The Histogram

Table of Contents

1:09Lesson Overview
2:47Why We Use the Histogram (Passive vs. Active Tonal Protection)
6:16Deconstructing the Histogram Graph
9:06Interpreting the Histogram on an Image
10:49Using the Histogram to Identify Clipped Detail
13:46Clipping Warnings in Lightroom
16:26The Limits of Recovering Clipped Detail
17:53Why the In-Camera Histogram is not Accurate
20:13Color and the Histogram
22:21Lightness vs. Brightness in Lightroom
23:56The Myth of a “Perfect” Histogram
26:26Lesson Recap

The Histogram…

Easily one of the most useful tools in both the digital darkroom and in the field. This graph provides protective “bumpers” to help guide you to the perfect exposure, as well as prevent any damage from overprocessing.

Most of us know what a histogram is already, but knowing exactly how to interpret it can be a bit misleading.

In another “deep dive” tutorial, we’ll unpack the histogram and all of its wonderful features, so you can better use it to protect your tones and retain as much detail as possible in your images.

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28 thoughts on “The Histogram”

  1. Thank you I have just turned 76 yrs old and I have never learned about the histogram. Anything I learned was by going to our local U3A. I am at the moment doing an exhibition at the Library so I’m patiently waiting to see what the outcome will be, so I hope to get some benefit from your presentation thank you.

  2. nirmal kumar saha

    I am a photographer age 78 yrs learning late. Could not understand the lines of the histogram that appeared on camera.
    Just now (2 min back ) downloaded your tutorial. Hope it will surely enhance my limited knowledge.
    n k saha -India Kolkata

  3. Vincent Spratling

    Thank you for sharing this video with us. I have learned a lot from this and will be looking at my histogram in a better way. All the best Vince.

  4. I can’t wait to dive into this, I too am older and have never really gotten in to the use of histograms. Your lectures have all been outstanding and your effort in educating those of us les savvy is very much appreciated!

    1. I think you’ll find the histogram very useful Tom, especially in the field! Reviewing the image on the camera screen is not very accurate….especially with sun reflections and how small the screen is. Glad you found it helpful.

  5. Hi Christopher,
    Great video that has answered and explained where I have been going wrong and about clipping and found this very helpful! Thank you!

  6. Loved it, Chris. I have been using the histogram on my camera a lot lately while shooting and your explanation of the whole thing really helps to fill in a lot of what I was missing. Thanks, again.

  7. Hi Chris
    Thank you for a very informative video. Regarding clipping of the colour channels, can they be recovered somewhat by using the HSL panel the in same way as using the basic panel sliders to recover shadows and highlights?
    David Creasy

    1. Hi David – Absolutely…working the saturation and luminance sliders in the HSL panel for those colors can sometimes bring back detail, but not always… the majority of that recovery is going to be with your tonal sliders. Hope that helps, glad you enjoyed the video.

      1. Thanks Chris, I usually try it get it right in camera by spot metering the brightest part of any clouds and opening up by 2.7 stops and processing in LR. I did experiment with the saturation and luminance sliders in the HSL panel. They seemed to have more far more effect on the brighter tones than the darker tones.
        David Creasy

        1. Yes, the highlight recovery will be stronger, especially with saturation. I don’t think I covered this in the video, but if you hold down the ALT key as you adjust the exposure slider, the clipping warning overlay will indicate which color channel is being clipped (if it’s just one)….as opposed to the histogram clipping warnings which just highlight any clipped pixel with blue/red. From there, you can target your recovery with the HSL panel to match the clipped color channel. Hope that helps!

          1. Once again thank you for that information. I wasn’t aware of that technique, I’m still very much a novice.

  8. Best & most comprehensive explanation of the histogram I have seen. I particularly liked the ,jpg/raw & color/B&W distinctions and the use of appropriate, actual images to demonstrate – thank you so much!

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