I'm interested in knowing the answer to this, especially if you're not a pro (if you are I'm also interested of course). What I'm wondering is how many photos do you usually take to get remotely usable pictures? (E.g., 5 photos? 10 photos?)

I don't know whether I'm being very pedantic or not, but it happened that I took 200+ photos while travelling ad taking rather random photos on the streets) and none of them turned out to be worth putting on my desktop. Some may have nice subjects but most weren't interesting enough, or lighting was off, or the picture was out-of-focus or whatever.

Anyway. How many photos per great one do you usually take? If you have any in-depth insight into this I would love to hear about it, especially if you have some sort of advice on how to improve this ratio...

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There's no real answerable question here. This really falls under the "there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.” in the FAQ. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca: this question is not argumentative. It's potentially very useful to beginners because they may be disappointed after a few shoots with their brand new camera for not getting every single photo perfect (because that was the reason why they bought this fancy camera in the first place). The correct answer would be one with some in depth insight. Let me put that in the question as well. Just to make it clear. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Robert Koritnik - I still think its out of scope personally. You're still just asking how many photos it takes somebody personally to get a great photo which is really just a survey. The best answer may include some insight into how to take good photos but then its still far too broad to be a useful question. \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Guess I'm not allowed to answer ;) but I am working to deliberately reduce that ratio by learning when not to shoot and pre-visualizing more. I am now down to 1:8 (from 1:10 a the start of last year) keepers and from those 1:10 sellable images. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I do have to agree that this question is highly subjective, on multiple levels. For one, the rate of keepers is going to change depending on skill level, personal preference, subject matter, time of day, available lighting, equipment used, etc. etc. It is so broad that it is very difficult to answer in any useful fashion. I think there may be a useful question under here somewhere, but I'm not sure that "randomly taking pictures on the street, having no keepers" is really a good basis for the question. Shooting from the hip is going to drastically affect keeper count as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 22:02

4 Answers 4


The ratio that's reasonable varies dramatically with the subject matter you tackle.

If you're taking pictures of landscapes or flowers (for a couple of examples) it doesn't take a lot of practice to get to something like 2 out of 3 being at least reasonably acceptable.

If you decide you want your flower picture to include (for an obvious example) a bee, that ratio immediately drops drastically -- 1 out of 20 is probably doing quite well, and 1 out of a hundred wouldn't really be any reason for major disappointment.

In general, a subject that's large and fairly slow moving tends to be relatively easy. A subject that's small, shy, fast moving, or (worst) all of the above, can be difficult to capture reasonably at all, not to mention really well.

Innate attractiveness (beauty, cuteness, etc.) of the subject makes a big difference as well. If you start with a sunset, flower, kitten, puppy, baby, beautiful woman, etc., about all you have to do is avoid obvious problems for most people to judge it a good picture. In portraits, the technical quality of the picture is usually much less important than the expression you capture.

If you take a picture of a leaf, tree bark, railroad tracks, old building, etc., your creativity and the technical excellence of the picture become much more critical. With a beautiful subject, a mundane capture can be entirely adequate; with a mundane subject, you need a beautiful capture.


I does depend on what I am shooting and how the final photos will be used.

I am a staff photographer with DragonCon and I turn in about 1 out of 3 photos to the con, I personally publish on my web site about 1 out of 2. The con does not need 120 pictures of Firefly cast members, but I do.

When I am shooting the a costume contest I get very few photos that are not keepers, the contestants are walking quickly across the stage an I have to on-point to get them in the short time that I have. It is rare that I take more than 2 pictures of a contestant unless I know I screwed something up.

DragonCon Photos

When I shooting baseball or other youth sports my ratio can get as low as 1 in 10, but I am overshooting at that point. I usually post around 40 photos from a game, but take between 250 and 400.

Youth Sports Photos

When I am shooting for myself and being very artistic it gets as low as 1 in 20, for macro it may even be 1 in 30. For pictures of my child to share with family it is around 1 in 20.

I have many more keepers now than I did 5 years ago, I don't like spending a lot of time editing photos anymore.


At the moment I'm on a 1:10 ratio, and by that I mean that one out of every ten photos will be a get used somewhere like Flickr or 500px. But that varies depending on what I'm shooting. I usually get a better keep to bin ratio shooting landscapes and a much worse ratio when it comes to portraiture or macro photography.

But photography is fun like that, the goal posts are always moving and there's always some aspect where we can do better to improve what we shoot. I quite often browse other people's work and look to see if I can replicate a photo (not copy) and shoot it in a similar way. If I can't then I keep trying and exploring different options until I'm satisfied. Not sure if that's what you were looking for but I hope it helps! :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ 1:10? Wow that good to actually publish it online? I'm impressed. Can you add a link to some of your photos that got this 1:10 ratio? I'd be interested to see. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the information about varying ration depending on the type of shoot you do. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I'd say 1:10 is about average for the people I usually take photos with. I know that these two photos took about 10 attempts each until I was happy and moved onto try something else: flickr.com/photos/steffanharries/5478817464 and flickr.com/photos/steffanharries/5490658752 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Robert - I interpreted that to be 1 in 10 worth self-publishing, which is a really subjective threshold, not to mention one that's likely to change over time. In fact, I think it might make sense to look at "degrees of goodness" here, where some photos get tossed right away, others get a second look, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Lambert
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bendihossan: Wow that's a nice shot of the Clifton suspension bridge. It reminded me of the 9 months I used to live (and work) in Bristol. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 17:46

I would have to count but I don't get better than 1 in 20.

I think this depends on a number of things:

  • how critical you are of your own work. Part of the path of becoming an artist is to learn to examine your own work critically.
  • whether you expose yourself to the work of good photographers. Examining good photos is a humbling experience that allows one to see one' own work more objectively.
  • whether you ask your peers for criticism. Once again this is a humbling experience that allows one to see one's work more objectively.
  • whether you are driven to strive for much higher standards. In that case your photos will always seem imperfect but it is a powerful impetus to strive for better work.
  • whether you are experimental and prepared to take a chance. A free wheeling, free thinking approach uncovers better opportunities but it has a higher cost in rejects.

In summary, I think one should not strive for more keepers but instead strive for better keepers.

Then there is my favourite aphorism:
No one learns from success, they only learn from failure.

But that is only true if one makes a practice of examining the failures critically, asking what went wrong and how they could be improved. So the failures in one's collection might be more important than you think. They will give you an opportunity for reflective examination of your work, looking for opportunities for improvement.

Here are some other opinions:


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.