Ever hear of chimping? It’s when you take a picture, look at your camera to inspect it as well as the histogram, and then take another picture and do it again.
As your head goes back and forth from looking through the viewfinder to at the LCD screen, people started calling it ‘chimping’.
Many photo blogs and writers ridicule those that do it. They say it makes the photographer look like an amateur, constantly checking their work.
Stephen Johnson, however, has a different view of it.
In “On Digital Photography,” he writes that the view most photographers online have of chimping…
“is shocking to me. If there’s any one thing that is revolutionary in the advance of photography represented by this digital age, it is the ability to inspect your work. Ignore such ridicule, and use the tools to their fullest.”
Stephen Johnson, “On Digital Photography”
So is chimping good or bad?
Chimping: The Pros and Cons
Personally, I use my histogram and preview mode when I am taking pictures. It shows me what I captured, how the light was exposed, and allows me to iterate.
Iteration is a vital part to success in any field, be it photography, piano, or business.
To avoid iteration because of how you think it makes you look is to let the perceptions of others control and define how you work.
Chimping does, of course, have it’s flaws. Used too often, it can keep you from developing your skills of exposure.
A common example is taking an exposure, adjusting it, taking it again, adjusting it again, until you reach the right combination of aperture and shutter speed.
Learning how to meter and set exposure will save so much more time than this process of chimping.
Outside of this typical scenario, does chimping really help with your output as a photographer?
Honestly, the main value of looking at your histogram and LCD preview is in fine-tune exposure or make minor compositional edits.
A common error, however, is to set your tripod at a location and from there use chimping to guide your image making.
When you focus solely on what you captured and histograms, however, you are boxing yourself within the tiny confines of that space.
I covered this principle briefly in the Imagination Series Part 1 earlier this week.
Use your camera’s tools. Check the histogram. View the image how it came out. But after that, step away. Look around. See the scene in front of you.
Think. Don’t Just Do.
Analyze. Feel. Then refine your approach and try it again. Once you’ve done this, sure, look at your histogram and how the image came out. Then step away again.
It’s easy to read dozens of articles on composition. When you’re out there taking pictures, though, all of that pretty much goes away.
You’re left only with the core principles and skills you’ve soaked into your mind. Ideas and techniques you’ve practiced over and over again.
It takes mindfulness – contemplation – to bring up those fresh ideas and techniques you’ve learned.
What’s more, it takes going beyond technicality and formulas to truly create meaningful, creative work.
What is there in the scene in front of you? What grabs your attention? What emotions do you feel?
When you know this, then you can find the right composition technique or exposure tool for the job.
Go at it the other way around, applying random formulas and techniques while chimping, and you’re going to have a harder time getting the images you’d like.
It forces you into a box, wherever you set your tripod and camera. Step away and observe.