Histogram: get a better insight

Histogram: get a better insight

Histogram is basically a graph showing  tonal range distribution of  an image with pure black skewed to the left, pure white skewed to the right and midtone(Grey)   in the middle. Photography is all about light, getting better insight of histogram is probably going take you to one step closer to  digital world when working with pictures.I’ll try to clarify with  few image examples. Here we are just going for  basic insight of  histogram and how it can be used in proper ways to capture  beautiful images.It may be a  little of confusing  for those  who  avoid histogram  but trust  me  it is a  lot more easier  than it seems.

histogram description


Above  is  a histogram of a  broad  tonal range picture, here highlights and shadows are almost equally distributed.As you can see that there are  no  high spikes on the right and left corners.To be more precise about graph, High key and Low key Images are going to work well.

Note: Extreme Spikes on graph indicates  loss  of detail in that area.

High key images are those where most pixel tones are in highlighted part,  i.e Spikes graph are skewed to right whereas low key images are those where most of pixel tone are in shadow part i e Spikes graph are  skewed to left.

As examples, I am going to use some portrait shot  we took . I want you to compare this picture’s histogram and understand the difference.

High key

High key shot


This is a high key photo, and  you can see  most part of the image is bright. Likewise  graph is also skewed to right part i e Pure white zone.

Low key

Low-key shot


This is low key photo and you can see that  most part of image are dark. The same way graph is also skewed to left part i e Pure black part.

Mid tone



I have put this photo as a mid tone because of most tonal range is  in  the middle part. As we can see  in photo that it contain little bit of shadow  part too so  some spikes are skewed to left with almost no spikes on the extreme right.

How to  use histogram for better images?

Histogram does not determine the beauty of  a picture but helps you to understand exposure in your photo,  like high key and low key. Sometimes you need to darken your images and sometimes you need to brighten them .It completely depends upon the situation and how you want your photo to look like. For example,  silhouette shot takes spike on left part leaving nothing much on the middle .


histogram overview

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About author

Anup Ghimire
Anup Ghimire 60 posts

Anup ghimire is a self learned Photographer/Designer and recently graduated in multimedia technologies from London metropolitan university.Traveling is something he loves the most after photography. You can see some of his photos at his facebook photography page https://www.facebook.com/intomyviewfinder

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