Chimping, Yes or No

In a word—Yes!

In digital photography, chimping is commonly used to refer to looking at the camera LCD right after shooting a picture. The lack of an official definition adds to the confusion and endless blogposts, usually about “why it’s bad for you.”

This practice applies to cameras with some kind of an optical viewfinder. If you photograph with your iPhone or while looking at the screen anyway, this topic is a nonstarter.

First order of the day, let’s stop calling every instance “chimping.” It’s a derogatory term; and it shouldn’t be discouraged to maximizing your accuracy and output. You’re a professional-grade photographer (or striving to become one :D) and just doing a random sample in quality control.

The reason for—at least some—controversy is the benefit from immediately getting feedback vs. it becoming a distracting habit.

The things to take away

By all means check your screen to minimize mistakes and maximize captures. Be as conscious as possible about it. This allows you to limit the use to situation where you can benefit by training your eye. This goes hand in hand with not making it a habit. Thanks to Till Scheel from Gorillaphoto for his discussion. As he puts it: “It should not become a reflex.”

Be confident about when you look at the display. It should be for the benefit of proper output. No need to apologize for using technology that helps you maximize that. “Don’t you want to improve your photography?!”

A few things that a look at the display can clarify:

  • clipped highlights or shadows
  • the dynamic range as seen by the camera
  • histogram for overall exposure
  • composition and framing
  • straight horizon
  • camera dependent info about ISO, aperture, shutter speed, lens used, etc.
  • Some arguments and my 2¢

    • “I have confidence in my skills. I don’t need to check my screen.”

      If that is part of your artistic philosophy, that is perfectly fine. For everybody else, just Google “Human error and Quality Control.”

    • “If you look at your display, you miss a critical moment.”

      If we measure the world by missed moments, it is an art you can but only fail at. Especially street-photographers like to use this argument. This, however, is only true to break a habit. Nobody can argue with checking the light meter when a change in lighting happens, who can argue with an on-screen confirmation of highlight and shadow clipping or histogram?

    • “It separates the professional from the beginner.”

      Let your pictures talk, not your pride.

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