Saturday, June 24, 2017


From the moment I bought my first digital camera, I started hearing and reading about the Histogram. I capitalize it because some people think it's God.

Let's start with some left brain deductive reasoning.
1) The camera's built-in exposure (light) meter is designed to give us the so-called "correct"
exposure. A Wikepedia definition reads: "A light meter is a device used to measure the
    amount of light. In 
photography, a light meter is used to determine the proper exposure
    for a photograph."
2) I don't trust nor rely on the built-in light meter to give me what I want. It is not trustworthy. 
3) It is the built-in light meter that drives the Histogram.

4) If I don't trust or rely on the built-in light meter, why should I trust or rely on the
I don't. That's why I have it turned off. 
I took a very simple test to show the correlation between the built-in light meter and the histogram. This first photo was taken with the camera's metering mode set on "Matrix metering."

When I looked at the histogram, it was heavily skewed toward the left (dark) side. In other words, it told me the image had to many dark areas and not enough light areas. It wasn't technically balanced between darks and lights, i.e., it wasn't the best exposure.

I then photographed the same scene, but this time with the camera's metering mode set on "Center Weighted." 

The camera's histogram was much happier with this exposure--it was more toward the center, with more showing on the right (light side) and less on left (dark side).

I didn't show these two examples to ask you which one you like best, but to illustrate that
there is a direct correlation between the histogram and the built-in light meter.

Now that I have set the stage, let me share several images I have created which, if I had listened to the histogram, it would have yelled in disappointment, "Dude, you're way off." 

I will now share several examples of when I ignored the histogram. I can't show "Before" examples because, well, I didn't care about them. I can tell you this--the distribution of brights and darks was significantly skewed in each, much to the dismay of the histogram. In other words, none of these images are "correct," according to the histogram.

Exposure:  -1.3
This is like changing the shutter speed from 1/250 ("correct" exposure) to 1/640 ("right) exposure

 Exposure: -2.3 (Really!)

Exposure: - 2.3

The following examples are just the opposite. The histogram would be yelling out that
I had too many bright areas (right side of the histogram)--way off! Really?

Exposure: + 1.7

Exposure: + 2

Exposure: + 2

The theme of this blog is not just about the technical, or left brain, side of photography. It is also about one of my many mantras: I don't see with my eyes. I see with my imagination. I do not try to replicate, or even improve, what my eyes see, but to make it different. 

So, don't let the histogram control you. Create what you want, not what it thinks you need. Don't be afraid to over or under expose by as much as +3 or -3!! Have fun with it. Be an artist first.

Feel free to contact me if you would like a 1-on-1 lesson on this topic.