Digital Photography: The Most Powerful Tool On Your Camera

Today, I’m going to drop a few tips on a very little understood tool that comes on almost every camera. it is called the histogram.

Now, before everyone starts freaking out, even though the histogram is a chart and it takes you back to sixth or seventh grade math class. Let’s look at that another way.

Histogram, that’s kind of like telegram, right? Think of it like this… Your camera is trying to send you a message. It wants to let you know how it is seeing the picture in front of it, and whether or not it will do a good job of seeing and copying it.

just push the display button on most models of camera and this chart will appear over the top of your image. If you’re thinking, “I don’t want this confusing chart covering up my pretty picture”, let’s look at this another way.

There are two types of histograms that you can see on the back of a camera. One will show you the balance of the red, green and blue channels on a picture.

The other histogram will show you the balance of light and dark in your picture.

The histogram is set up to be read from right to left. It should, for most normal images, start climbing gently on the left side, rise to its highest point in the middle, and the slowly taper off to the right. This will indicate a balanced image.

If your histogram shows you the left side starts halfway up the side and is cut off on the left side. Then your image is clipping the darks. There are too many deep darks in your picture to make it an averaged acceptable picture.

Here is an example of an underexposed image, and what its histogram looks like.

Digital Photography Mountain Memorial Dark

Clipping, this just means that side of the image is too light or too dark. The blacks will not be anything but the darkest black if it clips on the left. The whites will all be exposed as the brightest white if the histogram clips on the right.

If your image is too heavy on the right side… There are too many brights in your image and you may want to lower the exposure to bring these colors back into range.

Here is an example of an image that is balanced pretty even…

Digital Photography Mountain Memorial

So, keep in mind, the same concept applies for the histogram with colors, toward the middle is averaged, too much toward the edges is a bad thing.

Hope this helps you understand one of the most powerful tools on the digital camera.


Digital Photography Basics , , , , , , , ,


  1. At first I thought you were talking about allergies and I thought oh no this is going to be WAY over my head! But no this actually makes sense…thanks so much! You are REALLY good at making the esoteric understandable to the novice!
    Sonya Lenzo

  2. I have a question for you. If I wanted to hire you, how would I go about that and what services does your work encompass.

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  3. Kevin Bettencourt

    As always a pleasure to learn how to use something that for the most part is foreign to me.

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  4. Oh! I did not know what the histogram was and how to use it! Thanks!

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  5. When I first started reading this article, I figured I was going to be more confused than normal, however, you have an understated ability to take complex subject (as well as things we have NO IDEA about) and put them in simple to understand language, as well as giving us the visual explanation, too! Well Done!!

    Best, Neil

  6. Another very cool lesson from the best experert…

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  7. Dewayne, Your explaination of how a camera works is so simple and easy to follw. Your pictures are amazing to say the least.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
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    Now go implement!

  8. Clare Delaney

    Oh! NOW I know what the histogram does and means – excellent, thank you!

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  9. Don’t think I have seen a histogram on my camera . Probably too cheap.

  10. Wow, very interesting. I had know idea. Going to give it a try!

  11. OK
    I have a question.

    Can you post a few more examples?

    I get the concept but I’ve never heard of this, though I’ve seen the “chart” many times.


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  12. Hi Dewayne,

    I have never even before HEARD of the histogram. Let me see if I’ve grasped the concept, it records, registers the contrasts of light/dark. Like chiaroscuro affect? (art major term showing my roots)

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    April Braswell
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    • Right on the money April. It’s just showing you what you’ve got recorded. Any changes can be made on the spot to correct any innaccuracies or differences you may want to fix. It’s showing how “balanced” your image is.

  13. Never heard of histograms until now, so it’s cool to learn about them from someone like you who can explain it so well.

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