July 2013
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5 tips to improve your photography skills and your photos (contd..)

In the previous post (5 tips to improve your photography skills and your photos), I was writing a set of general guidelines on how to improve your photos, focusing on histograms. Taking better photos does not only deal with knowing your equipment and its settings better, in fact, the best of photographers always claim better technique and temperament as one of the prime techniques of taking better photos, and with the use of histograms, there is a technical element to the art of better photography. I would love it if you could provide comments on whether you agree or disagree with such tips, and if you feel that you have tips you want to share, please do let me know via the comments. Here goes:

Tip 1161 (Learn from your own photos about histograms): There is no better way than to learn from your own photos about the kind of histograms that you would like to achieve. If you are not into shooting photos where there are extremes of light, then you would like to achieve photos with good exposure and with histograms that have the graph more in the mid-tones. So, take those photos where you like the exposure, where you like the light balance and then using software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom 5, look at the histogram for those photos. You will see the graph in the histogram with most of the curve in the mid-tones. Studying several of these histograms will start to giving you the ability to read the histogram, and to figure out the exposure level in the photos, and more important, whether there is some sort of clipping that is happening.

Tip 1162 (See the histogram along with the preview in LCD): I was seeing this problem in a couple of point and shoots that I owned. The LCD was bright and showed images beautifully, but when I would take the image to the computer, there were problems in the image that were not apparent in the LCD, mostly to do with bright and dark patches in the photo. As a result, I started getting into the habit of viewing the histogram of the image wherever I felt that there were parts of the image that were dark or too bright, and this helped in checking whether indeed there was some sort of correction needed.

Tip 1163 (Not every clipping is a problem): There will be cases when the graph of the histogram shows some clipping or the graph bunched at one end or the other. However, this is not necessarily a problem, just as long as you are sure that this is what you intended. For example, there are the iconic photos of sun flowers in a field (see many of them in Google Image search). In many of these photos, there will be the graph getting bunched at the dark end or even some clipping happening due to very dark sections of the photos. Where are the dark ends ? The camera sees the middle of the flower, where the pollen and the stamen are, and they can be very black, and it would seem like there is a problem. However, in such photos, there is actually no problem even though a quick reading of the histogram might show otherwise.

Tip 1164 (Use the exposure warning in the histogram): A number of modern cameras have the ability to show you in the histogram when there is likely to be a clipping based on the exposure level of the photo. You will have to check with your camera manual (or search for this on the internet against your specific camera model). For the cameras where this is available, it is known as the highlight alert, and you will need to check where there is a setting for this in your camera. What happens is when you have your histogram enabled during preview, if there is going to be over-exposure of parts of the image, the histogram graph will blink. Given that where there is over-exposure, the white portions of the image lose all detail, there is a lot of focus on the part of the photographer to ensure that white-out does not happen in any part of the image. As an example, if you are shooting a landscape and there are white clouds above, and you have set your exposure based on the greenery or other such objects, the clouds are liable to get totally white and you will not be able to retrieve details from that part of the image.

Tip 1165 (Adjusting the histogram in software): This is the final tip when it comes to histograms, and this is the one that deals with making corrections through software. I typically use software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom 5 for manipulating the histogram. It is possible to adjust the histogram through the use of these excellent image adjusting software. In Photoshop, there are a number of tools that can be used for this kind of adjustment, although the actual use of these tools is beyond the scope of this tip, some of these tools are: Layers Adjustment, a more detailed adjustment for each color through expanding the Histograms.
Photoshop Help for histogram (link)
Lightroom help for histogram (link)

Some books to improve your photography:

The Digital Photography Book BetterPhoto Basics Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Boxed Set

Some videos about photography from Youtube:

Photography Histograms Explained

How to Use a Camera’s Histogram Part 1

Digital Photography 1 on 1: Episode 33: Histograms

Histograms | Histogram | Digital Photography | Camera

How to read your Histogram. A graph of your picture brightness

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