Why you shouldn’t trust your camera’s display and how to use your camera’s histogram


posted Friday, June 16, 2017 at 3:00 PM EDT


Photographer Steve Perry is an award-winning landscape and wildlife photographer who regularly publishes excellent tutorials covering artistic and technical topics. His latest video tends much more toward the technical side of things and it will help you capture much better images. That topic is histograms. For many, histograms are a very useful tool for capturing better images in-camera but for others, histograms are confusing. They aren’t as complicated as they look, but they do contain a lot of information.

The video below discusses setup for Canon and Nikon cameras, but the lessons about histograms in general are universally applicable. You may be thinking, “why even bother with histograms? You can look at images on the back of the camera.” That’s true, but depending on the brightness of your display and ambient lighting conditions, the image on the back of your camera may be a very poor representation of your image file. This is especially problematic when shooting in low light because the camera’s monitor may appear relatively bright, tricking you into thinking you have a good exposure but in reality, your image is way too dark.

As we can see above, histograms are useful in part because they do not vary depending on the conditions of our camera’s display. Further, histograms can help us determine when we are clipping shadows and highlights. Granted, histograms in cameras can underestimate the flexibility of a RAW image file, but they are still a very useful indicator. As Perry notes, if you see just a small portion of the histogram’s pixels on either extreme end of the histogram on your camera, you’ll likely be able to recover the information when working with a RAW file on your computer. You don’t necessarily need to worry about clipped highlights in camera once you’re familiar with what you can do with your camera’s RAW files during processing.

For more helpful videos from Steve Perry, visit his YouTube channel. To see more of his work, visit his website.

(Via ISO 1200)