FILM. No chimping, no surprises. By Gary Macker


I’ve been through my own GAS cycle going from Canon 5D to Leica with side trips to the NEX and Fuji. The current equipment is Leica and Olympus. Recently, I bought an M6 and have been working with film, developing it at home. I scan the negatives/positives with an Epson V600. One great thing about film is the experience of waiting, developing, and then seeing what you got. NO CHIMPING.

I was shooting with the M9, M6, and X-Pro on my last vacation trip. The lenses used for these photos were a Voigtlander 15mm and a Leica 35mm Summarit-M. I usually work with 50mm and longer lenses so this was a departure from standard for me.

Film stock was Fuji Velvia, KODAK TMAX 100, KODAK Tri-X 400 pushed to 1000. Why push to 1000? Because I read an article, and I could.

Black and White developed in XTOL, Velvia developed by lab.

I make no claims as a great photographer or darkroom chemist. You can see that with just a few changes to equipment and chemistry a wide variety of looks are possible.

The last picture in this series came about when I was using up the last frames of a roll. Shooting the boys jumping in the pool and then there was a guest appearance…


Leica M9, Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5

(It was very hazy so I used a circular polarizing filter forgetting the effect it would have on a 15mm lens, thus the uneven sky color)

Leica M6, 35mm Summarit-M. Kodak Tri-X 400

Leica M6, 35mm Summarit-M, Fuji Velvia

Leica M6, Voigtlander 15mm, Kodak TMAX 100
Leica M6, 35mm Summarit-M, Kodak Tri-X 400
Stop the camera madness!!!!!


  1. Chimping is not about whether the photo is good or bad. Its about editing your work. Its about the emotional attachment you feel towards a photo you just took which you think is great but is indeed crap. Not seeing your photo for a long time allows you to loose some of that emotional attachment which clouds your judgement.

    Chimping also causes you to miss moments because you’re staring at your screen instead of watching the scene. Some of my best photos have been the 3rd or 4th shot of the same scene. Dont shoot one photo and chimp, you’re missing out.

  2. “The third image for example has a major colour cast problem from the internal lighting… Skin is not meant to be orange like that…”

    I think orange skin is just as pleasing, valid and realistic as black and white skin.

    As far as chimping goes, immediate feedback is the best and fastest way to learn. It is silly to deny yourself this advantage. Of course, as you become more skilled and experienced you have less need to check on your results.

  3. I love the Tri-X shots! I have been a fan of Tri-X since I first started shooting with it in 1978. While I had to go digital for work, I used Tri-X in a Yashica Electro35 GS since I acquired it when my dad passed away in 1997. I still shoot with it today doing my own developing then scanning with a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED. Gives me the best of both worlds IMO!!!

    Love the last shot!

  4. Thanks Gary, very nice work. By coincidence I went by the Grand Canyon last May, also shooting both M9 and M6 (Ektar & Portra 400). I still enjoy using the M6 more, and something about the film images is more appealing. And, yes, I still shoot the M9 as if it were a film camera; I wouldn’t miss the LCD on it at all.

  5. Great shots! Absolutely terrific the last one!
    I read you used a Voigtländer 15mm with polarising filter (i guess it’s a Voigtländer 15mm F/4.5 Heliar II) .. I wish to buy that lens used too for my NEX-6 but i wondered how is using filters ( overall rotating filers ) with that weird hood..! I read somewhere that after you screw them in, you may not ever be able to remove them! Grad ND and Polarizers above all!
    If it was too hard I’d go for a Heliar I with no filter thread.
    Thank you!!

    • I used the Heliar II. And, it is possible to put filters in and out, but you have to be careful about how far you screw them in. Too far and you will have to use a fingernail or knife tip to coax the rotation.

      As to CornerFix, I haven’t been able to create a reliable file and files available for download don’t seem to work well in my case. I set the M9 lens to 21mm and live with the results.

  6. For those who difficult to see what is in the last picture (that earned accolades from the readers)… this picture could be categorized as “urban photography”. And what is depicted there is a very strong scene in the urban life. It is probably Gary’s luck to be able to freeze this moment… Maybe he originally never intended to capture the woman that seems pass and shouting in the front… but what has been frozen now will be eternal… Post process it a bit or burn/dodge it to play with the contrast while printing… we have a potential urban photo masterpiece here…

  7. One great thing about film is the experience of waiting, developing, and then seeing what you got. NO CHIMPING

    Put gaffer’s tape over the LCD of any DSLR/MILC. Exact same thing, a lot less work. You’re welcome.

