Histogram

Understanding Your Camera’s Histogram

February 25, 20122 Comments

Understanding Your DSLR Histogram

You don’t need to be a camera guru to understand the histogram on your digital camera. It only means that you need to learn more about your camera and its features.  To get an optimum exposure and not lose any data, it is important to interpret your digital camera’s histogram to comprehend what it means and make the appropriate exposure adjustments.

What does the graph mean?

Well, what is a digital camera histogram and what do you do with it?  This would be a great time to pull the manual out for your digital camera and learn how to display the histogram on the camera’s LCD display.  On most digital cameras the histogram can be enabled so it displays every time you take a photo.  To explain it briefly, it is a graph that shows the level of brightness of an image from the very darkest levels on the left (value 0) to the very brightest on the right (value 255), on the horizontal axis.  Camera HistogramThe graph’s height, vertical axis, is the measure of the density of image pixels of a particular tonal value.   The taller the graph for a particular tonal value the more shades of that tone will display in the photo. As you can see from the histogram on the left, there are a lot of pixels between the mid-tones and highlights.   This is a histogram from a photo of Badwater in Death Valley which because of the bright sodium deposits most of the pixels will be somewhere between the mid-tones in the center and the highlights.

Camera RGB HistogramSome histograms also display separate graphs for the level of brightness and pixel density for the three primary colors- Red, Green and Blue (RGB).  The histogram also displays in many photo editing software programs including Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture, among others.

 

Now that you have a better understanding of your digital camera’s histogram, we can move on to how you evaluate the exposure of a photograph.  After you’ve taken a photo and you are viewing the graph on your LCD display, ideally you want to see most of the graph’s pixel density between the left and right brackets. Continue Reading »

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