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06-03-2014, 05:30 AM   #1
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Histogram- using it. Any good reads?

Anyone know of a good article, or some good tips/ tricks that they have picked up themselves, on how to utilize the histogram?

06-03-2014, 06:27 AM   #2
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I have only read in "The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3, Pg 177" by Scott Kelby.
I am paraphrasing here...
Most pro photogs including him do not use the histogram. It only shows there is data loss in the pic, but not where in the pic.
Data loss is the overexposed part of a pic, so turn on highlight warning, flashing part of the pic on the display. Adjust the EV and reshoot to get rid of the overexposed area.
06-03-2014, 06:44 AM   #3
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I use the histogram with highlight/shadow warnings and adjust my shooting to get the best compromise between the two extreme ends of the histogram. Sometimes it's not possible to capture everything like during bright sunny says with strong shadows. At that point you have to decide what you're willing to give up and which is more important. I usually use spot metering to get my subject properly exposed and then post process the highlights/shadows as best as I can to balance the image.
06-03-2014, 06:58 AM   #4
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06-03-2014, 07:31 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ROBEFFY Quote
Most pro photogs including him do not use the histogram.
And the majority of those "pro photogs" started with film and have no idea what a histogram is. I took a class from a local pro a few weeks ago and he checked the histogram and adjusted for nearly every shot. He noted that for him it was the best thing ever invented as he could get his shot perfectly exposed. He is a landscape shooter, so plenty of time to contemplate.

The shape of the histogram is less important than the horizontal boundaries. You want some data in as much of it as you can. Bright contrasty days that is easy, gray overcast days you might not have anything on the edges but that is what there is.

Many subscribe to ETTR which means Expose To The Right. Basically try to get each shot with some pixels of the histogram right up to the right edge WITHOUT going over. Anything going up the right edge is overexposed and lost. But you need that right edge data so expose so that you are right up to the line. But remember on a day with white clouds, or with snow in the scene you will have some pure white so you will have pixels up the right edge.

When shooting quick I turn on the 'blinkies' or the overexposure indicator on the preview screen. Then I expose so I have just a few 'blinkies' in white areas. Say there is a white cloud in the scene, you should have a couple blinkies in the whitest part of the cloud, because it is pure white.
06-03-2014, 10:33 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by ROBEFFY Quote
I have only read in "The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3, Pg 177" by Scott Kelby.
I am paraphrasing here...
Most pro photogs including him do not use the histogram. It only shows there is data loss in the pic, but not where in the pic.
Data loss is the overexposed part of a pic, so turn on highlight warning, flashing part of the pic on the display. Adjust the EV and reshoot to get rid of the overexposed area.
I've seen quite a few workshops and seminars where Kelby followed around other pros for a day. All I can say is that he's a wannabe photographer, slightly above the Ken Rockwell level. He may be a good businessman and education marketer, but he's not impressed me with his skills as a photographer. His books are a mix of good and bad info.

Having said that, the histogram is a valuable tool, like a light meter. Do you need it? No. Can you use it to improve yourself? Yes. Those who don't use it are mostly the ones who simply don't understand what it does.
06-03-2014, 12:56 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by OregonJim Quote
Having said that, the histogram is a valuable tool, like a light meter. Do you need it? No. Can you use it to improve yourself? Yes. Those who don't use it are mostly the ones who simply don't understand what it does.
+1 It is just a tool. And some of those 'pros' who disdain the histogram would not hesitate to pull out their light meter and do some checking. It's just what you are used to. I took a class from a seasoned veteran awhile back and he constantly harped about 'not needing all these fancy gadgets', meaning the histogram and the blinkies. He got in a little tirade every time he caught someone looking at the histogram or even the image review. "Get it right in the camera, don't keep looking at the darn screen". The reality was he had no idea how to use a histogram so he just belittled it.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong histogram. It is just a representation of the light in a scene. No different than taking a spot meter and checking the brightest and darkest areas. Each scene will be different. If you are taking a shot on a gray overcast day you should expect a bell curve centered in the histogram with nothing at the sides because that is what the scene is. If you are shooting on a bright day with white puffy clouds and dark shadows, then you might have pixels going up both the left and right sides of the histogram, because that is what the scene is.What you want to watch for is a histogram that obviously does not represent what you see. For example on a gray day if the histogram is piled on the right side then your image is going to be overexposed, because the scene is NOT all piled up on the bright side.
06-03-2014, 01:38 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by derelict Quote
Anyone know of a good article, or some good tips/ tricks that they have picked up themselves, on how to utilize the histogram?
Image review with the Histogram overlay is the modern Polaroid test photo. I live on it, ignoring the in camera meter. My incident light meter is with me and I use a flash meter for studio but I'm so used to the image/ histogram feedback, I seldom use them. Once I have a base exposure, I modify on the fly with the Image Review / Histogram, even at events.

