Saturday, January 25, 2014

Examination for Reuters FullFocus 2013 Pictures of the Year

If you want to take a Reuters Best Photo this is what you need: A Full Frame Camera -  with a 16-35 lens, shooting at f/2.8 or f/8 set your ISO at 400 with a single person as your subject, the content should be shocking in some way but a funny picture may also work. 

I was looking at the Reuters Full Focus, Best Photos of 2013. I found it interesting that for their 93 best photos they also showed the camera and EXIF info. I did a little analysis and thought I would share what I found. The assumption here is that this is a group of really good professional photographers and editors - therefore this collection represents the best work over the course of a year.

Obviously these photos were chosen for their content and not their technical attributes - but my question still would be: Is there something in the technical information that is common or popular in the collection. As you can see from my headline above what I found was:
1. Camera: Use a full frame DSLR.  (Canon 1DX or 5D Mark III were the most popular)
2. Lens: Use a 16-35
3. Settings: Shoot at f/2.8 or f/8, ISO 400.
4. Subject: By far a single person within the frame was the most popular.

The collection can be found here:

A more in-depth summary follows.

Camera Manufacture: Canon is the camera manufacture of choice by this professional segment.  80% of the pictures within the collection were taken with Canon cameras. Actually the Canon 5D Mk3 and the Canon 1DX were the most popular each with 27 photos in the top 93. (29% each, 58% together) The Canon 1DMkIV had 11. What totally blew me away was that Nikon as a camera was only used for 11 pictures in the collection of the top 93. What was it about this segment that Nikon was under-represented?  i don't know, just reporting the results. This is a trend that has been going on for the years that I have viewed this collection. Is this only for Reuters photographers or what? The numbers are so one sided that it really stands out.

Here is the full list by camera manufacturer and model:

1.  Canon 5D Mark III          27 pictures
2.  Canon EOS 1DX             27 pictures
3.  Canon EOS 1D Mark IV 11 pictures.
4.  Canon 5D Mark II             7 pictures
5. Canon EOS 1D Mark IIII 3 pictures

6. Camera with two photos in the collection:
 a. Canon 7D
 b. Nikon D3s
 c. Nikon D4
 d. Nikon D300S
 e. Nikon D3

7 . Cameras with one photo in the collection:
Canon EOS 1D Mark II.
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N
Canon EOS rebel T3
Nikon D7000
Nikon D700
Nikon D3100
GoPro Hero II

Other than Canon… Nikon, iPhone and GoPro were represented with on picture each.

Lens: The favorite lens by far, if you going to take a "top picture" is the 16-35 lens. 24 of the 93 pictures (26%) were taken with a 16-35 lens. The combination of the Canon and  EF16-35 was the top camera/lens combo. Fully 17 out of 24 were shot on full frame cameras the other 7 were shot on 1.3x crop sensors.

The fact that this lens was number one and number one by a fair distance surprised me. (The 70-200 came in at 14 pictures in second place) It seems to me, that the professionals are certainly making the choice to go with the 16-35 over the more standard and "loved" 24-70 which only registered 5 pictures.

I had never really considered this lens before and the reviews on even the version II of the 16-35 lens seem mixed at best - especially considering all the love the new version II of the 24-70 lens gets in the reviews. But I guess when the professional photographers are out to make the shot that counts they put the 16-35 on their body, or, maybe the pictures taken with the 16-35 are just more compelling.

 For me, as a Canon guy, I guess, there is no question that if you want to take a good picture, a 16-35 would be a safe bet.

One thing that I read recently that stuck with me on the 16-35 is that one may not think it is that different from the standard 24-70 or the more common 24-105. But if you think about it, at the wide end - 16mm is as different from 24mm as 200mm is from 300mm. That really hit home for me.

When shooting with the 16-35, wide open is the way to go. One third or 8 out of 24 pictures were shot at f/2.8.  I just picked up the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8 L II as a new companion to my relatively new Canon EF 24-70 f/4 IS L, I am wondering if I might need to sell the 24-70?

Aperture: Shoot f/2.8 or f/8

ISO:  The major learning for the data for me on the ISO settings is to keep it below ISO 800, the most popular setting is 400. The most popular high ISO setting is 1600. Two thirds of all the pictures were taken at an ISO of 800 or less.

The Number of People in the Picture:  One thing that I noticed when going through the collection was the number of single person pictures. Going back and analyzing the number of people in each picture I found the following: About one third of the pictures or 31 of 93 had as the subject a single person.

0 people -  (landscape or object)   15 pictures
1 person - 31 pictures
2 people - 16 pictures
3 people - 4 pictures
4 people - 2 pictures
5 or more people - 4 pictures

The one lesson I can pull out of this particular set of data is that if you find yourself looking through your viewfinder and you see between 3 and 5 people in the frame - STOP and reframe it. Add a whole bunch of people or get it down to 2 or better yet - one person. No people is also somewhat acceptable.

The subject matter also was varied and a mixed bag - probably by design.
Funny pictures came in at 18
Disasters as the subject - 16.
There were 8 pictures about protests.
Death was the subject of about 12 pictures.

I also assigned a value of "shocking" to pictures and those came in at about 28. Although the pictures about death were shocking and disasters were also in some cases shocking.

Anyway, I hope you find this summary useful in some way.

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