The Ten Percent Rule

Widmer Brothers 25th Anniversary Double Alt

One obvious advantage of shooting digital is the almost unrestricted amount of shots I can get.  I usually carry about 20GB worth of cards around with me, so it’s shoot, shoot, shoot.  Because of this, I can take chances with different lenses, various angles, and unlimited compositions.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a familiar formula popping up when I take photos.  I call it the Ten Percent Rule.  It’s pretty simple.  Out of all of the images I shoot during a session–an event, a game, a hike–I’ll be happy with about 10 percent of the photos.  Out of the final 10 percent, I’ll be very happy with 10 percent of those.  So, if I shoot 900 photos during a game, I’ll send about 90 to my publishers, and end up with about 9 shots that I really love.  Or if I go for a hike, take 100 photos, I’ll end up posting about 10 for people to see with one exceptional shot.

Once I realized this pattern popping up in my photography, I put it to good use.  If a client wants 20 final photos of their business, I know that I should be shooting around 200 photos.  Now, this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a good benchmark.  If I finish that client’s shoot and realize that I’ve only taken 50 total shots, I’ve got a lot more work to do.

With a 90% “waste” rate, I’m lucky that I love post-production.  There’s a lot of sitting, sorting, tagging, and eliminating photos after the shoot.  After shooting a two hour game, I spend about three to four hours of post production going through and remastering the final photos.  This isn’t a very glamorous aspect of my job, but for some reason I enjoy it as much as taking the photos.

Maybe in a few years, I’ll get good enough to rename the rule to the Twenty Percent Rule.  For now, I’m happy with ten percent and very happy that no one else knows where to find the other ninety percent of the photos I take!

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