What is your keeper rate?

Article Dedication

in honor of

Jeanloup Sieff & Cecil Beaton


That is a perennial question the photo forums. It varies too much for me to say. We all have different values, likes and dislikes to say anything definitive on this subject.

I specialize in shooting highest level candid photography and aspire to put photos in museums, artist’s books or my portfolio. As such, I trash a lot of junk that is not going to be museum, book or portfolio worthy.


Untitled No. 1  Los Angeles 1971

In the old film days I could go for weeks or months and not produce a keeper. Digital makes it much easier to get keepers than film.


NYC Subway (Candid)

At a New Year’s Eve party I shot about 200+ pix…I only got one great shot for my infrared flash project Piercing Darkness.

Infrared Flash Photo (Candid)

DQ 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

For A Day in the Life of a Drag Queen project I shot enough in 4-1/2 hours to make a small book of say 35 to 40 pix.


The 4-1/2 hours also included travel time to multiple locations. Being a doc photog I work very, very fast.

For the drag queen project I was lucky the transgal could pose, as I am not glam photog. My expertise is in street and doc photography. I had a time limit but still had to make the book, so I tried to get enough decent pix for the book within the time offered. But not the pix are all masterpieces. Maybe will have a 5% to 7% keeper rate for that shoot.

Transwoman &amp; Friend 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. hr

Infrared Flash Photo (Candid)

For my ‘Gay Bar’ project I shot enough in 45 minutes to make a small artist’s book. But they are not all masterpieces. With it, they just have to be decent pix, as the bars kept throwing me out.



Infrared Flash Photo (Candid)

I was shooting in Times Square and got 1 keeper that night…Sad Buskers. (No one wanted to pay them for a photo of their bare boobies) I could go back to Times Square for a week and not get anything great.

Lost Princess Copyright 2013 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

The Lost Princess (Candid)

Shot an entire weekend, day and night. I only got one great shot. (In 2017 you had better be great at candid photography if you are a male and want to shoot stranger kids on the street. What are they going to say about a 60 year old guy shooting stranger kids on the street…sex pervert – call the police!)


I was shooting on the Staten Island Ferry. Took 2 trips and only got this shot. (Candid)

As the old saying goes…if I knew how to take great photos I’d do it every time. I find if I put in the footwork hopefully things will happen for me. For Piercing Darkness infrared flash photography, I may shoot multiple sessions and get nothing.

Piercing Darkness Infrared Flash 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr - C

Infrared Flash Photo (Candid)

39 De Wallen Copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Selection from De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District artist’s book

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (Candid)

When I shot my book De Wallen: Amsterdam’s Red Light District I had a looser standard than I would have liked for the keeper rate. It was shooting candid in very dim areas and photography was banned. I had 5 days to make a book and no time to screw around, so I did the best I could with tough working conditions.

If I had had 3 weeks to shoot instead of 5 days I could have done better. Still, the hallmark of the expert doc photographer is they produce no matter what circumstances they find themselves in.

The Flappers -Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection (9)m

Selection from Looking up the 1920’s artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

When I acquire photographs for the Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection,  I sometime look through 40,000 to 50,000 snapshots in a month. These were no ordinary snapshots either. They were distinguished as noteworthy from dealers that had hand picked through the garbage shots to find them. Out of these tens of thousands snapshots I may find 200 to 300 I liked enough to acquire.



With the Daniel D Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Archive, it is generally easier to find keepers as opposed to sifting through snapshots. People generally put more time into films than snapshots and they can develop an interesting story, whereas the photo has to say it all in one image.


When Robert Frank shot Pull My Daisy, I read they shot 30 hours of footage. Out of the 30 hours (1800 minutes) they kept about 20 minutes for the film. That is a keeper rate of 1.1%. Now, they did all staged, bullshit shots with full cooperation. For my on-the-fly work, with no cooperation for the most part. I’d be happy if I was guaranteed a 1% keeper rate.

When I shot Gone…Up in Smoke! I did not have enough money to buy more than a few rolls of film. Since I was on a very liited budget, the movie was filmed entirely in single takes and I used most of the material that was shot. (Maybe 75% to 80%) I shot it hand-held with no script or story board, cinéma vérité style as we went along.


The bottom line is street photography is like fishing, you can throw your hook in the water, but there are no guarantees you will get anything.


De Wallen Graffiti 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.