  8. “One great thing about film is the experience of waiting, developing, and then seeing what you got.” Your kidding right? You’d rather wait hours, days, instead of the inconvenience of chimping?

    • Its a good tip to have some time inbetween shooting and processing (if you have that luxury). The images look and feel different when you start forgetting the moment you pressed the shutter and start seeing the image as it is.

    • I would rather wait. I like the delayed gratification, I like seeing the envelope of processed film on my desk and wondering if I’ve got something good. Now, sure I could do that with digital if I wanted to, but the point of delayed gratification is that you have no choice. A child looks forward to Christmas, if he could bring it forward to today, he would, but we know that he’ll enjoy the build up more if he has to wait.

      Getting something, quicker, sooner, and in a more convenient manner is very often the least enjoyable. It’s quicker and easier to play Pool not Snooker, it’s a far easier game, the tables are smaller so you have probably have one in your house. The games are over much quicker, and it’s easier to clear up. But I much prefer the game of Snooker, I like that I’m crap at it and still learning, I like the frustration, I like that it’s difficult. I want challenges, a hobby which is easy soon becomes boring.

  9. Whilst I’m grateful the photographer has taken the time to share their work, I’m sorry but I’m just not seeing anything special in this set, including the last one… The third image for example has a major colour cast problem from the internal lighting… Skin is not meant to be orange like that…

  10. No chimping? So does looking at the photo a month later somehow alter the photo than if you were to look at it a second later. Excuse my ignorance, I thought that once you take a photo, film or digital, it’s done with. How does not looking at the photo a second after you take it make a difference? does the photo in the film change if you don;t look at it for a month or so? Does the digital file change if you look at it a second later? Is it only chimping if you look at your picture a second later? Is it better to chimp in the dark room as apposed to the lcd screen?

    • Chimping. Is that really a word? And if it is, do we actually need to use it? How many of the greats such as Adams, Bresson, Frank, etc. would have IGNORED a 3″ LCD screen of a photo they just took, had it been available at the time? Can you be absolutely certain that photo icons such as Eve Arnold, Bill Brandt and Arnold Newman would have ignored instant, perfect copies of their work if they’d been offered that option? Of course not, and because of this they would all have been “chimpers” in their time. What a bullshit word. Getting immediate feedback on something you’ve “created” is fantastic. Enjoy it. What an incredible luxury! If you don’t like it, turn your LCD screen OFF or go back to using film. End of story. And don’t use that fake, fucking work again.

      • Chimping is word invented by film camera snobs. It was created to be-little anyone using a digital camera. The fact is that it doesn’t matter if you look at your shitty photo a second later or a month…shit is still shit, a second later or a month later. As if by not knowing what you took auntil you develope it would it imply that one has more does not. You do the same kind of thing with a digital camera as you do with a film camera, you look, and you press the shutter. Of course with film you have to wait a month until you can see what kind of shit you just paid to have developed.

        Chimping is not a real word, but to some dumb asses it is.Digital allows you to see the shit you’ve taken and delete it a second later. Digital is a natural progression of film, and had digital been invented before film, you can bet your life that you would never see any kind of film in the world.

        As for Adams, he would have been on the computer doing PP 24-7, but knowing how digital would put Adams out of work, he may have stuck with his old film processes. Adams is known for his printing skilss, as his photos are nothing short of the same old same old in landscape, I’ve seen same or better nowadays. You can only copy nature in photograpy, burning and dodging is just PP. Adams was great at printing, but his photos are boring in every aspect, i like nature, but there’s more than just copying nature with a camera.the creator makes the landscape, you cant change anything except be at certain place and time to click the shutter.

      • Woah, take it easy dude, or else you’re gonna explode like na over microwaved bag of shit. I don’t like the word chimping anymore than you do…that was my point.

    • I think the idea is that you chimp right away, make a decision about whether you like the shot or not, and maybe take it again if you don’t. It’s not a matter of looking at it, it’s a matter of checking it and repeating if you want to. That’s what people tend not to like I think.

      I don’t really have an opinion on whether chimping is bad or not. On one hand perhaps a sort of perfection is good, and it’s certainly reassuring to know you’ve got the photo you want. On the other, maybe it’s more valuable to learn to trust your instincts.

      • Chimping a hundred times in 10 seconds is no different than looking at the print a hundred times a month later. The difference is that, the subject has long gone a month later. My point is that chimping is a word made up by film snobs who think that somehow by not “chimping” there is greater skill in camera work. A shit photo is shit a second after you look at it or a month later. At least with digital, you have a chance of seeing the wrong you did then and there instead of when you pay to develope the shit. People are not worring about the photo anymore but worrying about “processes” and how to work. People worry abouth the “look” of something rather than the whole photo. People worry about how many shades of gray a photo has instead of the photo. People worry about what kind of camera they use instead of the photo.

