The Act of Chimping and How to Get That Monkey Off Your Back!

Where would I be without

1. chimping
What one does after taking a picture with a digital camera and looking at the result. Derived from the words they speak when chimping: “Ooo-oo-oo!”

Chimping is a relatively recent phenomenon – a rather negative result of the digital age we now live in. Capturing images is virtually free now – once you have bought your digital camera from Harvey Norman, it costs nothing to press the shutter button. This, combined with the instant gratification of the LCD screen becomes an irresistible force.

It is virtually impossible for the photographer not bring the camera away from their eye and look down at the shiny new image on the LCD screen to check out the result. The subject (if human!) then scoots over to check out their form as well. The resultant oohs and aahs can start to sound like a troop of monkeys on a banana hunt.

Chimping is a great way to create an instant feedback loop for an inexperienced photographer. It becomes a crutch for those who have the basics down pat. When you are learning new techniques, there is no doubt that comparing your result to what you intended, and then adjusting is a solid learning plan. Once the early learning phase is complete though, just like kindy, you need to leave the safety scissors behind and start with the real stuff.

Start concentrating on what you can see in the viewfinder. True hipster photographers never use the live-view LCD to take a shot – I even purchased an optical viewfinder for my Ricoh GR for this reason! I have to be honest though, 50% was because the optical VF works best in bright conditions, and 50% to look arty and cool…

The digital LCD screen is a safety net which promotes thoughtless clicking. Keep pushing the button until you get one you like…. Even when I take out a digital body, I usually only look at the results when I am downloading back at home base. It can make you lazy. Kind of like a golf cart that you can drive around the course vs walking it. When I did play golf (which is probably worth another post sometime – if Satan owns Ikea, then he plays golf on the weekend as well…)

I can't grow a beard that looks "Brooklyn", so I go for the Optical Viewfinder look...

I can’t grow a beard that screams “Brooklyn”, so I go for the Optical Viewfinder look

When you stop looking at the LCD, you start concentrating on what you see in the viewfinder. Composing your image to get it as close to right as possible first time, every time.

I suppose this is not as relevant for studio photography – we had head shots done recently at work and the photographer used a tethered camera to make sure he got the results he wanted in real time. But when you have only a moment in time to compose and capture a shot – like out and about the streets of Melbourne – you don’t get second chances. You have to be able to “see” how the composition will look even before you bring the viewfinder up to your eye…

One of the most valuable exercises I have completed which seemed like a complete meh at first was learning how to “see” each focal length using just your eyes. When I go out, I make sure I am properly orientated to the lens I have on the camera. With a little bit of training, you can start to “see” how a scene will look through a particular focal length lens with just your eyes. If it looks good, bring the camera to bear.

Some of my favourite images were a one shot opportunity. If couldn’t see the composition  opportunity firstly using my eyes, and then quickly getting it right in the viewfinder, then the shot is missed.

Shots like this are composed in an instant, and are not able to be replicated easily…

One Shot!

One Shot!

This guy is not going to stand there forever in the doorway. Being able to compose something close to what you want (a little post cropping is acceptable to the film gods) in an instant is the difference to getting the shot or not.

Chimping is not helping you become proficient at composition….

Chimping also reduces my enjoyment of the experience of photography. Entering a “wax on, wax off” state is part of the enjoyment. Constantly looking for instant gratification via the LCD reduces your ability to enter a fugue state where you are using “the force” to capture images of the world around you. I find checking the LCD constantly interrupts my line of thinking and the focus on composition. Most importantly, you cannot see the next shot if your eyes are busy supping from the LCD crack pipe…

Chimping Naltrexone…

Buy one of these on ebay – $100 – $200… And more streed cred than an 80’s hip hop dance gang. The Nikon FM2 comes with 100% indestructible stainless chromy goodness – remember when stuff was made of metal rather than plastic? I wish my D700 had the magnesium alloy on the outside instead of covered by the rubber and plastic…


Buy this.

Buy this.

Put one of these on it. $129 50mm f1.8 brand new… You can stick it on your DSLR when the chimps have gone to monkey heaven.

Now you have a film camera, you can’t chimp. A roll of film is $8 and the processing (who can be shagged self-developing or home brewing beer?) is another $15 or so. Every shot is just under a buck. So you learn very quickly to make the most of it. It is not so much cashola per shot that you worry about it, but enough to encourage forethought.

Maybe it is time for people to start taping black cardboard over the LCD on digital cameras?

Shooting film completely removes the distraction of the virtual plasma screen on the back of your camera. Once a shot is complete, you automatically start looking for follow up shots, instead of jumping up and down, and congratulating yourself on the how awesome your artistic skillz are.

If you don’t want to spend $300 on a film camera, then dig around the closets of your relatives this Christmas – 2 out of 5 households still have a film SLR body still taking up space in a closet. People find it hard to chuck things that cost a lot of money at the time but are now virtually worthless.

Anyone need some ballast?

Anyone need some ballast?

I still have an original Apple Mac Powerbook that you can buy on Ebay for $AU110… Do you think I can actually bring myself to put the thing in the bin???

Find the camera in the cupboard and look it up on eBay to establish the value. Most of the time, relos are happy to give stuff away so long as someone wants it. Take it, and try some film!


  1. Does Film Still Matter to Street Photography? | Inconspicuosity - December 28, 2014

    […] I have written about chimping here before. Shooting film helps me focus on how I see the world rather than constantly checking each image on an LCD. It stretches your imagination and sharpens your ability to see composition. Not having an LCD encourages the photographer to think about the next shot rather than live in the instant past. […]


  2. Creative Exercise – Learn to See More | Inconspicuosity - August 9, 2015

    […] will help you spend more time looking for images rather than your LCD screen. The constant “chimping” – checking your LCD screen after every shot can be a useful feedback tool for technique, but […]


  3. 2015 Tokyo and Hong Kong Trip – Image 6 | Inconspicuosity - January 3, 2016

    […] Sometimes you have to take risks. I just stuck my camera in the open window and composed the image as best I could using my imagination – only the lens fit into the gap. Neither external viewfinder for the 43mm lens or the in body viewfinder were of any use. It was one of those wonderful moments where you kinda hope you captured something cool, but are never quite sure until the developing and scanning are done. The anticipation of film is a joy. I am not sure I would have enjoyed the process as much if I had used a digital camera and immediatel… […]


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