This is a guide covering the good and bad of chimping in photography.
What is Chimping in Photography?
Chimping is a term used in digital photography that describes the act and habit of taking a photo and immediately checking the back of the camera LCD screen to see how it turned out.
Why is it Called Chimping?
This funny term comes from the sound monkeys make as well as their behavior to “inspect” things.
Monkeys make an “OOooh Oooh, Aaa AAah” type of noise. The same noise is also made by photographers that instantly look into the LCD after taking the photos (joking).
Sometimes these chimp noises are also followed by a chimp-like hand gesture to invite people to look at the photo.
This term was coined by Bryan Peterson and became widely popular. It is simply just photographers looking at their LCD screen immediately after every shot they take.
Looking back, chimping is quite common among amateur photographers that are just starting their photography journey. Respecting and ogling your awesome photograph at the back of the camera is not wrong in any way, but there are some risks to it.
On the other hand, chimping is one of the most instantaneous feedback you can get. Digital photography is, after all, made to help you see the digital projection of the image.
There is no shame in becoming a “chimper.”
Looking at the LCD instantly tells you about the things that you should improve. Maybe correct the exposure to give it more feel, using unique POVs, and many more.
Let us talk about chimping in more depth with the pros and cons, especially how to stop doing it.
Is Chimping Bad?
As with many things in this world, some have more disadvantages than advantages.
The main theme of the disadvantages that chimping brings is, pausing.
Let’s run through the list and also check out this in-depth video by Seth who explains the cons of chimping as well:
1. It Halts Your Flow
First off, at the bat, chimping halts your flow. Your focus will be broken once you get out of that “trance.” People often have a state of trance called “Flow” where their productivity and work quality gets significantly better.
By snapping out of your trance to chimp on your image. This may seem minuscule, but it leads you to some other problems.
By diverting your attention to your LCD, you are using your energy to sift through the pictures while on set.
You scroll through the gallery to delete some photos and find satisfaction among some of them.
Unfortunately, photographers that are satisfied with their images just end the day and head home.
This closes the opportunity for better shots at more interesting POVs.
More photos are generally better for photographers that need to maximize their time and opportunity.
2. You Will Lose Awesome Shots by Chimping
Photographers have to deal with an ever-changing environment and scene whenever they take an image.
Opportunities come and go, some animals may show unique and interesting behaviors that you should catch on camera.
Unfortunately, you might miss those special moments when you are busy chimping.
A prime example of this would be action photography. People need to get awesome shots when fighters trade blows with each other or when two race cars collide with each other and the car parts fly all over the place.
Chimping is highly disadvantageous for situations that have lots of action and surprising events in a short time frame.
Another problem will be the sharpness or focus of an image. Images may look perfectly focused and sharp on the camera, although the actual image is out of focus.
This will often happen when you are chimping since the small LCD on the camera is different from your computer’s larger screen.
Make sure that the image is in focus and sharp by zooming in on them. Maybe bring your laptop along for better cross-checking.
Nailing your color, focus, exposure, and composition is definitely key to achieving a staggering picture.
3. Battery Issues
Despite its ability to provide you with direct feedback, chimping does consume a lot of battery life.
Considering the number of photos that chimpers take and gaze at, it is highly likely for them to lose storage space and battery life. Constantly taking a photo and then switching on the LCD view.
Luckily, this issue can be solved pretty easily compared to the other ones above.
Bringing more batteries and larger storage would definitely help solve this issue but stopping yourself from chimping is better.
The Good Side of Chimping
Despite the monkey business of chimping having some steep disadvantages, looking at your LCD is still pretty useful in many circumstances.
Mainly for adjusting your camera and quality control of your images.
1. Instant Adjustment
Photographers like to move a lot, they are even encouraged to do so. But changing into different conditions and scenes forces you to readjust your settings.
Changing the settings to help you capture shots immediately is crucial!
Taking images outside on a sunny side will make you use settings that can accommodate the brightness of the sun.
Naturally, this leads you to use settings that block incoming light. Lower ISO level, faster shutter speeds, and a higher f-stop would be the go-to choice for photographers.
But when changing scenes, or entering a room indoors, chimping will help you notice the adjustments to make.
Some chimping does not hurt anybody, and in this case, it will help you realize how much to increase the ISO!
While you are chimping, you should also check on the histogram too. The histogram can easily tell you the spectrum of white to black, to grey tones that are in your photo.
Reading your histogram correctly will help you know what to change or keep. Maybe you want to keep it that way, the choice is yours.
2. Checking if You Nailed an Effect
Photography should be centered around taking enjoyable and fun shots. This will naturally lead you to try interesting techniques that are a bit hard to pull off.
Some techniques can be achieved by using a different lens, while some need a couple of things to go perfectly coordinated.
One of the examples is taking images of people that are moving, which includes motion blur. We, photographers, want our subjects to look natural and full of life, not just a freeze-frame.
We do not want our subjects to look like a smudge either right?
With the many things we need to get right, a little chimping will not hurt.
