Hit rate, or the number of good shots versus missed shots. Simple concept but a much more nuanced philosophy when you dig down into it. What determines what is a "hit" versus a "miss"? Does a higher percentage of "hits" mean that you are a better photographer? Is it binary, in other words, a hit or a miss and nothing in-between? If so, does this make all "hits" equal? How can a professional photographer go out on a shoot and be sure they will get a "hit"?
As I started in photography I was disappointed to see that I only had a 5-10% "hit" rate. As I learned more about photography, I realized that after several thousand images I did not have a single "hit". What I thought were "hits" did not deserve to see the light of day. Does that sound harsh? If so, good..it should.
The only person who should determine if a photograph is a "hit" or a "miss" is the photographer, and there is the problem. We are too forgiving of our photographs so we tend to see more "hits" then we have. A good photographer will filter their images several times before having a set of "hits".
For example, if a good photographer goes out and shoots 500 images during a weekend shoot, they may set the images aside for a few days before going through for the first selection process. This is simply cutting those that are out of focus, accidental shutter releases, movement of the subject and so forth. Once these are filtered out, the remaining images will be gone through much slower. They may be post processed to ensure that the images are straight, cropped properly and that shadow detail is visible. The photographer will select the best from these.
At the end of this process the photographer might have 25 images selected as the best. Then the photographer will take one more pass through them, and this is what most of us fail to do. In this final pass, the photographer is purposefully taking the 25 images down to one or two images. These will be the "hits" of the weekend.
After several weekends the photographer will pull together 25-30 "hits" and will go through them, selecting the best one or two to include in their portfolio. So out of several thousand images, the good photographer will add a couple of images to their portfolio at best.
So for a good photographer, there are different levels of "hits", from his top shots of a weekend, to the stop shots of several months of work. The difference between a good portfolio and a poor one has less to do with the skill of the photographer and more to do with the editing down of the images.
So how is it that a professional photographer can go out on a shoot and know that they will capture something for their client? Simple, they do two things that most novice photographers fail to do. The first is that, through experience, they have a series of "go to" shots that work. They know the lighting, the position they want their subject, the depth of field and the angle of the shot. A good photographer will have 15-20 of these "go to" shots that they know will work for most clients.
The second thing they do, is that they think though the shoot. They come up with ideas that they want to try, not just one or two but a dozen or more. Of this dozen ideas they hope to find one or two that work. So between their new ideas and their "go to" shots they should have six or seven "hits" for their client.
This sounds easy, but it is not. It requires experience, hard work and a keen understanding of the clients taste. I could not do this for a living! But I can learn from this process and apply some of these things to my own photography. Can I seek out some additional "go to" shots? Sure can. Can I be more brutal with my own images? Sure can.
A high hit rate might mean that you are a good photographer or it could mean that you are not being selective enough.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.