Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Or Throw it Away


You can't always keep what you've got. Learn how to become your best film critic, and mercilessly edit your shots to give yourself the best exposures.

Apologies to Pat Benatar & Eddie Schwartz aside, today’s photographer is suffering from image overload. A digital camera can shoot and store thousands of pictures and, unfortunately, most shooters keep every shot. Film photographers are just as bad with the common sentiment of “I paid for that print and I’m not going to throw it away” forcing them to keep every print and fill every shoe box. Well, it’s time to loosen your grip on those bad exposures and learn how to become your best critic.

Credits: themindseye

Let’s look at an historical example of world-renowned photographer W. Eugene Smith and learn what happened at a “typical” Life magazine shoot. In 1948, Smith was assigned an article for documenting the life of a doctor in Colorado. This assignment later became the critically-acclaimed Life article Country Doctor. During his three-week assignment, Smith shot 2,000 negatives. This total was edited down to the 28 photographs which eventually accompanied the article. That was a ratio of 2000:28 or roughly 71:1. In the vocabulary of photographers, this is called the shot ratio. And, believe or not, that’s a pretty good shot ratio for a photojournalist.

Credits: themindseye

There are extreme polar opposites to Smith’s shot ratio, however. For example, the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson was claimed to have an incredible shot ratio of 1:1. Similarly, Cartier-Bresson is also claimed to have said that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. Go figure, right?

So what should your shot ratio be? Budding professional photographers strive to hit a 36:1 to 23:1 pace. Me? My best ratios have been 24:1 for 120 film, 31:1 for 35mm film, and an embarrassing 45:1 for digital shots. But my shot ratios came after thousands of self-curated photograph rejections. In other words, I became my best critic.

Credits: themindseye

In order to become your best critic, try to remember these four important self-jurying criteria:

1. There is no “normal” shot ratio.
2. The kind of camera, and photographic medium, film or digital, can affect your judgment.
3. Your style of shooting can alter your shot ratio; “burst” photographers have high shot ratios.
4. Your personality as a photographer should evolve into being an extravagant photographer and a frugal editor. In other words, shoot more and edit a lot more.

As an example of a typical photograph editing process, look at the included images from a baby portrait session. In total, 4 rolls of 120 Ilford Delta 100 film were shot. That’s 48 exposures of the little tyke. From those 48 negatives, four contact sheets were made. On the contact sheets, a china marker was used for ticking the best portraits. Rejections were based on bad exposures, uneven lighting, eyes closed, crying, looking away, etc.

Credits: themindseye
Credits: themindseye
Credits: themindseye

Finally, although two exposures were selected, the parent eventually chose one photograph. The result was a 48:1 shot ratio, a relieved baby, and a thrilled parent.

Regardless of your curatorial technique, however, strictly adhere to this one great piece of advice from “Mr. Zone System” himself, Ansel Adams, “there are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs “ Amen!

Credits: themindseye

Above all else resist the temptation of keeping everything. Don’t get caught up in a photograph “crime of passion” and keep everything that you shoot. Adopt a strict image editing policy and you’ll soon be singing to the tune of “hit me with your best shot; fire away!”

written by themindseye on 2013-06-13 in #gear #tipster #photographs #edit #ilford-delta-100 #art #shot-ratio #ansel-adams #film #tutorial

One Comment

  1. mafiosa
    mafiosa ·

    I agree that we should be (and often are) our own worst critics. I always try to filter my shots heavily before posting, so that I only post the ones that I like the best.

More Interesting Articles

  • Lomo'Instant Boston Competition

    written by jacobs on 2015-03-03 in #gear #news #competitions
    Lomo'Instant Boston Competition

    What comes to mind when you think of Boston? Maybe it's the Red Sox, or maybe it's Baked Beans? With our newest competition to celebrate the release of the Lomo'Instant Boston Edition, we want to know what Boston means to you. Even if you've never been to Boston — no problem! We want to see your best shots that represent Boston to you!

  • Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    written by Lomography on 2015-11-26 in #world #news #competitions
    Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    With an expanded field of view and its ability to produce high quality images and capture minute detail, medium format photography has become the top choice of many photographers. Lomography is working hard to make sure that it keeps going with the continued production of medium format film and cameras. The current issue of German magazine FOTO HITS focuses on medium format photography. And with this rumble, we want to prove why medium format photography is king. Take your Diana F+, Holga 120, Lubitel 166+ or the new Lomo LC-A 120 and show us your best square shots!

  • Lomo’Instant Wide Tip No. 11 - Multiple Exposures

    written by Lomography on 2015-10-23 in #gear #tipster
    Lomo’Instant Wide Tip No. 11 - Multiple Exposures

    We love multiple exposures because no matter what scenes you choose to combine, the end result is always spectacular! Double (or triple) yourself up in a self portrait, or experiment with different patterns and objects when you shoot with your Lomo'Instant Wide and watch your amazing creations develop before your eyes!

