From champ to chimp


(Camera: Canon 20D.Lens Canon 300mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

Hi, I’m Clifford and I chimp.

“Chimping” refers to the reviewing of the monitor on the back of digital cameras soon after the picture is taken. The term has been attributed to USA Today photographer Bob Deutsch who used it to describe not only looking at the pictures, but the sounds those photographers make (Ooh, ooh, etc.) when looking at their camera monitors.

In professional photography circles, chimping tends to be looked down upon, especially by photographers who started working during the film era. Those of us who started out with film never had the luxury of reviewing our pictures so soon after shooting them. We had to know whether we got the picture or not. My old photo instructor told me that the trick is not knowing what you’ve shot, but knowing if you’ve missed it. With chimping, all that comes easy now. All you have to do is press a button and look.

Instant gratification being what it is, the urge to chimp is tremendous. Everyone does it to one degree or another, though they might say they don’t. I try to keep my chimping to a minimum, but I know it can be important tool. I’ll review the monitor a the beginning of a shoot to check on the exposure and then, unless the light changes, I’ll just continue shooting. During a sporting event I’ll chimp to make sure the numbers show on the players’ jerseys for later identifications or to check my timing.

The problem comes in the form of a Murphy’s Law of photography: the best play of the game or an important moment will happen when you’re chimping. I’ve seen it happen to others and its happened to me.

USA Today photographer Bert Hanashiro has a great video (above) on his SportsShooter website. On it, Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar says: “Wanna know a secret? They all do it… They don’t admit they do it, but they do it.”

Like I said, I chimp, but I try not to make the sounds.

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