The Histogram

Today’s photo tip relates to your camera’s histogram……something you probably have heard about, but don’t really understand. One of my favorite sources for photography knowledge is www.outdoorphotographer.com. There you will find a wealth of information and tips to improve your photography. If you are a serious shooter, you will find the magazine very valuable.

A definition of a histogram might be “a graphic representation of the range of tones of your image from the darkest shadow to the brightest highlight. The histogram appears as a silhouette of a mountain range. The horizontal width of the histogram shows the range of tones and the height of the histogram reflects the number of pixels for a particular tonal range (taller graph means more pixels). There is no ideal shape of a histogram but there are characteristics of a good histogram, and hence your image:

  • If your histogram is weighted heavily to the left on the graph, it means your image has significant black areas which means your image could come out too dark (underexposure)
  • If your histogram is weighted heavily to the right on the graph, it means you have a large amount of highlights or bright areas where you image might be blown-out (overexposed)
  • good histogram will have a broad range of tones showing on the graph from light to dark

Your lcd screen shows you how the image will look (if you switch to the review mode). If you examine the display choices in your review (or playback) mode, one of the displays will include the histogram. That’s why it is so nice to get “instant input” from digital cameras about how you shot turned out. You can retake the shot (most of the time) and get a better image.

Step Closer and Fill Flash

There are 2 easy actions that will immediately improve your images:

1-“step up”…..when you think you are ready to take a photograph, step up closer to your subject. As the famous color photographer Eliot Porter described (click here to see more information) eliminate “non-essentials” in your image capture for a stronger image. Often we shoot before ensuring that “the telephone pole” is avoided or the ceiling light glaring above Aunt Bertha’s head is screened out.

2-“Use fill flash”……if you are taking people images with a bright background behind, the light meter in the camera will read the light behind the subject. The faces will thus be in a shadow. If you “force the flash” to go off by adjusting the flash option on your camera, the flash will “fill the light” on the subjects’ faces to balance the lighting with the brighter background light…… Viola!!!! A better image!

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