How To Use The Camera Histogram

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (31)

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  1. Anthony says:

    Thanks for the information

  2. Sonya Leduc says:

    Imagine, for a moment, if we could do a statistical analysis on a digital photo.

    We would want some way to count how many dots of each color there are in a given picture. And, once we had that count, we would want to chart it somehow, so we could see at a glance how those dots compare against each other. This chart could show us whether our picture was washed out or too dark before we even printed it.

    This chart is called a Histogram. Many digital cameras will generate it for either the picture youve taken or the one youre about to take. And, most photo editing programs will create one, too.

    When we view the historgram of a picture, were looking at the extent of color information contained in a photo. A dark photo will have the bulk of the data on the far left side of the chart, while a “daylight” photo will be somewhere in the middle. The chart could show a single hump, or a series of spikes; it could be very tight, only a fraction of the histogram, or it could spread from edge to edge.

    Theres no sugh thing as a “perfect histogram” because every photo and every histogram is unique. But learning how to read the lines on a histogram can give us an insight into whether or not we have the image we want.

    Theres really only one sort of histogram that points out a bad picture, and thats one where the data is up against the edge. The far left edge is pure black, and the far right edge is pure white. If theres a large amount of absolute black or white in the picture, then some detail has probably been lostbecause its very rare to have pure, absolute black or white.

  3. Bob Johnson says:

    A great piece – thank you so much for posting it. I would definitely recommend thet every one else should have a look at it.

  4. Annie Jackson says:

    So THAT’S what it is!! OH!

  5. Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!

  6. Hello. Great job. I did not expect this this week. This is a great story. Thanks!

  7. refi plus says:

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…

  8. It is remarkable, rather useful idea

  9. dvd indir says:

    Great! Thanks for post

  10. landscaper says:

    Awesome post ! Thanks for, writing on my blog mate. I will message you again. I didn’t know that!

  11. LG 32LD350 says:

    Really appreciate this post. It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it!

  12. C Harris says:

    Thank you for all of the time and energy you put into sharing your knowledge of photography. May the good things you provide also come back to you.

  13. Maria Demmon says:

    Quite right! Idea excellent, I support.

  14. Robin says:

    Really appreciate your post. I think this is amazing. I look forward to hearing about your next articles. I have not been able to make digital photography work for me yet, but you are inspiring me each day to learn more. Thank you.

  15. Jenny says:

    Awesome post . Cheers for, writing on my blog page! I shall message you some time.

  16. Terry White says:

    I always thought the histogram was some complicated piece of medical equipment! Now I know better LOL

  17. Luke says:

    This is a wonderful post cheers for sharing this enlightening information.. I will visit your web site regularly for some latest article.

  18. Joan Ford says:

    I always use the Histogram when I am doing photography, it’s a very handy tool.

  19. Fiona says:

    Greta article and inspiring shots.

  20. Trinidad says:

    many thanks for the information.

  21. Marc says:

    I never knew what the histogram was until I came here. God I was dumb.

  22. Lee says:

    I tried to use the Histogram but didn’t know what it was. Now I do, thanks very much Amy.

  23. mutuelle says:

    This website is awesome. I constantly come across something new & different right here. Thank you for that data.

  24. Gerek Allen says:

    Very good video about the camera histogram. I actually learned a lot about this as I’m pretty new to the ins and outs of the camera world. What do you think the future of cameras and photography is? Do you think mobile devices like iphones or ipads will have good enough technology to make people really think about not buying a camera as well? Great video once again.

  25. blake says:

    That was a lot of good information, it made a lot of sense once you showed a good light level histogram. So is your recommendation that we take a few pictures and experiment with different light levels, then we use the histogram on the back of the digital display to ensure that we have proper lighting in our shot?

    • Hi Blake,

      It’s imperative that you know how to read light, and the histogram is a great tool to learn how to begin doing that and understanding how YOUR camera interprets light.

      But the histogram can’t teach you how to create beautiful images alone- you do that through creativity and understanding. It is a fantastic tool of you have one.


  26. Matt says:


    I just wanted to say thanks for your recent video on Historgrams. I am very much starting out in Photography, other than point and click compact camera holiday snaps and just learning the SLR and art ropes.

    I was wondering, is it best to have a more smoother histogram to represent a balance of light, thus trying to avoid really high or sharp peaks?

    Also, I trying to understand if a weighting to either the left or right would be affected by the composition of your photo. Can a photo work if the histogram is leaning to the left side if your a trying to take a more darker, not light wise, but more darker subject, i.e. trying to outline something with a dark back ground?

    Thanking you in advance

    • Hi Matt,

      In answer to your question about avoiding peaks etc, the answer is if you just go on the histogram alone, then yes, a smoother, flatter mountain range is better.

      A weighting to either left or right would not be affected by the composition unless the composition is under or over exposed.

      Try not to get stressed or confused about this: learning to read light visually is the best way to master photography. Many fantastic photographers who shot in black and white film, before colour, had to read light just by looking and understanding the scene and how the camera interpreted it. My suggestion is to use the histogram as a guide to help you learn about light, but not as a replacedment for learning about light.


  27. Luni says:

    u got a sweet voice thanks for the videos

  28. Keith Childs says:

    Thanks Amy, I have been trying to work out the histogram for ages. Great article.

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