Reading the Histogram

Another short presentation to my local camera club.  This item was on activating, reading and responding to the histogram.

A histogram is a plot of the tonal values (dark to light) captured by the millions of photosites that make up your camera sensor in a digital camera.  Just like the eye of a fly that uses thousands of tiny lenses to create one image, the digital camera uses millions of photosites to create one image.  These tonal values can be plotted on a chart available in camera that photographers can use to assess the overall exposure of their images.  One reason this chart is useful is that our eyes handle complex scenes so much better than our cameras.  Knowing what the camera sees helps you make the right choices on settings.

Most cameras show the histogram after you take the photo and display it on the LCD screen.  You can then adjust your settings for the next shot.  But higher end or newer models, especially mirrorless models, include a “live” histogram that helps you pick the right settings before you ever press the shutter.

While post-processing can address some of the problems that arise from using the wrong settings, if your image is overexposed or underexposed, there will be limits on what you can do afterward.  So use the histogram to give you an extra edge every time.

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