Concert, Photography, Tips

The Chimp, The Chump, and The Champ


Queensryche's Geoff Tate

At all levels of concert photography and all levels of photographer skill, shooting behaviors fall into three categories affectionately refered to as The Chimp, The Chump, and The Champ.

The Chimp

“Chimping” is a slang term in digital photography which describes the habit and ritual of checking a photo on the camera’s LCD following capture. While this is a useful technique to “dialing in” the exposure in controlled shooting environments, the practice of chimping during a live show can mean the difference between a portfolio worthy shot or the trash folder.

Miranda Lambert Live

Regardless of ones preferred exposure mode when shooting live music, the artists movements and lighting treatment are ever changing. As a result, any time taken away from the viewfinder results in upwards of 10 missed frames for every second spent reviewing an image. As you return to the viewfinder you may have missed the shot of the evening while being greeted with an entirely new lighting treatment and artist position -requiring new framing, shooting positions, and camera settings

Mark Boals of Royal Hunt performing Live

The Chump

“Chumping” is a self coined term which describes the act of extensive review and editing in the pit. Chumps in the pit will literally take a few frames, review their images on the camera’s LCD, zoom in to check sharpness and noise throughout the image, internally analyze and reflect upon their capture, delete unsatisfactory images, and make adjustments to their camera settings. At the extreme, I have even witnessed cell calls during this laborious process.

Joel Hoekstra of Night Ranger

The Champ

The Champ refers to photographers who maximize their allotted shooting time during a live performance assignment. Champs demonstrate poise and familiarity with their gear spending 99.9% of their time with eye to the viewfinder. They never Chump, and review images in the sequestered downtime between sets or following their departure from the venue. Champs exist at all levels of technical ability and concern themselves with capturing as many “moments” as possible during the allotted 10-15 minute shooting period. They understand that a great moment, makes a great image and thus are every ready to capture the moment.

Sebastain Bach live 2008

The more advanced Champs utilize their viewfinders heads up display including metering (with appropriate mental notes on meter vs reality) and adjust aperture and/or shutter and/or ISO accordingly with their own artistic interpretations. Champs understand shooting and editing are completely independent objectives and that the end result of editing is entirely dependent on the bounty of moments acquired in shooting,

Yngwie Malmsteen live concert photo

Allen Ross Thomas is an Atlanta, Ga based music industry photographer available for concert, promotional, portrait, and editorial coverage for local bands, national tours, multi-day festivals, and international music events.

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