Street Photography: To chimp or not to chimp

What is chimping?  Chimping is the act of checking the LCD screen on your camera immediately after you take a photograph. The term was coined after the introduction of digital cameras, which allows you to review the image right away to see if it came out right. Apparently the act resembles the way chimpanzees inspect something in their hands, hence the term “chimping”. It is certainly a huge advantage (and a lot of fun) to be able to check focus, composition or exposure right after you capture an image. It allows you to make corrections right there on the spot and try again.  You can also show your images to friends right away. It is amazing! Who wouldn’t want to chimp? The answer: street photographers.

Soho, New York, NY. (C) Juan Jose Reyes

Street photography is about capturing candid moments that happen in an instant. The fleeting “right” moment when people align on the screen or the gesture peaks. These are usually brief moments that cannot be replicated and we will miss them if we are distracted. And chimping is a huge distraction. It might be helpful sometimes, no doubt about that, but is a huge distraction. I have been chimping for years, with passion. Click, chimp. Click, chimp. Every shot. But all that changed recently. No more chimping for me (well, for the most part).  The reason I stopped was more out of necessity, rather than anything else, when I switched to the Fuji X100.

Fort Lauderdale, FL. (C) Juan Jose Reyes

The Fuji X100 has a very poor battery life. I carry with me at least one extra charged battery everywhere I go. One change I had to make to save battery life was to switch the image preview off.  At the beginning I didn’t like it but the more I started shooting without the image immediately appearing on the screen the more I realized how liberating the feeling was. Not reviewing the image after I take it forces me to stay in the present, paying attention to what is happening now and looking for more decisive moments, instead of going back to a moment that is already gone. Street photography is about the now because life is about the now.

Overtown, Miami, FL (C) Juan Jose Reyes

Also, if you think about it, so what if the picture is not in perfect focus or is a little blurred? So what if the composition is not perfect?  After all, Henri Cartier-Bresson said that ” sharpness is a bourgeois concept”.  And an unconventionally composed picture might be a lot more interesting anyway. I can almost say that not chimping will make you a better street photographer.

South Beach, Miami Beach, FL. (C) Juan Jose Reyes

Don’t get me wrong I still review my pictures from time to time, when I sit down to rest or to eat etc. I just simply prefer not to do it at all and wait until I get home or even better the next day. People who shoot film don’t have a chimping problem and is one of the reasons why I might consider going back to shooting film at some point. It might come to that unless I can keep the chimping habit under control.

Calle Ocho, Miami, FL. (C) Juan Jose Reyes

I welcome all your comments on chimping and street photography.



6 thoughts on “Street Photography: To chimp or not to chimp

  1. i stopped chimping on the x-pro1 for the same exact reasons as you: battery. like you, i do feel more liberated with the image review turned off. i feel more part of the scene, more prepared for whatever gets thrown in front of me next.

  2. Never knew that term, it does fit though. I stopped champing when using my D90, but still have my preview on in the X100. Battery life is a problem especially with the non genuine ones, I will try turning off the preview, I think you make a good point about staying in the present.
    Great pics and article.

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