“Ooo, ooo, I wanna see!”…Just don’t forget a grain of salt.

Photo courtesy of Rick Phillips and Flickr.com
“Chimping the Chimpers” Photo courtesy of Rick Phillips and flickr.com

While out on recent photo shoots, I recognized something that is not only relatively new in the world of photography but carries with it a much more complicated dynamic. And I’m sure just about everyone photographer and client, on some level, can relate to this.

Photographers know this all too well: You are out on a shoot, you say “smile, look this way and one, two, three”…click! The image is headed to the disc and to the quick display on the back of your camera. Then, the excitement of the moment, finds the client immediately running toward photographer exclaiming “I wanna see! I wanna see!” Like a deer in headlights, the question often becomes: Is this OK?

It seems innocent enough and, honestly, it is. However, to help put the client’s and photographer’s minds at ease during this somewhat vulnerable moment, there are several things to consider on both sides. Let’s look at the client’s first:

Be wary of too many teasers: Like I said, it is innocent. Clients are excited. Who wouldn’t want a sneak peek of wonderful portraits to come? I mean, you offer me a glimpse of anything Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens right now and I would have a hard time resisting the “I wanna see!” urge. This is totally understandable. In a world of digital photography where the image arrives instantly on the camera’s rear screen, the temptation to “chimp” (the act of a photographer immediately looking at the image after capture) can be great. However, not unlike viewing too many new Star Wars trailers/teasers and TV spots, you want to be careful not to ruin too much of the big reveal later.

Time goes fast in a shoot: Each time the client wants to “chimp” an image (I’m not sure if there is a different term for clients who immediately view the image) they not only eat into their session time by walking over for a look, but also by having to return and get back into position for another shot. And this is to say nothing of those who fret a bit over a fly-away hair or other easily-Photoshopped blemish and let that dictate an immediate, unnecessary reshoot.

A grain of salt: Lastly, from the client’s perspective, make no mistake, you are viewing the image prematurely…and on a tiny little screen, no less. Essentially, you are seeing the image exactly as it will come out of the camera, which is seldom how it is presented to you in the final form. This could lead to disappointment where there need not be. Everything from color balance, blemish touch-ups to highlight/shadow will be added later to really bring that image to life. Believe me, not unlike Star Wars VII, it is likely worth the wait.

This brings me to the photographer’s perspective in this scenario. Speaking from experience, I typically don’t mind the “I wanna see” times. However, even I can get a little anxiety in these moments and there are good reasons why.

Raw honey: Like I noted above, a photographer can be a little gun shy about showing their clients the raw image on scene. Granted, up front, the professional’s image should be a lot better that of an amateur, however, it goes a little further than this. Even though the image might immediately look great, the photographer likely already “sees” how that image is going to shine after all the blemish removal, color balancing, highlight/shadow enhancement, cropping, etc. The client, on the other hand and at no fault of their own, might not consider this and might instead have an air of disappointment upon seeing their image in raw form, unduly souring the experience. Years ago, one of my wife’s former bosses noted it is very rare that an image comes out of a camera without the need for editing. This is a good thing for both photographers and clients alike to keep in mind while “chimping” an image. For more on raw verses edited images, check my blog: Straight Outta Camera? You probably wouldn’t want that.

A more complicated grain of salt: While it might be a little unnerving for a photographer to show a raw image in general, the impromptu “I wanna see” moment could cause a bit more anxiety when it is of an image which will likely not be seen again. I’ll admit, just because one is a professional photographer, does not mean every portrait they snap is gold. For multiple reasons, whether it be a focus or lighting issue, someone’s eyes were shut, or the pose simply did not work, some portraits are tossed to the cutting room floor. For any photographer, it is inevitable an “I wanna see” moment will come up following one of these misfires and, once again, it runs the risk of souring the rest of the portrait experience. Let’s face it: If the photographer knew right away it was likely not a keeper, can you imagine what he/she is thinking or feeling as the client is viewing it too? I can!

It can interrupt the moment: Like any “chimping”, the mood of the photographic moment could be ruined by the photographer looking at every image, let alone by the subject themselves running over to see after each click. The moments between images and each one after the first click can really create a comfortable flow and, thereby, capture a more natural look. If too much “chimping” is taking place, this flow is ruined, if not impossible. This can become even more disenchanting if one falls into a perfectionist’s quest running back and forth trying to perfect the previous shot.

So, is there ever a time when the photographer wants to let the client “chimp” a bit? Well, that ultimately depends on the photographer, but I would say “yes”. Even though this practice, wrought by the digital photography age, is something with which professional photographers must contend and make peace, like many things, there are advantages to this instant view feature as well. One is if I want to give the client a general idea of what I am going for or what I would like them to do. Another is when I do professional head shots (a client posing for a chest-up shot intended for business cards and posters), I find it never hurts to let the client see a few raw images. Not only are these sessions more time-friendly, but you want to make sure you capture their public face just right and to their liking. But, like I indicate above, even then, each view comes with a disclaimer saying editing is still yet to come.

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