Content Creation

How we pick keepers for our content clients

Sean Connelly
May 19, 2023
min read

We love when Railshop gets hired for content projects, because they’re always exciting and interesting. No matter what the subject is, it’s our job to find a storyline and represent that in some way with a camera.

The thing is, we always shoot way more than we use. Our process at Railshop is pretty simple: Plan, Shoot, Edit, Deploy. With more clients booking us for this type of work, the process we use for selecting “keepers” during that Edit phase has been coming up more often. This post breaks down the approach.

But wait, what’s a keeper? A keeper is a BANGER. Something you stop scrolling and look at. Of all the shots, it’s THE shot. A keeper is the take that ends up getting delivered to the client. Not only does it represent the best shot we were able to get, but the client plans to represent their own business with it. It better be good.

The Plan phase
It all starts with the Plan phase. It can be anything from a 20 minute conversation to multiple meetings and a creative brief. Regardless, this is where the kernel of the shoot ALWAYS comes from: what’s the goal in the first place?

The Shoot phase
To us, operating a camera is really just knowing where to stand mixed with some technical skills. So when we find 20-30 good places to stand during a shoot, that translates to 20-30 keepers we're stoked to deliver.

To be clear, we click the shutter way more than 20-30 times to get those keepers — think closer to 200-300. Let's break down how this works.

A shoot I was working yesterday for a local excavation contractor triggered me to write this post, so I’ll use it as an example.

The job was to capture crew tearing down an old Victorian home. I spent the entire time on the lookout for opportunities to compose the crew and the work together in a scene. For example, any time I would see the crew in an interesting position near the building carnage or running one of their pieces of equipment, I would scurry to a spot that captures all of that as a single scene. Since they are natural moments, I would stand there shooting multiple times with slight variations between each shutter click. For JP Operations, this created multiple opportunities to capture their brand’s story in a single image: These guys do badass work and love every second of it.

Excavation photo with operators

We take the same approach for headshots, product work, or really any time we pick up a camera. The goal is to compose a scene that we like and then capture it multiple times with a few slight variations. This way, the number of good scenes ends up as the number of shots the client ends up with.

Photo of excavation crew happily tearing down a building

The Edit phase
Editing is time and creative-labor intensive work, so prioritizing which assets to edit in the first place is paramount to an efficient workflow.

One way to think about it is to break it down into “scenes” and “takes”. Each scene is generally a place we found to stand, and each take is a shutter click.

So what makes a good scene? We evaluate them with questions like these:

  • Does it fulfill the creative brief, shot list, and/or stated client goal?
  • Does it represent the brand?
  • Does it tell a story?
  • Is it intriguing or relevant?

How do we pick the best take from each scene?

  • Which best represents the scene?
  • Which is best composed & exposed?
  • Are there unique elements, like a light beam hitting the subject just right?

This is just a simple example meant to show the selection process. There are plenty of times we have one shooter running multiple cameras to 2x or 3x individual scene creating ability, or trying to find a spot for our drone instead of our feet. Sometimes we're working in a studio setting. Sometimes it’s a 3 person crew. No matter the visual asset — photo or video — this selection process is a key component.

Hopefully this post answered a couple of questions:

  • If the card has 200-300 shots on it, why are we delivering 20-30?
  • Why are we sifting through 1TB of footage for a 1 minute video?

It’s because when shoot day comes around, we're hustling to find or create as many good looks as we can. We're counting scenes, not shutter clicks. We're checking off a shot list, and each shot on the list better look damn good. Bad takes are not for sale!

When you hire Railshop for content, we take a principled approach no matter who’s holding the camera or sifting through the hard drive after the shoot. If you’re looking for this type of team to work on content projects for your business - give us a shout.

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