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Tips & Tricks

3 Misconceptions you have about your histogram

By Wendell Weithers on January 17th 2017

Familiarity can lead one to possess a false sense of certainty. We sometimes think we know what we don’t know. Every digital photographer encounters a histogram on their camera and most assume that they understand what it tells them when it pops up on the screen. Matt Granger shares three misconceptions you might have about what your histogram is telling you.

[RELATED: THE HISTOGRAM DOES NOT STAND ALONE | 4 TOOLS FOR JUDGING EXPOSURE & COLOR]

Misconception # 1 – The Ideal Histogram (1:41)

When you take pictures you are either hoping to recreate what your eyes see or create an image with a particular look. Therefore, your histogram should reflect the characteristics of the shot you are trying to create. It is problematic to demand that each image you capture meet the “standard” of an ideal histogram readout. This is an example of letting the technical aspects of photography hinder a good picture.

Misconception # 2 – Jpeg histogram v RAW file histogram (3:52)

Having the histogram display the jpeg information instead of the raw information is something that is easily overlooked. This is an interesting insight that should convince you that the histogram should guide you and not police your shooting. It is simply a point reference informing you about your image. For raw shooters, this probably won’t be too much of an issue as we often hope to salvage raw files in post. However, those who only shoot jpeg may be convinced to give raw images a try since this illustrates the benefits of capturing as much information as possible while shooting.

**Editorial Amendment:

It was brought to our attention by some of our more eagle-eyed viewers that some of the information Matt brings across in this point is, in fact, misguided. While it is as stated by Granger that the cameras will not show you the raw histogram it is worth noting that neither will Lightroom, as there are few ways to actually see the histogram for raw data. What you see within Lightroom, and what Matt is displaying is the result of Lightroom taking the raw data, and processing it using its own algorithm – not the actual raw data. All raw processors do this, which is why the same file will look different in LR and say Capture One.

Thank you Kevin and Kurt for the catch.

Misconception # 3 – Your lens doesn’t impact your histogram (6:10)

Each lens has unique characteristics that impact your image. Some lenses are better at transmitting light to the sensor, some vignette, and some flare more than others. All of the these attributes will influence your histogram readout. This is helpful knowledge if you know before hand what you want to get in a shot. More importantly, this highlights the need to know your gear intimately. In photography, there is a correlation between the depth of your knowledge of your gear and the amount of creative control you can exercise in a shoot.

Learning the craft of photography the right way is paramount. We can take for granted that we may have learned some the photography basics incorrectly. We would all do well to revisit the fundamentals from time to time.

Check out more from Matt here.

Source: ISO1200

Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

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