Look at the photo, and search for any off-looking details, making sure that you need to adjust your settings or not before continuing photographing.
Do not take too long though, or you might miss the golden opportunity.
Unfortunately, telling someone when to chimp or not to chimp is quite tricky. The process takes a lot of energy and self-consciousness to effectively do it.
This is why I propose some little tips to stop you from chimping.
How to Stop Chimping?
There are more solutions to help stop chimping than buying a Fujifilm X Pro 3. But we need to take one step at a time. Chimping in photography is like an addiction to fast food.
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You cannot force a regular consumer to just miraculously stop doing it forever, expecting them to instantly stop a repeated routine is just too much.
There are a couple of solutions that I know about, let me explain the details too:
1. Chimping Every 8-12 Shots
To slowly progress from being a chimp to a better photographer, you need to stop chimping so often.
Start slowly and choose a small number of photos you MUST take before eventually chimping again.
You can slowly increase the numbers to 12, 15, 20, 30, and even higher!
This method will require some discipline and holding back your twitching to break your bad habit. The method will eventually break your repetitive cycle of constantly checking your photos or showing them off.
2. Shoot a Fixed Number of Images/Frames
A little more difficult, but this method still applies the same basics as the previous one.
The idea of being able to shoot with no restrictions is quite liberating and makes the process feel risk-free.
But what if I told you that reducing the maximum number of frames you can take will help?
Chimping is just like twitching. By introducing lesser opportunities to shoot multiple times, you are increasing their focus while also slowing down their pace.
It also allows the photographer the pointlessness of reviewing every image taken.
A concentrated photographer will always yield better results.
3. Turn Off the Image Preview
A simpler and extreme step would be turning off the image preview feature.
This solution does come off as a no-brainer, as most cameras allow you to turn it off.
By turning this feature off, your camera will not automatically show you the most recent picture taken. You must manually hit the playback button, which is a pain to do.
It will not work for everyone, but this will train a photographer’s discipline.
4. Drastic/Extreme Measures
If neither of these solutions worked for our fellow chimpers out there, then fear not, because we still have some solutions under our sleeves.
I. Tape your LCD Screen
Grab that black electrical tape and put it all over your LCD screen. Make sure that the tape will not damage the LCD screen beforehand.
This simple, extreme, short-term solution will prevent you from looking at pictures you just took.
This will train your mind and discipline so as to not continuously check for flaws in every image.
Oh, do not worry about damaging your screen too. As there are plenty of cleaning kits that can remove the sticky parts that were left behind from the tape.
II. Shoot Using Film
Has the temptation to chimp already consumed you? Then it is time to use a nice film camera.
Yes, this needs some extra money, but you can say goodbye to all that chimping.
Many street photographers applaud this method for giving them more concentration and immersion.
Not needing to worry about the various tech-like features and lets you concentrate on strong visuals and techniques.
Buying a Fujifilm X Pro 3
Yes, it may sound gimmicky, but the Fujifilm X Pro 3 certainly is a pretty cool camera. Chimping may not be the best reason to buy this camera.
Is it recommended, no? But if you want a camera upgrade and a drastic solution for chimping, here you go.
Chimping may feel restricting at times, photographers might even look down at you while telling you to stop doing it.
I firmly believe that you have the power to stop chimping or rather do it mindfully.
Managing chimping does need discipline, but you should enjoy photography too! Changing yourself 1% better than yesterday is more than enough for an improvement.
Enjoy the process while doing it too. Since your photos get better with less chimping, the results can be a motivator for you too.
Let us wrap this article up, shall we?
- The definition of Chimping is when you constantly check the picture you just shot. There are two schools of thought on Chimping. One thinks that chimping should be stopped. On the other hand, there are photographers who control when to chimp and when not to.
- Chimping is oftentimes seen as a bad habit. It leads to concentration and flow issues.
- It halts your flow by making you pause for each photo. Meticulously reviewing and judging them.
- Chimping also makes you prone to losing unique and interesting moments. Photographers that are taking photos in the wild or at high action events are most likely to miss crucial moments.
- Last but not least, battery issues. LCD screens will consume your battery the longer it stays on. You will likely miss and take less impressive shots if you do not carry some spare batteries.
- Luckily, chimping in photography may also become your saving grace.
- It gives you a moment to adjust your settings and review your images. It gives you enough information to adapt your camera towards changing scenes and locations.
- You will also need to do some chimping to check on your difficult shots.
- Chimping can be easily changed with patience and discipline.
- Try using our tips above based on the intensity of your chimping in photography.
Do not be ashamed for doing a little chimping. There is no clear cut for what is good and what is bad in photography.
It will be best to discipline and manage your chimping. Use it only when necessary and not on an urge. Keep trying and training yourself, you will get better in no time.
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Jon has been a passionate photographer for 10+ years. Fun fact is that he has a collection of around 300-400 cameras that his family has collected over the years. Outside of photography, he has a Masters Degree in Engineering and has 13 years experience working in the industry across the globe.