames are worthless. I had to stay with him from the moment he was down, until a while after because you don’t know if other players are coming over to celebrate with him, or a coach on the sidelines, or if there is a penalty and the play gets called back and you get a secondary reaction when he learns that it was all for naught. Either way, that’s 19 frames after the play is over on the chance that you might get a reaction shot. You do this a dozen times or more during a game and a lot of times it yields absolutely nothing (the player doesn’t celebrate, or refs or other players walk into your frame).
Q. I notice you didn’t post any shots of Darrelle Revis’ fumble recovery for a Buc’s touchdown. How come?
A. Oh, I was right on him, from the moment LeSean McCoy coughed up the ball until Revis was celebrating in the end zone — 79 shots in all. Only one problem. It was called back. The runner was down by contact, so while the Bucs did get the turnover, the touchdown was called back, so that part of the play never happened, so those 79 shots of him recovering the fumble, running to the end zone, and celebrating with teammates, are all worthless. That’s nearly 4% of the shots I took that day all gone in an instant. Darn refs. Silly rules.
Q. Anything else?
A. Well, I took 110 shots of the team and individual player intros before the game (one sample is shown above).
Q. Did you submit any of those?
A. Not a one. I try a different shooting position for the player-intros each game, and this was just not a particularly interesting one, so I didn’t submit any. Next game, I’ll shoot from an entirely different position, and maybe I’ll get one or two keepers as they jump through the smoke. It’s hard to get a straight on shot of them coming through the smoke because I’d have to be standing in the Visitor’s bench area, and they’re generally not too keen on that, so I have to shoot at a weird angle, and so far I haven’t gotten anything too cool this season.
Q. What is that?!
A. These are my specialty — shots taken by accident, usually as my second camera hits my leg as I’m running down the sideline. I’ve taken so many of these over the years that I considered making a photo book of them and selling it with the proceeds going to the Springs of Hope Orphanage. I am not making this up.
Q. What about out-of-focus shots?
A. I’d like to say I have a few, but I’ve actually got plenty where I didn’t have my focus point on the right spot (as seen above). A lot of time you swing from one player to another (like from the QB to a receiver or tight end) and you just miss it. I’d like to blame it on the camera, but the Auto Focus system on the Canon 1Dx is absolutely insane — it was made for this stuff, but as good as it is, it won’t make up for my mistakes.
Above — that’s a shot of the Buc’s ex-running back Doug Martin, but I don’t stay on Doug at the end of a play after a big run because he never, ever, celebrates. No emotion. No “first down” signal. No trash talking. He just gets up, tosses the ball to the ref, and gets back to the huddle. He’s a nice guy, but after the play, he doesn’t give you any reason to stay with him for the “jube.”
Q. OK, now I’m surprised you actually came away with 92 keepers.
A. It does kind of put things in perspective, but still, it’s not as many as I would like. I’ve had more on certain games, and less on some, but I’d say one hundred or so is about average, and from there I narrow it down to the best. My goal is always to have more to choose from, and more to upload to the sports wire.
Q. How many do you upload at halftime?
A. I always think I’m going to limit it to 8-photos max at halftime, but I usually wind up sending 10 or 12. For that Sunday’s game, I sent 14, which made me miss the start of the 3rd quarter.
Immediately after the game, I upload as many good ones as I have right then, but of course, I haven’t really had a lot of time with them (I tag my images in camera during the game to speed the workflow up — that way the tagged photos show up first when I import them) so once I get home, I go through all the shots again and do a final upload (within 2 hours of the game ending), but most of those will just wind up being archive photos.
Q. So, what do you do with the rest of the photos?
A. I back them up to two different hard drives, just so I have them in case somebody needs an image down the road, and I might upload the rest of my keepers well after the game just for their archives, but outside of that, the rest are just backed up on my drive. You have to fully caption every single photo in detail, which takes quite a while, so it’s not as easy as just uploading a bunch of images — it’s long, tedious work, but it’s got to be done or your shots have zero chance of being seen or used.
Q. OK, any words to wrap things up?
A. I hope that gives you some insight into how this all breaks down (well, at least for me). Your mileage may vary.
Hope you all have a great Monday, and make sure you’re here tomorrow for “Travel Tuesday with Dave.”
P.S. I’m in Washington, DC next month — Friday, August 17th — come on out and spend the day with me learning all the cool stuff in Lightroom.
Shot NCAA basket ball in the 50’s with a Speed Graphic, a dozen film holders. Tried to shoot half in each half. Then rush to the darkroom. I’d make print of two wet negs. Hurry them down to the news room. That allowed the sport editor a choice. He’d send one to the paper. That made my keeper rate 4%. Pretty close to yours. I’m surprised.
Hi, Peter. You guys that shot sports in the film days – mad respect for you guys. I don’t know how you did it, but you guys sure did! My hats off to you. :)
Great article. I shoot soccer and some basketball. I get so frustrated when I don’t end up after the game with a lot of keepers. But it’s really hard sometimes to get the ball, the players face and good action all in the same frame. Sorry, but it’s nice to know that even the pros have the same problem.
Thanks, Kent. If we could just get the players to slow down…or maybe pose? ;-) Cheers. :)
Hey Scott, hope you and all the family are well. Thanks for this post. We don’t hear too much about sports shooting anymore. And found that your feelings of “it’s long, tedious work” on metadata input somewhat amusing.
Hoping to see Peter Read or some other such fella upcoming on The Grid. I know that Lightroom is all the rage today. But aside from that form of ingesting images, I’d be interested in your methods and how others may use Photo Mechanic in their daily work. Wishing you wellness from Canada..
So I scanned through this fast. Been kinda busy with other things. Are these questions you posted from somebody who has actually photographed an event? Any event.