Draw Your Histogram

HistogramHave you met a person who has said this, “The thing I love about photography has nothing to do with the camera or lens. It doesn’t even have to do with that one important question every photographer should ask…

Its not looking at so many amazing photos…

The thing I love most about taking pictures is a box filled with one or more curves. The only reason I press that shutter is to see those spikes and curves closed in a box. People call it a histogram.” I have not.

Most people don’t like histograms and try to avoid it. Yes, like normal human beings, I don’t like histogram either. But histogram of a photo does give us some critical information about it and specifically about exposure of the photograph.

Histogram BandsHistogram is spread from dark side on the left to bright on the right. So, images that are slightly overexposed, meaning these have brighter areas, shift towards right most band and often “clipped”. If a photograph is underexposed, the graph shifts toward left (darker side).

You can find a histogram of a photo at least at two different places. Histogram can be found in the review mode of your camera or in a post processing software. Let’s look at an example:

HistogramThe histogram above shows that most of the photograph is exposed correctly and some areas of this photograph is darker hence the histogram is shifted towards the right. Let’s look at the photograph for this histogram.


In this photo, most of the tones are darker and nothing here is bright or closer to white. This is reflected in histogram and the curve is mainly on the medium to darker side of the histogram. The spike in the middle tells that most of the elements (or pixels) in this photo are medium – neither too dark nor too bright.

Histogram are specially important for post processing. Using the histogram, you can understand the exposure in the image captured by the camera. During post processing, any exposure related changes are reflected in the histogram, telling you what you need to do next when adjusting your exposure.

Colorful Histograms

If you have used Lightroom, this is the default histogram for a colored photograph. While this gives even more information, this is a bit advanced topic. We’ll tackle this topic in later posts, if there is enough interest.

Histogram Colored

Further Reading

Your Assignment

Your assignment for this session is simple. Look at your photo and see how the histogram looks like. Does the histogram reflect the exposure?

Open the photograph is your post processing software. I have used Lightroom and I love it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. (Amazon has this version of Lightroom 3 available at super low price – 77% off)

So once you open the photo, try to adjust the brightness, exposure, vibrance, saturation and see how the histogram changes.

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  1. I’m a newbie and I don’t even look at histogram or even studied how it works and what it’s for. I just look at it in passing and move on. Duh, I should know better. Thanks for sharing!

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