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Mystery of the Image Histogram

February 21, 2014

For me, Week # 3 of my DSLR Fundamentals Class at Schoolcraft College taught by Bryce Denison of Midwest Photography Workshops finally solved the “Mystery of the Image Histogram”. That is that little diagram you may see on the back of the DSLR camera that may look something like this:

Image of a Histogram

Image of a Histogram

Before this class, I really had no idea what the purpose of this “Histogram” was and quite honestly didn’t think it was that important.  My oh my, was I wrong. This little diagram can help the photographer make a better photo at the time the image is shot, which in turn can significantly reduce amount of time spent on post processing.

Wikipedia summarizes the definition quite nicely:

“An Image Histogram is a type of histogram that acts as a graphical representation of the tonal distribution in a digital image. It plots the number of pixels for each tonal value. By looking at the histogram for a specific image a viewer will be able to judge the entire tonal distribution at a glance.

Image histograms are present on many modern digital cameras. Photographers can use them as an aid to show the distribution of tones captured, and whether image detail has been lost to blown-out highlights or blacked-out shadows.

The horizontal axis of the graph represents the tonal variations, while the vertical axis represents the number of pixels in that particular tone. The left side of the horizontal axis represents the black and dark areas, the middle represents medium grey and the right hand side represents light and pure white areas. The vertical axis represents the size of the area that is captured in each one of these zones. Thus, the histogram for a very dark image will have the majority of its data points on the left side and center of the graph. Conversely, the histogram for a very bright image with few dark areas and/or shadows will have most of its data points on the right side and center of the graph.”

The bottom line is that by manipulating the various camera functions while actually shooting an image, the photographer can strive toward making a better image at the time it is captured.”

Class lecture also included discussion on the differences between shooting in RAW vs. JPEG. Essentially, if the camera is capable of capturing a RAW image, use that feature. Much more digital data is captured allowing for great editing capabilities. And quite frankly, there are way too many decent free editing programs that can be used to edit RAW images and convert to JPEG image to not shoot in RAW.

The homework assignment for Week # 3 consisted of two outdoor projects, using all of the fundamentals learned thus far – 1) Six images displaying “bright and bold” subjects and six images displaying letters of the alphabet found in the everyday outdoor environment.

Below are the images I submitted. Enjoy!

Assignment #1 – Bright and Bold

Assignment #2 – Letters of the Alphabet

One Comment
  1. Nancy permalink

    Fun pictures. I’m sure there is an “N” out there somewhere in Nature. Looking forward to seeing it some time down the road. Keep up the great work. /ner

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