Chimping and Pixel Peeping Are Not Dirty Words (Podcast 440)

We often here people throw around the words Chimping and Pixel Peeping with negative connotations, suggesting that doing either of these things makes you a lesser photographer. In a fun sense, I think it's fine, and can often just be camaraderie, but I cry fowl to the negative use of these terms,...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Murray Foote
    Posted at 14:25h, 22 September Reply

    No, I think chimping is bad. Consider the scenario where a group of people go Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! at a wonderful image on the back of someone’s camera. Then if they’re acting like chimps they become angry it’s not their image, try to rip out the LCD screen so they can have the image, then start to hit each other over the head with their cameras.

    Much better is bonoboing where when they go Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! and where appropriate the owner of the image says “I can show you how to get that! We can cooperate and all get even better images!”

    And Martin, you’re certainly promoting bonoboing, not chimping.

  • Alastair Arthur Photography
    Posted at 02:51h, 23 September Reply

    Good discussion Martin. I think pixel peeping just has negative connotations because it seems at the opposite end of the scale to the stuff that usually matters most about a great image (vision, emotion, beauty etc).

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 06:32h, 23 September Reply

      Yeah, for sure Alastair, and in those situations I wholeheartedly agree. I have seen people though that use it as an excuse for poor quality images, and this I’m not so happy about.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Sean Pedruco
    Posted at 12:18h, 23 September Reply

    Excellent points, Martin.

    Certain kinds of photography demand pixel peeping in this day and age. How can you share or deliver the sharpest images if you don’t pixel peep?

    It’s painfully obvious that the general public and to a certain extent some photographers have settled for convenience versus quality. I basically compare the digital age of music to that of photography. Without a doubt mp3’s are more convenient, but are sonically inferior to analog or source files.

    With the vast majority of people viewing low resolution images online and through social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, people are settling for a technically inferior image because everything looks good at 612 pixels (sarcasm). So on the whole and in that arena, there’s no distinguishing between a sharp image or “L” glass so pixel peeping isn’t needed.

    Hope the trend doesn’t continue, but I’m pretty sure it will.

    As far as chimping goes, everyone chimps and that’s just the honest truth.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:30h, 05 October Reply

      A great follow-up Sean! I couldn’t agree more.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Mark Friedman
    Posted at 07:25h, 08 October Reply

    I have heard the term “pixel peeping” used in a slightly different context than you have described. That is, when you are e.g., at a photo exhibition and you see someone examining a 20×30 or larger print from 3 inches away instead of the normal viewing distance,. My photographer friends and I call that pixel peeping and the implication is that the viewer (who is most likely a photographer) is less interested in th overall impact and quality of the photo than in whether every detail is sharp to the nth degree or whether noise is perceptible. In that context the term does have a negative connotation which I still think is appropriate.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 08:09h, 08 October Reply

      Agreed Mark, although I’ve never heard it used that way. Some photographers do tend to do that though, and I agree it’s not healthy.

  • Morante Franco
    Posted at 17:08h, 17 November Reply

    I totally agree with your thoughts on pixel peeping and chimping.

    I also dislike it when others frown upon one’s desire to render technically precise images.

    In a similar vein, there is another negative connotation I sometimes hear. That is, the best way to shoot is in JEPG mode (rather than RAW) because a real Pro will get it ‘right in-camera.’

    Everyone is an individual. In the realm of art, getting there can be half the fun. We should respect each other’s choice of vehicle and route. Nor will everyone want to reach the same destination at the same time in the first instance.

    I for one, have absolutely no shame in admitting that I enjoy the latest and greatest photo gadgets, ultra-sharp lenses, checking live-view, and look forward to Photoshop CC 2020… I sometimes even shoot a scene without any clear pre-visualisation and bracket like crazy!

    No first prize for guessing, I am also one of those people that study pictures up close. It’s a habit I picked up way back when I was learning how to paint with oil colours. I continue to pixel-peep brushstrokes (along with gallery photographs) till this day because I discovered that I gained a heightened sense of appreciation and marvel, above and beyond the emotive content of the picture, by studying other artists’ technical execution.

    Anyhow, your Podcast on pixel peeping and chimping was eloquently spoken Martin. Listening to your broadcast, I could sense a tone of anger, yet you defended your stance like a true gentleman. Bravo!

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:31h, 25 November Reply

      Hi Morante,

      Thanks for the comment! Sorry for the delayed response. Things have been busy.

      I have heard the JPEG argument too. I think this does make sense for some pros that have to send images directly over the wire from a sports event or breaking news etc. because A) they have to be quick, and B) the quality isn’t so important, as it’s going to be relatively low resolution print anyway.

      But, therein lies the problem with JPEG. The quality of the JPEG created in camera on most cameras is nowhere near as high quality as a JPEG created from a raw file on a computer. The camera generally over compresses the JPEG, losing detail, and the 8bit format comes with a loss of shadow detail etc.

      Anyway, before I go off on a rant on that one too, thanks again for the comment. I appreciate you stopping by.


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