    • NO CHIMPING was a tongue in cheek caption to emphasize the joy I got when I discovered the last shot of the series; a result of using film. I Chimp the M9 all the time.

      • You may see it as tongue and cheek and i dont doubt that…but unfortunately, alot of film using douchebags don’t see it that way.

  11. “Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 1000. Why pushed to 1000? Because I read an article, and I could.”
    Why keep my GAS? Because I read many articles on Steve’s site, and I could.
    Love your last picture. Have taken a similar one with my wife in the foreground but she would kill me in a heartbeat if I post it…

  12. Great shots. Did you use cornerfix to clean up the corners of the one you shot with the CV15 on the M9. I have that same combination and if I don’t convert to BnW cornerfix is essential otherwise I get that well known color shifting.

    Really like the BnW of the canyon. Reminds me of Ansel Adams, as all BnW landscapes tend to. I was just there and I think I have a very similar photo. Breathtaking views.

  13. Prints 1,2,3,and 4 so far have earned, “great”, “excellent”, “very astonishing”, “great work”. I might have missed something, but I wish the commentators had explained why they awarded those accolades.

    The diving boy and screeching woman seems to have hit the mark with some and I sincerely hope the admirers who want to purchase the shot contact the photographer and follow through on their words. What price, I wonder. US $550.00 ? $1,500 ? Let’s know what you decide.

    • The way I see that image is of a group of young people having an awesome time in the pool with the focus on the jumping in. That is the focal point for all the others in the pool. I could just see them doing laps of that jump! The lady is the either the “adult” and/or mother who is in charge….and she’s not happy with someone!

      To catch that expression, with the jump illustrating what’s at play (boys skylarking) in my mind brings a classic suburban scene all together.

      But that’s the beauty of photography…..I may have missed the mark.

      I personally didn’t say I’d buy it (I described it as a cracker!) though suspect most people were stating it in a hypothetical sense!

      • OK. But I see at least one male adult in the pool observing what happens at a pool any day of the week – a young lad diving into the water. Yep. And the other (possible) adults are all watching the jump. Yep. I doubt the woman/banshee is the distracted ‘mother’ (too far away even to get wet). Still, it’s a photo of typical pool fun, and some others might have seen it as one of the greatest photos ever to come before them.

        “I would buy a print in a heartbeat”, didn’t sound too hypothetical. What’s your (hypothetical) price, Andrew?

        • Don’t have one, never did….but I appreciate what Greg has captured.

          ” I doubt the woman/banshee is the distracted ‘mother’ (too far away even to get wet).” I didn’t see it as getting wet but maybe trying to pull someone else into line (perhaps a youngster running madly around the pool…

          Greg has got a shot with great composition and as I said he’s captured an urban scene that obviously resonates with people. I don’t know Greg but if this family it could be invaluable to him as a person or simply as photographer.

          I’ve seen a lot worse photos sold for a lot or included in a book which sells thousands…..!!!

          So James…can we have look at your photos?

          • My comment about (not) getting wet was do do with the disconnect between the woman and the imminent splash.

            I assume you ask to see my photos less out of curiosity and more out of, “well, smart ass, let’s see if you can do any better”. Am I right?
            Perhaps I have, and certainly I would have zillions worse, too.

            I have not posted any on this forum but I don’t feel constrained to remain silent, any more than entering the Louvre and remaining quiet about the Mona Lisa (er, no Steve would not claim this is a Louvre equivalent).

            Elsewhere you might have seen photo blogs that have died when only Pollyanna comments were allowed and truly ordinary and mundane snaps were accorded ludicrous praise. People leave very quickly when they know the site is populated by dopes who can’t discriminate between awful and talented.
            There were no awful shots above, but perfectly good shots albeit nothing too out of the ordinary. But what language is left when you, Andrew, send in some absolute stunners and you get the same glowing praise as was given to Aunt Gladys’s withered gladioli?

            At least you know when I praise your work it will be genuine, not pro-forma rote.

          • I assume you ask to see my photos less out of curiosity and more out of, “well, smart ass, let’s see if you can do any better”. Am I right?

            Answer – NO you are not right. I am genuinely curious to see how you see the world. This forum is full of photographers from all different levels, genres, cultures, etc. It’s what makes photography interesting. You are here looking and reading… all of us. i click on peoples names in these comments regularly if they have attached a hyperlink into their work.