  • Shop News

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    Shoot recognizable images with the Petzval

    You want your subject be the center of attention? Petzval lens photos are recognizable for sharpness and crispness in the centre, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field that will make your subjects stand out!

  • A Collection Of Awesome Konstruktor Snapshots

    written by shhquiet on 2015-04-10 in #gear #lifestyle
    A Collection Of Awesome Konstruktor Snapshots

    There's nothing more satisfying than taking fantastic photos with a camera that you built yourself. If you've always wanted to impress your friends with your mad DIY skills, pick up a Konstruktor Camera Kit and show them what you've got! It's also a cool way to get them into Lomography, because as you build the camera you'll discover how analogue photography works. Oh, and the Konstruktor takes gorgeous photos, too - check out the gallery and see what we mean!

  • Total Eclipse of the Sun Competition

    written by jacobs on 2015-03-20 in #gear #news #competitions
    Total Eclipse of the Sun Competition

    Did you catch the solar eclipse that happened recently? Word on the street is that it even resulted in a total eclipse in some areas of Europe, making it a pretty rare occasion for the folks that got to see it! We're guessing that some of you even had your cameras to catch the whole shebang on film — which is why we're throwing a competition for the best eclipse and sun inspired shots out there. Come on in and check out the details!

  • Double Exposure Snaps with the Lomo'Instant

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-07-10 in #gear
    Double Exposure Snaps with the Lomo'Instant

    One of the great things about the Lomo'Instant Camera is how versatile and creative it is, yet super easy to play with. Want to create beautiful unexpected multiple exposure shots? No problem — hit the MX switch and a ta-da! Your analogue experience instantly has a brand new world of possibilities!

  • Shop News

    Fuji Instax Wide 300

    Fuji Instax Wide 300

    Shoot wider and bigger with this new instax camera that has film format twice the size of the instax mini films!

  • 4 Easy Ways to Share your Lomo’Instant Wide Photos with the World

    written by Lomography on 2015-11-24 in #world #videos
    4 Easy Ways to Share your Lomo’Instant Wide Photos with the World

    So, you’ve got your brand new Lomo’Instant Wide and have already taken some of the coolest looking pics from your favorite new camera. What now? Share them with the World, of course! We want to see every single fantastic, fascinating and mesmerizing photo you shoot with the Lomo’Instant Wide and we’re here to tell you how it can be done.

  • Photographers on Why They Still Shoot Film (Part 2)

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-04-12 in #world #lifestyle
    Photographers on Why They Still Shoot Film (Part 2)

    It is Film Photography Day, and we are counting the ways the activity fuels the imagination. One photographer likens it to the soulful sound of an LP. Another chases its risk or does it with a leap of faith. But the consensus is clear: Film photography keeps people on their toes for the best possible shot.

  • Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    written by pripri2000 on 2015-04-22 in #gear #news
    Shooting Squares with the LC-A 120

    Capture the world and all its contours in vibrant, wide-angled photographs any time, any where! The LC-A 120 is an adventure of its own with lots of exciting functions to experiment with, like seamless long exposures or full ISO control. It's also super-fast and ultra-compact - perfect for your everyday. If you're worried about the Medium Format film, don't be! You are free to use any 120 Film you want and there are plenty to choose from. In fact, that's what makes this camera so versatile! Scroll through this gallery for a little taste of the glorious shots this nifty invention is capable of.

  • Shop News

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Turn Your Lomographs Into Beautiful Analogue Prints — Handmade By Lomography

    written by shhquiet on 2015-03-24 in #gear #news
    Turn Your Lomographs Into Beautiful Analogue Prints — Handmade By Lomography

    You've shot tons of really fantastic film photos — why not turn them into analogue prints that you can proudly showcase in your home, studio or office? If you're not sure where to have them printed, try Analogue Prints — the perfect print service for analogue photographers. Lomographers in Austria, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain can take advantage of this awesome service right now!

  • Painting Delights: Going Wild with the Pixelstick

    written by jennifer_pos on 2015-03-17 in #gear #news #lifestyle #tipster
    Painting Delights: Going Wild with the Pixelstick

    Ever since light painting was invented, it inspired artists from all around the globe to magical creations that capture hidden movements and reinvent the world we live in. "Life is a fairy tale, stay wild little child!" is what they want to tell us. Bringing light to life became the next challenge for anyone rigged with a film camera and a creative mind. Now, how can you take your analogue light paintings from the ordinary to the outstanding? After the carriage came the car, so we definitely need some spacy inventions to follow the old school light pen. So here it is, our new best friend: The Pixelstick!

  • Photo of the Day by meaghanrevans

    written by lomography on 2016-02-12 in #world #news
    Photo of the Day by meaghanrevans

    Landscape photography and a color-shifting film complement each other well, as seen in our winning POTD.