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How Using the Histogram Can Improve Your Photography

August 13, 2018

The histogram is another one of those camera features that can be a bit difficult to get your head around at first. But in fact, once you understand the meaning behind the bumpy graph, you should find a significant improvement in the quality of your photographs.

The histogram can tell us many things, but its primary purpose is to give the photographer a graphical representation of the light and colours within your photographs. Nobody likes incorrectly exposed photos, but by knowing how to interpret the histogram, you'll be able to quickly recognise the quality of the blacks, shadows, midtones, highlights and whites as you capture images.

While most photographers will judge the quality of their shot by taking a quick scan of the photograph's preview on their camera, especially in bright light, it can be hard to accurately distinguish the lighting within the photograph. Rather than getting home and discovering your photos are all washed out, you can use the histogram to get a precise depiction of their exposure – and make changes quickly to fix any issues.

While there's no perfect histogram, there are a few telltale signs that'll make it obvious whether you've achieved great results or not. Firstly, you want to have no large 'spikes', which convey there are heavily overexposed areas within your image. In addition, photographs that lack vibrancy will have a histogram focused around the middle of the chart, signifying your image's contrast needs to be increased because it doesn’t have clearly defined highlights or shadows.

Check the histogram frequently while you're out shooting – it's a great tool that's bound to quickly improve your results. With a little bit of practice, you'll be able to recognise the ideal exposure at a glance, and make changes on the spot to get the perfect photographs.