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  • Writer's pictureRebekah

RCP Photography School: Histogram

Hello to all who’ve joined me on day 8 of this 26 day challenge to learn about the basics of photography.

So, today's lesson is on something that you would find at the back of your camera or on editing software like Adobe Photoshop. You may think it is a useless tool, especially as a beginner, but I will help you see the details in the photograph, like shadows, highlights, whites, blacks and mid-tones.

If you’re doing this course, you probably already know a little bit about me but if you don’t, please check out who I am.

Today I’m going to talk about...

H for Histogram

Why is it so important though?

I remember at university, we had a module in film photography and using the darkroom, and not knowing how exposed the image would be until it had developed.

Now, in the digital world, we have the ability to look at the back of our cameras, or on editing software, and see what the exposure is like. We can then delete the image and retake it. It's never been easier!

What does a histogram look like?

This is an example from the portraits taken of the fruit during the flash photography lesson, so the blacks are stronger than the whites. But this is what a histogram looks like.

The blacks are the darker or actual black areas in the photograph - it is always on the left hand side. The whites are your brighter and actual white areas in the photograph and you will always find it on the right hand side.

Moving from the outside in, the shadows and highlights are an important part of the photograph - a shadow is something that is created by an object or person blocking the light; a highlight is the brightness of an area, which you can make it less visible or more visible.

In the centre of the histogram, is the mid-tones - these are areas in the photograph that are neither dark nor light.

Here are a few examples of different lighting situations and what each of the histograms tell us...

In this image, the blacks can be seen around the edges of the image, with whites showing up around the fur of the dog and the light shining through the trees in the background. The mid-tones are pretty even, so are the shadows, but the highlights can be seen in the brown fur where the light has been overexposed. There are a lot of brighter tones in this image, but the darker tones are also visible too.

In this image, the whites are the first thing you see - not just in the photograph but in the histogram as well. As the white is on the right hand side of the histogram, you can see that the highlights are also quite strong too. The way I have exposed this image, the blacks and the darker areas aren't as strong because I wanted to show the wood grain. There are a lot of bright tones here.

This image is quite contrasted, with a lot of dark areas and blacks very visible. The whites are barely visible in the background, with the shadows on the ground subtle too. High contrast scenes are amazing especially when the sun is rising or setting; or, if you are going to get creative and take silhouette images.

Lastly, this image has very little mid-tones. The whites are good, as well as the blacks. The shadows in the trees can be seen and the highlights around the building are also in the view. This is close enough to a perfectly exposed image, at this time of day. And the histogram is telling us the same.

Have you ever looked at the histogram after taking a photograph?

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