From chump to chimp

The term “chimping” is one that not all photographers may know but everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. First written about by USA Today photographer Bob Deutsch, it refers to the act of reviewing pictures on the camera’s monitor immediately after taking it.

Sports Illustrated photographer Robert Beck says that it isn’t chimping unless they make ape-like sounds while doing it, something like “ooh, ooh, ooh.” But most photographers considerate chimping with or without the sounds

In the beginning of digital photography chimping was pejorative term. For those who get up in the film era there was a certain artful skill that was somewhere in between talent and experience when a photographer would know that they had a great image the moment when they shot it. Chimping kind of felt a little like cheating. Some believed that it was a crutch for those lesser photographers. Well, let me tell you, everybody chimps. You chimp, I chimp, big name photographers chimp like any amateur with a point-and-shoot.

Chimping can be a great tool for photographers and not the crutch that some used to believe. What you don’t want to do is to chimp after every shot. You could be so busy looking at your display that you may miss something happening right in front of you.

The first thing I do when I get to an assignment is to get a quick shot and quickly review the image to determine the exposure for the scene. I won’t usually look at it again unless the lighting changes.

Sports is one those events that knowing when to chimp is crucial. I’ve seen too many photographers, too many times, miss a shot while chimping, myself included. But there are times when stopping to look at your monitor is OK. There are always breaks in the action, penalties, timeouts and breaks between periods, when there is time to chimp.

For me, when shooting a sporting event, the ability to identify an athlete is almost as important as the shot itself. After all, that caption in the newspaper doesn’t say “some guy carries the football, hits a homer or sinks a jump shot.” I have to get the names the players. So I’ll often chimp a shot to make sure I have a readable jersey number in the frame. If not then I’ll get a shot of the player and a clearly visible number. But I make sure the action is over and there is enough time for me to do it.

If you’re a portrait photographer you may want to show the image your model to help show them what they’re doing right or wrong in their posing and involve them in the picture taking process.

In landscape photography one usually has a lot of time and the scene doesn’t change very quickly so frequent chimping is acceptable. But if you’re a wedding photographer or shooting an event where you have to be on your toes, keep it to a minimum. You don’t want to miss the first kiss after the vows of the bouquet toss because you were looking at your monitor.

Instant gratification being what it is, the urge to chimp is sometimes undeniable, but the more experience you get as a photographer the less you’ll do it. When you do chimp, just make sure it’s the right time to do it.

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