Photography Tip Of The Day: To Chimp, Or Not To Chimp

Chimping is the practice of looking at ones LCD screen after each and every shot…  It’s hard to place a finger on the origin of the phrase “chimping” but if you do a little research you’ll see it’s primarily used in street photography circles.  It’s considered amateurish to look at ones LCD screen to review each shot after you take it.  I guess it’s expected that you should be good enough to be confident that every shot will have the exact exposure you’d like otherwise you’re an idiot…  I obviously disagree with this term though I don’t think you should get into the habit of walking around looking at your LCD screen after each shot either.

Why Not Chimping Simply For The Sake Of Not Chimping Makes You A Chump

Like the wordplay up there?  Good, I aim to please.  Look, I don’t want to make anyone feel stupid for following the “no Chimping” rule or upset the lemmings that perpetuate it.  I guess what I’m trying to say is there is a time and place to look at your LCD screen after each shot no matter what your skill level is.  I shoot professional street photography (i.e. Cash is exchanged for photographs) and I chimp when needed.  Probably more so now that I shoot street primarily with a Leica M which meters much differently from the modern DSLR’s I’m used to shooting with (Nikon Df, D810, etc.).

So When Is It Okay To “Chimp”

First, let’s change the term to “Review”.  You should review your shot anytime you want to make sure you got the shot you wanted.  Everyone knows when they are photographing something that could be great…  It’s that feeling you get when you say to yourself “I better not screw this up”.  You know the feeling, typically afterwords, on your way home, it’s the shot you anticipate pulling off the SD card first for post processing magic.  If, while taking this shot, you have any doubt whatsoever you shouldn’t hesitate to review it to make sure everything went according to plan.  If you don’t review it because you’re following the “don’t chimp” rule and it ultimately doesn’t come out…  It’s a lesson you needed to learn.  Don’t be a lemming (another way of saying don’t be a follower).

What About The Other 99% Of The Time?

The feeling you get when you know you’ve got a great shot happens only 1% of the time, maybe less.  That’s because you only get great shots like that about 1% of the time (unless you are posing people or not shooting street photography).  The other 99% of the time are the ordinary shots where you think to yourself “well, maybe…”.  I don’t recommend hovering over your LCD screen but don’t be afraid to check it occasionally,in difficult lighting, just to make sure you are still on mark.  Otherwise all you are doing is cementing bad habits (poor metering, misjudgment of correct settings for difficult lighting, etc.).

Conclusion

Don’t be a lemming.  Reviewing your LCD screen got a bad rap and worse name because beginner street photographers would spend more time reviewing their previous shots and miss great moments as they unfolded right in front of them.  It’s important to know when to review a shot and when to keep shooting.  If you are in a fluid situation, things are happening all around you rather quickly, asses whether you have time to review or simply bracket shots the best you can while you shoot and choose the best when you are finished.  Again…  Don’t be a lemming.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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1 Comment

  • Modern DSLR’s can provide valuable additional info that often is not obvious simply looking through the viewfinder. Histogram info and potential areas of blown highlights etc can be a life saver especially under varying light conditions.

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