Archive for Sunday, February 17, 2008

Behind the Lens: Image review distraction from action

February 17, 2008


When using the image review function on your digital camera, be careful not to spend too much time evaluating the past as the present may be more interesting.

When using the image review function on your digital camera, be careful not to spend too much time evaluating the past as the present may be more interesting.

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"Behind the Lens" is a weekly look at photography, written by Journal-World staff photographers. Have an idea for the column? Contact Thad Allender, photo director, at 832-6359 or

For almost 10 years now, the LCD screen has assumed the role of the technological silver bullet for the digital-age photographer.

The image review function epitomizes and fulfills our quest for instant gratification, present company absolutely included. Although useful at times when the correct exposure is questionable, this handy-dandy little diversion is the most culpable of offenders when it comes to missing the moment.

The unofficial photographic term for the act is called "chimping." I believe it comes from the Latin root chimpanzeus photographius.

Imagine the scene if you will. Ten or so photographers are all sitting cross-legged on the baseline of a basketball court. In perfect cadence, they scratch their heads with varying expressions while studying the back of their cameras during a timeout. Meanwhile, with eyes nearly out of their sockets, the head coach is spitting fire in the face of his center, who just dribbled the ball off his foot out of bounds with 10 seconds remaining and down by two.

In the days of film, photographers were less likely to call it quits after capturing what they had guessed to be a nice moment. Many photographic eyes welled with tears at the light table when it became clear that the main subject of their Pulitzer Prize-winning image had a severe blinking disorder. Such moments of sorrow and frustration instilled the idea that it was well-worth it to stick around a little longer and to shoot a few more rolls just to make sure.

A fear of the unknown quite often motivated a great photo back in the day. However, now we know too much, and our own complacency with average and readily viewable pictures holds us back.

The solution to the problem can most likely be found in your garage or underneath the kitchen sink.

Step 1: Simply cut four 3-inch strips of electrical tape.

Step 2: Place each strip horizontally across your LCD screen until it is no longer viewable.

Step 3: Do not remove the tape.

Step 4: Begin shooting photographs while fighting the ever-present urge to remove the tape.

Step 5: Use excess tape to cover the "check engine" light on your dashboard. Sometimes the unknown is less intimidating when out of plain view.


ccp 10 years, 4 months ago

excellent point, Nick. As a former photojournalist, I see the advantage of the screen. (I once shot an assignment with no film in my camera...still trying to figure out what happened there), But I can't count the number of times I would have missed what later became a portfolio shot if I hadn't stuck around til the end, just to be sure I had what I needed.

KLATTU 10 years, 4 months ago

For every shot a digital photographer loses because of chimping, the film photographer lost one too because of reloading film.

Chimping may be new to photojournalists, but many other types of photographers have been using it for 60+ years. They called it Polaroid, and found that instant feedback was often a powerful tool to increase productivity.

mom_of_three 10 years, 4 months ago

That was funny. I am just a mom who likes to take pictures. I find myself missing great moments because I cheer too much for the teams I watch. But I have also been know to take a couple hundred pictures during a game, and maybe get 50 good ones.
But I did go to the LJ World photography event last month, and got some great tips. i should come out with more useable pictures now.

David Klamet 10 years, 4 months ago

Another bad habit I didn't realize I had...until now.

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