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‘Chimping’ is not for amateurs

As I have been teaching more new boudoir photographers, I have noticed during our demo shoot I repeat this:  “Stop and look at the back of your camera, and check out the shots as you take them. Make sure you are capturing what you think you are.”  I think they are just so excited to be shooting, they are in the moment, and go with it.

But looking can save your ass if you happen to need to tweak something. It sounds so simple, yet I have to say it about 50 times in a day when I am working with a new photographer.

I’ve heard some photographers talk badly about looking at the back your camera—calling it “chimping”—like the photographer doesn’t know what she’s doing if she keeps looking. They say don’t look at the back of your camera because you lose the connection with your client. I disagree.  I aim to look at every shot, and I explain to my client why I look as well.

I can’t see that my client looks as good as I want her to until I check the capture. With film, you’re stuck waiting until it gets back from the lab. With a digital camera, you have that benefit of seeing the photo seconds after you take it.

As I’m checking, I can still interact, talk and laugh with my client. I don’t feel I lose the connection with her if I stop and look at my camera back. She’s probably used to it–she does the same thing when she takes a shot with her digital camera.

Things to look for

  1. BLINKS!  I never see these as I take the photo, and what If I didn’t look and thought I nailed it. How do I even know I nailed it if I don’t look?
  2. An angle of the face or body that just needs a little TWEAK!
  3. Distracting things in the background that you may not have noticed.
  4. Something with posing that needs to be tweaked.
  5. With natural light shooters—exposure changes as clouds come and go, you need to adjust your expose along with that. If you don’t look, you may be improperly exposed and lose those images.
  6. With strobe shooters—what if the strobe didn’t fire? It isn’t always super-obvious in the moment if it fired or not. If you are going with the flow and shooting two, three, four frames… hopefully you notice. I’ve not looked and realized too late that the darn strobe didn’t fire. Triggers can be a real pain in the ass. If they mess up, at least catch it early!

It’s happened to me

Yesterday, I got caught up in the moment and didn’t look at the back of the camera. Her corset was being difficult, and I was trying to capture as quickly as I could before her breasts fell out again. I wasn’t looking at the back of the camera, and damn it if the strobe wasn’t firing. I didn’t notice until a few shots in, and of course, one of the best shots was in the unlit set.

If I would have checked the screen sooner, I would have saved a few good shots. We tried to recreate it, but the moment was lost. I sort of saved one shot, but it took a lot of editing to make it “OK”. Don’t believe me? Look below to see how I missed 10 frames without realizing it.


All of this seems super simple. Don’t rush. Make sure you have the shots you want before you move on. Perfecting your shot will not cause some terrible disconnect with you and your client, I promise!

Heather Walker

Heather Walker, owner of Columbus Boudoir, in Ohio, has shot boudoir exclusively since 2008. She has been working as a portrait photographer for many more years, but once introduced to boudoir and how you can make women feel amazing about themselves, she was hooked! Heather now operates a very successful boudoir business and teaches other photographers the art of boudoir through one on one mentoring classes at her studio.

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  • June 18, 2014 - 1:33 PM

    Danea - Fantastic and I TOTALLY agree with you. I still miss shots because I have moved MY position around the client and forgot to recheck my metering. Since I work with natural, directional light every change in my position can affect light and metering.

    As for client interaction… when I “chimp” I often get excited and sometimes squeal when I nailed the shot… this, they have told me afterwards, helped them relax and feel like a supermodel. My excitement added to THEIR excitement! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • June 18, 2014 - 10:17 PM

      Heather Walker - Yes Danea, it does add to their excitement too, I forgot to mention that, great point! I show them some amazing shots, and they get excited!!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2014 - 2:23 PM

    Leslie - I definitely still chimp. I think that instant feedback helps enormously with training my eye. Let’s be real, light looks different to the naked eye than it does based on camera exposure.ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2014 - 2:26 PM

    Jennifer Williams - I check the back of my camera constantly when I’m shooting. My goal is to get everything 100% perfect in camera so I don’t have to spend more time editing. Taking a few extra seconds to check my work as I go saves me hours on the back end.ReplyCancel

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