August 8, 2016

Learn the Basics of Using Histograms in This 2-Minute Video

Histograms can be extremely helpful tools for exposing images—if you know how to use them.

If you're a new filmmaker, chances are you're not completely familiar with all of your camera's great features. But one you'll definitely want to familiarize yourself with is the histogram, which reads the tonal values of an image, from shadows on the left to the highlights on the right. To help you better understand what a histogram is and how you can use it to get more accurate information of your images, here's a short video from David Bergman of Adorama that explains it all: 

Though you can get a decent exposure by using your camera's display alone, histograms offer much more accurate data about the tones in your images. This allows you to use that data to make more educated decisions about exposing your image (or under/overexposing it, depending on the look you want) rather than relying on a display that is 1.) usually super small, 2.) usually inaccurate, and 3.) sometimes difficult to read in the sun.

However, keep in mind that histograms are designed to tell you if any part of your image has any loss of detail, known as clipping, so the information that they provide is sometimes not enough to really judge exposure. But using one definitely gives you a clearer idea of what kind of images you're capturing, which is why you should get familiar with how they work.      

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3 Comments

Is it me, or does this video not do much of anything for those not knowing a histogram?

August 10, 2016 at 8:56PM

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Vidrazor
217

Pretty much, like this video is not even getting technical at all... which is really lame because it makes the histogram seem more like a thing that is impossible to understand...

August 12, 2016 at 5:10PM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
572

Okay so if you REALLY want to understand histograms:

Really is just a chart that graphically displays the strengths of a curve. Since light is a wave and waves don't technically have an ending or at least before compression. So in the video is a Canon histogram, they have bars that represent exposure strength.

So when a line goes up, it means that section of light is strong. It is not good to have that line go above the graph as it will be unmeasurable by the sensor. (same for below)

Back to the bars on the graph and what they really mean:

The first bar on the left represents 0, anything left of that will not show up on 8bit displays. (due to broadcast limitations on color depth) The bar farthest on the right represents 100 meaning this is the maximum color depth at that brightness that will show. (again due to broadcast limitations)

Which is why the four bars make up 3 regions which will be you low, mid, and high range when it comes to exposure.

Yes, sometimes things will go out of those range. But that could be because those specific objects are so dark they are blacked out or so bright they are whited out.

So now that you know what everything means, you can get a little bit creative with your shots and either purposefully underexpose them or over expose them whiten reason and still get some quality material with more of an artistic flair.

Generally I just try to go with a neutral exposure and having more of a "wide mountain" (That wording still bothers me) As it allows the darkest pixels and the brightest pixels to be captured and then better optimized in editing. Though if I see things clipping out I will go out of my way to fix it as needed.

August 12, 2016 at 5:26PM, Edited August 12, 5:32PM

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Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor
572