(Photo above by Andrew Eccles. Disregard how classy the chimp looks)
Chimping– it is a disease and an unhealthy addiction that runs rampart within the digital photography community. What is chimping you ask? It is the act of looking at your LCD screen the second after you take a shot. Why do they call it chimping? Well imagine if you think you got a great shot, you show other people, and point to your LCD screen while saying “ooh ooh ooh” like a chimpanzee. Why is this bad when it comes to street photography? Keep reading to find out.
(Photo credit: Sam Haskins)
To reiterate, “chimping” is the act of looking at your LCD screen immediately after shooting a photo. This is something that 99% of digital photographers do, as it is almost natural to do (if I have the technology to check my images afterward, why not? I do advise beginner street photographers who are having difficulty with exposure and technical settings to chimp when first starting off street photography (or even aspiring flash street photographers who don’t know how to use a flash). But for those of you who are either intermediate or advanced, it is not necessary at all. Read some reasons why I think you shouldn’t chimp while shooting street photography below:
1. You can miss the decisive moment
I used to chimp a ton, without even knowing it. However there was one instance when I almost missed a potentially great street photography opportunity because I was checking my LCD screen. As I was so intently looking at my previous shot, fellow street photographer Derriel Almario told me, “Eric, look up!” I then immediately saw an interesting character with a reflective shirt, sunglasses, and a garbage bag coming toward me. I instinctively crouched and snapped a photo. This has easily become one of my favorite flash street photographs.
Had Derriel not been there, I would have missed this decisive moment. I am sure that if you are accustomed to chimping as well, you have experienced something similarly.
2. It puts unnecessary pressure on you
When you chimp, it gives you the feeling that every shot that you shoot has to be an amazing photo. However this is the wrong mentality to have. If I am out shooting for an entire day– getting one or two decent photos makes me happy. If I can even get a “keeper” which I consider is worthy to share online, I am even more lucky.
Therefore don’t deal with this stress. When you out shooting focus on taking good photos. Only take a look at your images once you get home.
3. It interrupts your flow
Have you ever had an engaging conversation with a friend at dinner and then suddenly your friend gets a text message? What happens? Your friend says “sorry one second” and checks their phone, sends back a text, and slowly adjusts their focus back to you and says “Oh sorry–what were we talking about again?”
Think about the same thing when it comes to street photography. If you chimp while you are taking photos, it interrupts your flow. Getting in “the flow” of shooting street photography is difficult enough– why risk disturbing that flow? When you are shooting, only focus on shooting. When it comes to editing (selecting your best work) and post-processing your images, do it all only when you get home.
4. It kills your battery life
Another practical reason not to chimp when shooting street photography is that it kills your battery. Cameras such as the Leica M9 and Fujifilm FinePix X100 are notorious for draining batteries. If you are using your LCD screen the entire day, you probably need two batteries. Ever since I quit chimping on my Leica, I can go an entire day on only one battery.
5. You can potentially delete good photos
If you chimp while shooting, you might be tempted to delete your “bad photos”. However I advise highly against deleting any of your photos. Why? There are times in which I thought I took a bad photo– but realized I actually took a great photo once I got home. The LCD screen is too small to judge the composition and content in an image– you have to wait until you go home to truly make the final decision.
Some street photographers are also tempted to automatically delete any images that are either blurry or out of focus. However if you have ever studied the work of Daido Moriyama, he took some of the most emotional and powerful images that were either out of focus, blurry, or even both.
6. You enjoy the shooting experience more
When I am out shooting street photography, I love the experience of shooting street photography. The opportunity to appreciate the small things in life, to interact with the people on the streets, and even get out of the house.
I don’t believe that in street photography, the final image is everything. Although it is important to create compelling images, think it is the process I enjoy most. Therefore when you are out shooting, remember that street photography should be enjoyable and fun.
7. You don’t need to use a film camera
Although I am a huge advocate for shooting street photography with film (it helps you become a better judge of exposure, patience, and composition) I feel shooting film isn’t necessary for 95% of the street photographers out there. The reason why I loved shooting street photography the most is that you weren’t tempted to chimp after shooting (you can’t!). That is the main reason why many street photographers I know switch from digital to film– so they can focus on the shooting portion. If you have the will not to look at your photo at your LCD screen every time after you shoot– you already have one of the largest advantages of shooting film.
8. You learn to trust your instincts
When I think of my camera, I think of it as a tool that is an extension of my body and eye. There is a certain point that you have to learn how to trust your instincts and just shoot. Trust your camera and don’t concern yourself so much with the settings. Just find the settings you are comfortable using on your camera (whether it be Av-mode, P mode, or fully-manual) and just shoot.
9. There is no real reason to
Think about the real reason you are chimping, it is either for any of the below reasons. Here are some of my rebuttals:
a) You want to check your exposure
Nowadays if you are shooting in RAW, don’t worry if your exposure is not dead-on. Although exposure is important, I would argue that shooting and having a good composition is far more important. If your photo is a stop or two overexposed or underexposed, post-processing can easily fix this.
b) You want to check your focus
If you are shooting with zone focus, you don’t have to worry that your photo is in-focus, as the small f-stop you are using (f/11-f16) will alleviate that problem.
c) You want to check if your photo is not blurry
Make sure your shutter speed is above 320ths/second to make sure your photo is not blurry. However there are even time that “accidental” blurry photos make great photographs.
d) You want to marvel at your photo
Save this when you get home
10. You risk the ridicule of being made fun of by your friends
For fun, whenever me and my fellow streettogs find another oen of us chimping, we start crowding around them, bringing out the bananas, and saying “ooh ooh ooh”. Try doing it for fun next time you catch your friends doing this as well. Above image is Andre caught chimping by Brian at my Toronto workshop! (sorry Andre!)
If you want to chimp less, first step is to turn off your lcd screen preview. The second step is to try to fight the urge to check your LCD screen after every single shot. Try it out for an entire day, and then try to make it second-nature NOT to look at your LCD screen while shooting. It will be extremeley difficult, but it will open up your eyes so much more to photography and the world around you.
What are your thoughts about chimping? Share your thoughts and experiences below!