Exposed! :: The Happy Histogram ::
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Ok, I admit it - I have been skeptical about some of the claims of digital technology. In the short history of digital cameras many proposed digital advantages have not materialized as advertised!
Claim — "It''ll save you money!"
Claim — "It''ll save you time"
Claim — "You can preview your photos"
Don't get me wrong, the digital camera allows some wondrous things to happen - like getting more people excited about picture taking - but many promises have not blossomed fully! One thing I do like about the digital camera is the ability to view a photo's histogram. In this month's edition of Exposed! we look at the power of the histogram and how to use it well.
Yes, the little graph with the wobbly line that indicates the amounts of dark and light tones in your picture. I encourage you to learn to use it on your digital camera - it is far more valuable in evaluating your photo's exposure than using your digital preview!
While there are few “wrong” histograms the information can help you avoid poor exposures. The graph indicates how many pixels have a dark tone (ie black) on the far left and how many pixels have a light tone (ie white) on the far right with mid grey tones listed in between.
A histogram with a mountain on the left and a flat line on the right will likely be underexposed. Conversely, a mountain on the right and a flat line on the left indicates an overexposure.
A mountainous landscape erupting from far left and reaching far right indicates detail has been captured appropriately. Do not worry about the height or locations of the peaks and valleys - as long as there is information across the graph. If you have a flat line at either end of the spectrum you, likely, need to adjust your exposure!
The photo above right was taken at a recent whitewater slalom canoe race at Madawaska Kanu Centre (see more photos of the event). The histogram (inset) shows a mountain on the left indicating significant dark areas in the photo. The tapered section on the right shows there are less bright areas in the photo. The fact there is no flat line at either end of the histogram indicates the exposure is reasonable!
Do you understand the fundamentals of exposure? Then this is your assignment:
Last year I was presenting to a large group of photographers when I mentioned I still shoot a significant amount of film. There was a hush and then murmurs of disbelief. An audience member asked how I know I 'get the shot' while shooting film. My short answer was ‘Experience!' My longer answer is that I trust my solid understanding of the fundamentals of exposure.
I still shoot a lot of film for many good reasons. Depending on the client's needs I
happily shoot digitally. I do use the digital display - the histogram - but I do my best to trust
experience to let my creative juices flow.
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