To Chimp or Not To

‘Chimping’ is a slang used in photography world to name the habit of reviewing every photograph, immediately after it is shot. Old photographers frown on this habit. New photographers say that if preview screen is available then why not use it. Both of them are correct.

Chimping is done by amateurs. I agree to this. In its true sense, chimping is a terrible addiction. I do not understand why one has to look at every photo immediately after clicking. Checking the image immediately on the preview screen after clicking has its own repercussions. It also makes one look like a novice in the eyes of many.

Chances of a missed photo opportunity are always there. This specially holds true for wildlife photographers and street photographers. That elusive decisive moment might get missed.

There is increased battery use (regardless of how powerful the battery is). Battery life of new cameras is really long but why consume the battery without any reason when it may just give some extra photos when you end up without any reliable power source.

Most photographers while chimping look down on the preview screen while holding it close to the body. Neck spasm is also a risk about which I did not know till a few days back. I have seen a person end up with a neck spasm after a sudden jerk to check the image by looking down. Poor fellow had to spend three days massaging ointments and taking medicine. He could not even comfortably text his loved ones on his phone.

Love Locks

 (Love Locks! I have been guilty of chimping too. After clicking this photograph I was busy looking at the preview, when I missed an opportunity where a couple had just finished placing a lock.)

Chimping is different from actually reviewing the images. This is useful and I thank the makers of digital cameras for coming up with preview screen. Did you know that early digital cameras did not have any preview screen?

I review my images at three occasions –

  1. After taking the first shot to confirm that all my camera settings are correct. Checking the photograph along with the histograms, camera settings information and details like blown highlights or lost shadow details, helps me in further tweaking the camera settings for the next many photographs. I usually review only the first image to get the information and then no more.
  2. After completing the photography session, while travelling back to my room. This allows me to pass my time, as it would help anyone who takes a quick nap on the way back.
  3. Sometimes I do use the preview screen to show the captured image to my colleagues on the photo-walks or the subjects. Kids specially love seeing their photograph immediately after it has been shot. Showing photographs immediately to the subjects helps in establishing a connection. This goes a long way in improving photography as a whole. The results turn out better.

Camera makers have provided the preview screen for a reason. Use it, but don’t depend on it. Reviewing the images helps, but do not make it a habit to chimp. Never delete photos based on how they look in the preview screen. In fact for improving memory card performance, I recommend to never delete random photos on it. (For more information on caring for memory cards – Caring for memory cards) It is always better to download the images on computer and then decide their fate.

2 thoughts on “To Chimp or Not To

  1. I don’t agree on this. For me, the use of the display – especially the histogram – can be seen as the digital equivalent to polaroid tests in film times, rather used by pros than amateurs to control composition and exposure.


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