Guess what! Today I wrote a post that all of you with digital cameras can read and use. I’m going to guess that a whole lot of you ignore my posts because you think you can’t use them because you don’t have a fancy camera.
This camera has a histogram:
And this camera has a histogram:
And lots of others just like them have histograms, so no excuses! Go get those manuals!
Do you know what a histogram is? It looks something like this. Have you seen it before?
Until a few weeks ago I had no idea what it meant. I just kept complaining to That Husband about images that looked way too bright like this:
or way too dark like this:
When you are using your LCD screen, it’s usually easy to see that the above images are too bright or too dark, but what about the ones that are just barely so? The image below (straight out of the camera) is a great example of this. It didn’t look so bad on the LCD screen, but when I put it on my computer I could see that her dress was so blown out that the amazing detail had been lost. Definitely something you don’t want happening with a gorgeous designer dress like Lindsey’s!
A great way to prevent this overexposure from happening is to use the histogram. A histogram is a simple graph split into 5 sections which helps you to determine how many light or dark pixels are present in your image. The left side of the histogram depicts how many “dark” pixels you have captured; the right side, how many “bright” pixels you have captured.
Below you can see three different graphs. Think of them as the Goldilocks graphs. The one on the left is too dark. The one on the right is too bright. The one in the middle is just right.
Is this making any sense? I’m awful with math and science so I figure that if I can understand this graph, pretty much anyone can.
Of course I created some sample images to help you see how this really works.
Image 1: Too bright!
On the bottom right hand side of my LCD screen you can see the histogram. See that white line on the far right side? My histogram is telling me that my image will be completely over-exposed.
The last pictures was way too bright, so I tried turning my shutter speed to 1/1600.
Image 2: Too dark!
This time the white line is on the far left side of my graph, letting me know that the image is being dominated by dark pixels.
Let’s try a shutter speed setting somewhere in the middle of what the previous two pictures were set to.
I love the color of this one, but it’s still bright enough that I’m losing some detail.
And the histogram confirms that my image is still slightly dominated by bright pixels.
Much better. Nothing is blown out this time. What does my histogram look like?
See how my white line is in the middle of the photo this time? Success! I actually wish that my white line was a little farther over to the right, but it will do for now.
I wanted to prove that you can use the histogram on your point-and-shoot just as well, so I took this picture with my G9 instead of my dSLR.
And the histogram on my G9. Look how pretty!
The ultimate histogram photo would look something like this, but I wasn’t able to achieve such a diverse dynamic range with my photo because of the setup I chose (mostly white with a hint of green).
Now when I am out shooting, I still peer at the LCD screen, but I’m not attempting to scrutinize the photo anymore. Now I’m scoping out the histogram to make sure my pixels aren’t overwhelmingly bright or dark. I hope you will be caught doing the same!