Histogram Explain and Why You should Shoot to the Right

Understanding the histogram is the first step to get better photos for post processing. I didn’t mention a good photograph needs to have the perfect histogram. Photography is very subjective. A perfect text book histogram could be a very dull photo. So where do we begins?

A histogram simply a way for our sensor to measure the RGB Red, Green and Blue values the capture light or information. That’s how our camera sensor capture light. To do this our sensor use a black, grey and white point as the basic measurement of the RGB values. A mixture of the RGB gives use all the colour values in between pure black and pure white. And of course 50% grey is in the middle or middle grey.

This RGB values will in between pure black or pure white and shows in a graph patterns. A purely black histogram show more shadows or black values. An example of this kind of histogram is a night photography of cityscape. Some times called low key photography.

More RGB values toward the pure white is an example of a white background with a model in it. Yes the RGB values are more toward the white. Our digital sensor captures more information towards the highlights or white values. It just simply the digital imaging is designed like this.

In the analogue days most photographers try to captured more shadows and bring out more the shadows through chemicals processing in the dark room. I don’t have a chance to play with this yet but from other photographers experienced. I better not go deeper into analogue age.

However, our sensor are design to capture a middle grey photos most of the time. If you put your camera in automatic mode, the sensor will try to capture the photos somewhere in the middle of the histogram. Just imagine a mount and you have a perfect histogram.

As I mentioned earlier, a perfectly histogram doesn’t mean a good photo. So where can we learn to capture the histogram to best suit our vision as an artist? Most photographers that like to post-processing the photos have a saying “Shoot to the right.”.

“Shoot to the right.” is a phrase of those photographers that know how digital sensor works and like to capture the best information as possible. Our sensor have a strong emphasis on cleaner file in the highlights area or more toward the right of the histogram.

The other benefits of capturing to the the right of the histogram is noise in our photos. Just how digital imaging is. To reduce less noise or sand paper texture in our photographs we want to capture more toward the highlights.

If you understand this then try to capture to the right more often and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on high ISO cameras. Another reason to learn to shoot to the right of the histogram.

So where does the histogram fit into time lapse photography. Understanding the histogram allow as to capture the best file possible. However, since we don’t just capture one photo but hundreds of photo over time. The histogram plays an important role if you want to capture the “Holy grail of time lapse” photography.

I explained further in the video below if you want to go further about “Holy grail time lapse”. But for our purpose in this post just shoot to the right most of the time without clipping the highlights then you’re in good shape to less noise in your photographs. With post-processing you could play more with the file to your tastes. And believe me there’s no right or wrong way of post-processing your photos. It’s art after all and it’s very subjective.

Gear Used/Demonstrated for Video and Photos: All Links are Affiliated

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Rode Wireless Go https://amzn.to/3vKfkoE

Rode Microphone Videomicro https://amzn.to/3vI0Oh4

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Panasonic Lumix G7 https://amzn.to/2ONJfvi

Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 https://amzn.to/3cP11Xc


Published by Travis Chau

I'm a freelance makeup artist from Sydney, Australia. If you hang around creative people long enough you well get the bug to create as well. So now I am into photography, timelapse photography and maybe video/film later.

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