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Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 05-31-2006, 12:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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So it's April, I'm at RG's Chicago workshop waiting to shoot Kat Crowe, and this guy by the name of RonMark leans over during our conversation and says, "yeah, the histogram looks okay." I didn't have the heart to tell him that he just went right over my head.

With a little more research, there is some good information out on the fundamental use of histograms. Now, the big dogs in this group (Eldor, JimmyD, JT, etc,) know this stuff like the back of their hand. But if you are a relative newbie, or have just never looked at it seriously, here is the most basic discusion that I've seen that explains it well.

http://www.edbergphoto.com/pages/Tip...istograms.html

If the Big Dogs care to throw in their two cents or have another good resource I continue to all ears. No, really. I look like freakin' Dumbo over here.

And Ron, thanks for trying brother. You gave me the push I needed.
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 05-31-2006, 04:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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No way that I'm one of the big dogs... I'm certainly NOT in the same league as JimmyD, JT, or dozens of others, etc!

Have you checked out J Fredrick Smith's post in the darkroom section about RAW workflow? If you haven't, you should.

He uses a black/gray/white card (I think it's actually a foldup thing much like a reflector) that he includes in one shot for every different lighting setup. If that's all you shoot (meaning you fill the frame with it), your histogram should be easy to check - three spikes in the right places and you're all set.

Personally, I'm probably a dinosaur here, but I only use the histogram as a last resort. I almost always meter my exposures with a hand-held incident/flash meter so there's little guesswork involved. I will sometimes check the histogram to see if I'm blowing my highlights or clogging up the shadow detail.

My suggestion is not to sweat it. Get in the habit of checking your histogram if you're not sure about the exposure and the more you do it the better you'll get both at reading it and getting better exposures.

Good luck and have fun!

Eldor
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 05-31-2006, 05:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eldor
No way that I'm one of the big dogs... I'm certainly NOT in the same league as JimmyD, JT, or dozens of others, etc!
Have you checked out J Fredrick Smith's post in the darkroom section about RAW workflow? If you haven't, you should.
He uses a black/gray/white card (I think it's actually a foldup thing much like a reflector) that he includes in one shot for every different lighting setup. If that's all you shoot (meaning you fill the frame with it), your histogram should be easy to check - three spikes in the right places and you're all set.
Eldor
I'll tell you what Eldor...call yourself anything you want as far as I'm concerned. Package up your base of technical knowlege (especially the Hensel tidbits) and put it in a pill and I'd line up at the Pharmacy.

I only had a chance at the RAW workflow post and need to go back now that I have time. I saw the BGW card and actually located them online. The aren't free, but you'd only need to salvage one setup at one shoot to payoff the cost. I've also got a brand new Sekonic L-358 that just arrived, and that will be my primary tool, but I really liked the common sense explanation that even a newbie could follow.
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 05-31-2006, 06:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eldor
No way that I'm one of the big dogs... I'm certainly NOT in the same league as JimmyD, JT, or dozens of others, etc!

Have you checked out J Fredrick Smith's post in the darkroom section about RAW workflow? If you haven't, you should.

He uses a black/gray/white card (I think it's actually a foldup thing much like a reflector) that he includes in one shot for every different lighting setup. If that's all you shoot (meaning you fill the frame with it), your histogram should be easy to check - three spikes in the right places and you're all set.

Personally, I'm probably a dinosaur here, but I only use the histogram as a last resort. I almost always meter my exposures with a hand-held incident/flash meter so there's little guesswork involved. I will sometimes check the histogram to see if I'm blowing my highlights or clogging up the shadow detail.

My suggestion is not to sweat it. Get in the habit of checking your histogram if you're not sure about the exposure and the more you do it the better you'll get both at reading it and getting better exposures.

Good luck and have fun!

Eldor
I personally can't see replacing a light meter with a histogram either even with the black/white/grey target. That can tell you if the overall scene is exposed correctly, but it is two dimensional. How do you measure the power of the hair light relative to the main or the kickers? I've tried eyeballing that on the LCD before and I have always been sorry for it.
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 06-01-2006, 04:38 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dman65
I personally can't see replacing a light meter with a histogram either even with the black/white/grey target. That can tell you if the overall scene is exposed correctly, but it is two dimensional. How do you measure the power of the hair light relative to the main or the kickers? I've tried eyeballing that on the LCD before and I have always been sorry for it.
You still need the light meter even when using the black/grey/white calibration target that I use all the time. The primary reason I use the target is because it is more accurate that the meter. I have seen too many times when the exposure suggested by the target was different than that of the meter. When I shoot exposures for both the meter choice, and the target choice and compare them later, there is no question that the target ones are more accurate. But for figuring lighting ratios the meter does just fine, even if it doesn't agree with the target in many cases, it still tells you how much more powerful one light is than another, or a reflector, etc.