            I have not said you are wrong in not liking it at all or commenting on it. I simply, in the initial instance, answered your question (or should say responded to your opinion) as to “what do people see in this image thats so good?”

            And to be honest I can not speak for anyone else, only me.

            As for pro-forma rote I can only trust that anyone who has said they think it’s a great photo, genuinely do think that. To come out and intimate that those people are not being genuine is a bit harsh.

            For the record here are my photos. No where near the standard of professional photographers on this site, and considered boring and technically poor but to me just pieces of time I have managed to keep hold of through a photo.


    • The diving picture was a total accident. The woman walked into the frame just as I was pressing the shutter. My point about no chimping was really that I had no idea that picture existed until I looked at the negatives on a light table. The surprise of seeing that picture during development as opposed to on the spot (with digital) was, to me, a much great experience. Others may prefer a different experience.

      • Not surprised you mention that Gary. I have not taken many film shots in my past but I appreciate what you are saying. It’s just different when you wait.

  14. I’m not seeing anything that can’t be achieved with a decent digital camera, a decent lens and some proficiency with Photoshop.

  15. Gary great work. Yep the last one is a cracker!!

    Do you do much PP with your film once scanned?

    Those B&W have something much deeper in them than the M! And I don’t shoot film!

    • I do virtually zero post processing on the film scans. I try the Auto Enhance setting in Lightroom to get an idea of what might be worthy of change. I tweak the exposure a bit if I feel that the image needs it.

    • I think that the way to defeat GAS is to concentrate on improving your pictures. One of the great things about this site and about the daily inspiration posts is that it allows us to see great pics taken on such a variety of equipment, it helps you to realise that it is not the gear that matters.

      Thanks Gary for your contribution.


  16. Hi Gary,

    Great pics! Like you I shoot both film (primarily Tri-X 400) and digital and with film, I develop my own film and scan the negatives with a V600 as well. However, I am really struggling with minimizing grain in film.

    Simply because I had no choice in terms of the sizing, I’ve got a big batch of D-76 developer but as I already alluded to, I’m really struggling with minimizing grain. Have you used D-76 before and did you find your film quite grainy with D-76? Is that why you use Xtol? What about HC-110?

    I’d really appreciate it if you described your workflow with your film photos – I would really appreciate it.


    • Try XTOL. You’ll have way less noticeable grain. I used to be a TMax and TriX fan but I found my favorite combination for a fast B&W and low grain is now Ilford Delta 400 developed in XTOL. It looks good even pushed 2 stops. I also have had good results pushing Ilford HP5 3 stops to 3200 using XTOL to develop. I have several galleries with samples linked below if you are interested in the results.

    • Kevin,
      When I was developing b/w many years back, I recall that I got good results with several combinations, including Plus-X and Ilford HP4 in Agfa Rodinal. I think I recall HP4 being somewhat finer or “tighter” grained than Tri-X. Of course, the ULTIMATE in fine grain (read : NO grain) was Kodak Technical Pan Film (in very diluted Rodinal). Of course, that film had an ASA of 25, but the results were, dare I say, like 4×5 sheet film in detail and sharpness! (I exaggerate to make a point.) I tended to like HC-110, D-76, and my favorite, Rodinal. I miss those days (but not the aroma)!

    • I’m doing this for fun so I consider it all experiments. So far I develop per the KODAK instructions and keep a log so that if I like the results I can try to reproduce it.

      I did use D-76 for several rolls. Most recently I developed another roll of Trix-X pushed using R09 One Shot (Agfa Rodinal). I really liked the results with Rodinal, including the grain. Frequency and amount of agitation has an effect on the outcome. I wish I could tell you the magic secret to getting exactly what you want, but I am in the learning phase. The internet is your friend in this case.

      I am now a big fan of Rodinal.

  17. Excellent article and pictures! As a former b/w devotee (and Ansel Adams student), I appreciate good black and white images when I see them.
    However, as a potential OM-D user, I was wondering about your take of that system (with good Oly primes), in terms of image sharpness (both b/w and color). I did see Steve’s favorable review and comparison to the Leica M. Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving to you, Steve, and all us passionate photogaphers!

    • I have an OM-D with Panasonic 20mm and Olympus 45mm. Excellent camera. I also use it with a Leica 135mm lens when I want to go for long lens shots. The in body stabilization is what led me to get and keep the camera.

      Really, all the gear written about here is excellent and the resulting pictures are excellent.

      Personal preference is the final decider.

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