The camera display JPEG image can be a real fooler. The Histogram will show you dynamic range captured. While the camera Histogram is limited to showing JPEG range, I shoot DNGs so its close enough. Its a valuable, instant information source.

Any version of the book Real World Camera Raw by Schewe & Fraser will explain the histogram in depth. I've lent my copy to a number of friends. Invest the time to read & digest.

06-03-2014, 05:48 PM   #9
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No need to over think it imo. It's just a distribution of the brightness of pixels in the image from dark (left) to bright (right). If your photo needs to retain the detail at bright areas, just make sure the histogram isn't pushed passed the right side. Shadow areas are a bit easier to recover in post especially shooting raw. (but there are consequences to push the shadow too much)
06-10-2014, 06:55 AM   #10
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The point made earlier about the histogram showing brightness, but not WHERE that brightness is, is very important .... Many single exposures can only be a compromise, when total dynamic range exceeds the sensors limits. The job of image review work is to judge what to prioritise in any given scene.

For many brightly lit images, there may be bright 'specular' highlights, scattered around or on one shiny reflective surface. If this covers a fair area then it will likely influence the metering, downwards. If we automatically aim to pull the histogram data down to just reach the right edge, we risk lowering the base midtone values too much, resulting in under exposure and subsequent brightening on the computer ... Not an optimal approach to exposure.

In many scenes these highlights could better be left to blow a bit, depending on the objects and surfaces involved ... The histogram cannot show where or what highlights are involved. We need to assess the scene independently to make that judgement. In many cases optimal exposure will be slightly higher than metered (ettl) with a little highlight data rising up the right edge of the graph with no need to 'recover' anything.
06-10-2014, 07:35 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
The point made earlier about the histogram showing brightness, but not WHERE that brightness is, is very important .... Many single exposures can only be a compromise, when total dynamic range exceeds the sensors limits. The job of image review work is to judge what to prioritise in any given scene.
That ^^

I've never found a solid use for the histogram. It's enabled but I rely much much more on clipping warning.
06-10-2014, 07:59 AM   #12
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I prefer to see the histogram as it gives an overview of DR generally and the shape of the data can often suggest which way to go with any exposure adjustment if re-shooting. The 'blinkies' are a less precise guide IMO, and only cover the two extremes. So for me, I'd recommend the histogram backed up by real-time direct viewing of the critical parts of the image.
06-10-2014, 03:23 PM   #13
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Don't.
I never found a use where it gave adequate results. It is a representation of the JPG preview so it is hardly a fair or accurate representation of the actual image.
Assuming you shoot in raw. I could see where it may be more useful if you shoot directly to jpeg.
06-10-2014, 04:25 PM   #14
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If you shoot raw as I do then just make sure that your camera custom settings are as neutral as possible in exposure & contrast affecting parameters ... Sure, the jpeg is compressed in range somewhat, but setting high/low contrast parameters a little bit expanded will restore the balance a bit. The histogram is still an invaluable guide to the scenes DR & metering effects in relation to natural brightness I think.
06-11-2014, 02:08 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by OregonJim Quote
I've seen quite a few workshops and seminars where Kelby followed around other pros for a day. All I can say is that he's a wannabe photographer, slightly above the Ken Rockwell level. He may be a good businessman and education marketer, but he's not impressed me with his skills as a photographer. His books are a mix of good and bad info.

Having said that, the histogram is a valuable tool, like a light meter. Do you need it? No. Can you use it to improve yourself? Yes. Those who don't use it are mostly the ones who simply don't understand what it does.
I quite like what you have to say at the end, about needing it, no, but using it to improve, Yes.

It is a tool, and offers information.

---------- Post added 06-11-2014 at 04:16 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Brooke Meyer Quote
Image review with the Histogram overlay is the modern Polaroid test photo. I live on it, ignoring the in camera meter. My incident light meter is with me and I use a flash meter for studio but I'm so used to the image/ histogram feedback, I seldom use them. Once I have a base exposure, I modify on the fly with the Image Review / Histogram, even at events.

The camera display JPEG image can be a real fooler. The Histogram will show you dynamic range captured. While the camera Histogram is limited to showing JPEG range, I shoot DNGs so its close enough. Its a valuable, instant information source.

Any version of the book Real World Camera Raw by Schewe & Fraser will explain the histogram in depth. I've lent my copy to a number of friends. Invest the time to read & digest.
I'll look for this book, Real World Camera Raw! Thanks for mentioning it.
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