Camera screens sometimes get a bad rap from those of a traditional bent. I have waffled on alarmingly about the charms of the screenless M10-D and I stand by my comments. Not that I’m a traditionalist, you know. But there is something liberating in not having a screen, something about getting back to basics.
Yet I am probably in a minority. Most people, it has to be admitted, prefer to find a screen on their digital camera, whether they use it for composition, chimping1 while on the hoof or reviewing the images after the event. To listen to some pundits, however, you will find that there are three basic commandments for the traditional photographer:
- Thou shalt not compose thy photographs on the screen
- Thou shalt always use a viewfinder
- Thou shalt not chimp.
Mostly I conform to these traditions, out of preference rather than out of any messianic zeal. I prefer to use a viewfinder, I dislike holding the camera in front of my face while I compose on the screen and I try not to chimp because I find it distracting. That’s the whole idea of the M10-D, a zany little camera has been circumcised in the best of religious traditions.
This week, though, I’ve heard opposing voices. Heretical they may be to some, but both photographers concerned make very valid points and should be commended.
I chimp, I am proud
First up comes Dublin’s finest, Thomas Fitzgerald: “I chimp and I am proud”:
“Chimping” is one of those phrases that some photographers like to throw around with an air of superiority and a hint of condescension so they can talk down to other photographers, because they’re a “real” photographer, and real photographers never chimp.
Now that’s telling us. He concludes:
If you don’t want to check your screen, thats your prerogative and I’ve nothing against you for doing that. But people who make a point of lecturing others on the evils of chimping, aren’t better photographers, they just have bigger egos. This trope needs to end, because it’s not true, it’s misleading and its patronising. It is a great way to sound superior on YouTube though, I’ll give you that.
I do agree with Thomas that the way you work is a matter of personal preference. If you find checking results on the screen helps, then so be it. Not everyone will agree with this, of course, but the important message is to live and let live, a precept that is becoming increasingly outdated these days.
But viewfinders? Surely they are the only way to take pictures? Without
Yet composing on the screen is something that hundreds of millions of smartphone photographs regard as the norm. Even some pro-targeted cameras such as the Ricoh GR and Sigma’s new fp expect you to work without an electronic viewfinder.
The Leica T was essentially aimed at the new screen-composition brigade and the plug-in viewfinder was something of an afterthought. In the main, though, viewfinders reign supreme and the race is on to create ever bigger finders. Cameras sell on the size and excellence of their viewfinders (among other tick-box attributes).
I compose on the screen
Given that you do have an EVF in your camera, would you compose entirely on the screen as a matter of course, if not principle? Steve Meltzer, writing for Shutterbug, makes a case for sidelining that viewfinder. As he says,
I shoot most of my photos using the LCD screen on the back of my cameras rather than looking through the eyepiece viewfinder. I prefer the LCD screen, especially if it’s an articulating or side-swiveling monitor, for several reasons. I think other photographers should seriously consider how the rear screen can actually make photography easier and your images better.
Steve began his photography with a Leica M2 and is fully accustomed to the rangefinder and the electronic viewfinder. He’s no smartphone convert, then, and knows what he’s talking about. As he says, when he looked into an SLR or DSLR finder he lost his connection with the scene. “Suddenly I was looking at an image floating in darkness and I struggled to find the scene I had seen. It just didn’t work for me.”
The LCD screen works like the Leica glass viewfinder window because it doesn’t limit my peripheral vision. I can see the monitor at the same time as I can see the world around it. This also allows me to see things happening outside the frame and lets me anticipate what may be entering the picture. It is a real help photographing fast moving animals and children and sports.
So what’s your view? Are advocates of no chimping in reality old fossils with an inflated ego? And is the only thing stopping you using the screen for composition the fear that it “looks amateurish”. Let’s have a good discussion on this. Comments welcome.
Subscribe to the Macfilos mailing list to receive one message at 8 pm London time from Monday to Friday with links to our latest articles. Your address will remain confidential and will not be used for any other purpose. Every email contains an unsubscribe link so you may cancel at any time. We hope you will join us in helping make Macfilos more popular and relevant to our readers.
- Chimping is a colloquial term used in digital photography to describe the habit of checking every photo on the camera display (LCD) immediately after capture.
Some photographers use the term in a derogatory sense to describe the actions of amateur photographers, but the act of reviewing images on-camera is not necessarily frowned upon by professional or experienced photographers (Wikipedia) ↩