And May All Your Histograms be Right

There was no getting around the title of this post, as I've heard Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" so many times, I simply can't shake the melody.  Still, if this holiday tune helps you remember to check your histogram, then bring on the eggnog!  

The histogram is one of the most underused, yet extremely helpful features on cameras today. Most people shy away because they are unsure of what it all means.  Allow me to demystify this subject...

The only part of the histogram that matters is the right hand wall.

It's this one small section which immediately tells you if you have blown out (overexposed) the highlights in the scene.  Once you see it, you can adjust your exposure accordingly.

Above, notice how the data is touching the right hand wall of the histogram.  The result is an overexposed image where the highlights can never be recovered.  

Above, notice how the data is touching the right hand wall of the histogram.  The result is an overexposed image where the highlights can never be recovered.  

In this example, you can see how the data is still reaching towards the right, but falls short of stacking up on the wall.  This is a better exposure.

In this example, you can see how the data is still reaching towards the right, but falls short of stacking up on the wall.  This is a better exposure.

When you are shooting in broad daylight with harsh contrasty sun, it's difficult to fight the glare and evaluate exposure on an LCD screen.  This is why photos that look good on the back of your camera often fall short when you view them on your home computer.  Not anymore!  The histogram makes it possible with a quick glance! Use it, and make your adjustments based on the right hand wall and you'll notice an immediate reduction/elimination of overexposure issues.  Happy Holidays!

Chris Corradino