Chimping (v.) – the act of checking one’s LCD screen on a digital camera after each shot is taken.
“They” say that “real” photographers don’t chimp. That they should just know their settings well enough and be good enough that they don’t need to check.
If you’ve ever worked with me, taken a class with me, read my blog, or been around me more than five minutes, then you know I don’t put much stock in what “they” say.
In fact, I think chimping is great! It’s a main mark of the modern wonder that is digital photography!
I don’t have any patience for McJudgypants-type people who are going to approach a photographer and ask them if they know what chimping is (because they want to point out that’s what you’re doing) and yes this did happen to me once on a shoot and yes I did roll my eyes out of my head.
Listen, I’ve been shooting professionally for years and even on a paid shoot for a client – heck, especially on a client shoot! – I will check my work periodically to make sure I’m happy with my exposure, composition, and especially my focus.
Chimping is actually a really important and useful tool, one that I highly recommend my students use and one I have no qualms about using myself!
There is no shame in wanting to make sure you’re executing your creative vision properly before you pack up your gear and get home only to realize you chopped off grandma’s head or there was a visible smudge on your lens or that what you thought was sharply in focus is actually soft focus!
Now yes, it is quite amazing to think of how technically accurate film-photographers needed to be. The idea of shooting a whole wedding and not being able to see my results that day is making me break out in a cold sweat as we speak.
And I do think there is value in slowing down and taking responsibility for everything in your frame before you press the shutter button.
(Plus you will naturally check the screen less the more comfortable you become with your camera settings and your skill.)
But that doesn’t mean you have to worry about it.
Okay, sometimes it’s interesting to try to shoot without chimping.
I have a favorite exercise I sometimes share with students as a way to help break out of any photographer’s rut. It’s sort of pretending to shoot with film, which by default means no chimping. You tape an index card to the screen of your camera (so, no peeking!) And you shoot like that for as long as you need to get your creative brain moving again. You aim for quality, not quantity. I like to take ten minutes and just go around looking for the best light and the beauty around me. You have to take your time to set up the shot before you press the shutter button because you aren’t going to be able to check it until later when you get back to your computer.
But that’s just for fun!
Most of the time, I say don’t be afraid of the opinion of snooty purists. Check that handy dandy monitor and soak up all the benefits of the digital age!
I’m pretty damn confident and I’m chimping like a fool over here so even if “they” are going to pick on you for it, at least you’ll be in good company!
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