And you're right, there is no way you eyeball a lighting ratio on the LCD since its not only too small, but it really isn't the image you'll end up with, especially if you're shooting RAW.



Dee and the target.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 06-01-2006, 04:41 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eldor
No way that I'm one of the big dogs... I'm certainly NOT in the same league as JimmyD, JT, or dozens of others, etc!
Have you checked out J Fredrick Smith's post in the darkroom section about RAW workflow? If you haven't, you should.
He uses a black/gray/white card (I think it's actually a foldup thing much like a reflector) that he includes in one shot for every different lighting setup. If that's all you shoot (meaning you fill the frame with it), your histogram should be easy to check - three spikes in the right places and you're all set.
Personally, I'm probably a dinosaur here, but I only use the histogram as a last resort. I almost always meter my exposures with a hand-held incident/flash meter so there's little guesswork involved. I will sometimes check the histogram to see if I'm blowing my highlights or clogging up the shadow detail.
My suggestion is not to sweat it. Get in the habit of checking your histogram if you're not sure about the exposure and the more you do it the better you'll get both at reading it and getting better exposures.
Good luck and have fun!
Eldor
Thanks for the plug on my RAW workflow tutorial. By the way, the name is R Fredrick Smith, not J. There is a very famous photographer named J Frederick Smith that used to shoot for Playboy, but I'm not him.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 06-01-2006, 02:06 PM   #7 (permalink)
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when i first began looking at histograms they messed me up a bit. that's because i had a lot of video editing background and i was (wrongly) equating a histogram with a video wave form monitor. the representations of luma levels on a wave form monitor actually show the luminescent peaks and valleys of the image you 're viewing, i.e., from black to white.

histograms are very different. they show a frequency distribution of the luma levels. in other words, you're not looking at where the black and white levels occur in the image but rather their level and distribution throughout the image. and when you're shooting against a black BG or a white BG the histogram may not be so user-friendly when trying to decide if you're properly exposing the image.

histograms are my back-up check for the exposure levels within an image. first and foremost, my meter tells me what I need to know. i've also found that the LCD screens on the back of dSLRs are usually set to drive the luma levels brighter and this can be deceiving. Even when I turn the LCD's levels down, they still seem to be showing me a brighter image than I'm actually capturing.

i sometimes use a black/gray/white card, but not very often. when i'm adjusting levels in post i find that the blackest part of the eye usually yields pretty good results in setting black levels. i then adjust white and gray to taste.
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 06-01-2006, 02:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I use a piece of cardboard covered w/black seamless on 1/2 and white seamless on the other 1/2, works like a charm and it saved me 80 bucks!

Another good site for info is:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/

R
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 06-01-2006, 03:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVMD
I use a piece of cardboard covered w/black seamless on 1/2 and white seamless on the other 1/2, works like a charm and it saved me 80 bucks!
Another good site for info is:
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/
R
Yes, you can always make your own. But not having the gray color in the mix will give you a lot less helpful histogram info since you be missing the spike that represents the midtones. By the way there is a free black/gray/white card in the back of several of Scott Kelby's books. You can also print your own with an ink jet printer.

I use the 14" fold up one from Digital Vision:

http://www.photovisionvideo.com/target.html

which sells for $59 and comes with a one hour DVD which is very informative and takes you through a number of different lighting challenges.

cheers,
rfs
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Re: Hey Newbies...Histogram 101
Old 06-10-2006, 03:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Hi Guys:

Thanks for the primer on Histograms but I have to ask the question, what do I do with a Histogram and how do I use to adjust the settings on my camera to get better photos?

I used a Nikon D100 for a while before converting over to Canon (EOS 10D w/ Canon Lenses to be specific) and I had a heck of a time in getting the D100 to where I could get good, consistent photos out of it on a reliable and I am having the same problem with my EOS 10D. A lot of the photos I take with my 10D are either over or underexposed and I can't seem to be able to find the sweet spot and it is driving me crazy.

I have my EOS set up in a similar way to how I had my D100 set up: ISO 200, White Balance set to Cloudy, Exposure Compensation set to 1/2 stop negative (a digital camera acts like a film camera loaded with slide film and I find that a little underexposure yields better photos).

My question is once I look at a Histogram in the camera what do I do and how do I alter the settings (and more importantly, what settings do I alter) in my camera to give me better photos?

I am sure a lot of us have struggled with this at one time or another so the assistance of the group is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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