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Watch Photography Histograms on YouTube

Histograms are the only way when shooting to get an accurate representation of your exposure.  Without it, you could look at your screen and think your photo is exposed properly but then look at them on your computer later and realize everything was underexposed or overexposed.  Here are the basics from the first video segment.

 On the Water On the Water by Cazillo, on Flickr
  • Histogram is a graph representing the saturation and luminance in an image
  • Histograms assist in exposure evaluation
    • They are not the end all be all, rather allow you to make more informed decisions about your photograph
  • In-camera histograms are generated from JPEG previews 
    • If you shoot RAW the histogram in your RAW converter (Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Camera RAW) could differ
  • I do not use an RGB Histogram, prefer to see overall colors for general exposure, usually don't need to see individual colors
  • Know how to turn it on....and use it!!!
  • Shoot to the RIGHT of the histogram, don't loose data by having flat spots on the right of the histogram.
    • 1/2 of all data in your digital image is in the first 1 stop or brightest area of the image
  • There are exceptions to every rule in photography, its not perfect but one more tool in our arsenal

Moral of the story is use your histogram all the time, your photos will improve.  Enjoy!

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0 # Mark Stothard 2011-05-19 11:23
Great Video Greg, although I don't use the Histogram too much, I use the Highlight warning (Blinkies)
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-19 11:27
@mark the only problem is that the warning isn't that accurate, it usually will warn you when the highlights are about 1/2-1 stop under, so be careful with it. The Histogram is more accurate.
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0 # Manuel Liano 2011-10-06 10:17
Greg, can we use CFL light to adjust the histogram, well i meant aperture? i'm still learning. thanks
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-10-06 10:46
CFL Light? Any change in exposure (ISO, shutter speed, aperture) will change the histogram unless you change them evenly. Up 1 stop in ISO and down 1 stop in shutter.
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0 # ian 2011-05-19 11:37
Hi Greg really well explained,i have been reading about shooting to the right and this puts all the questions i had at rest.
Thanx again.
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0 # Julian 2011-05-19 11:40
Thanks for this really informative video... I think I┬┤ll use Histograms always in the future, now that I understood how to read them :)
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+1 # Valentin Sprecher 2011-05-19 11:54
Hi Greg,

Thanks for your time.

I like how you explain it.
Without doubts you are a good Teacher. Congratulations .
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0 # Kevin Atwell 2011-05-19 11:57
Thank you Greg, Great video
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0 # Anthony 2011-05-19 12:01
i always look at histo great video
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0 # Gail 2011-05-19 12:12
Thanks, Greg! Good video. Sure helps to reinforce things.
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0 # Cowseye 2011-05-19 12:58
Great video :)
Waiting for this topic for a long time. Very informative.

I have doubts on the spikes that I get in the middle on your histogram. What does those spikes tell me?
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+2 # Sah Guerreiro 2011-05-19 13:02
Hi big G!
Great video!
I don't use the histogram at all, only check it when I'm in Post Processing.. my bad, huh? But now I'm gonna pay more attention to that, it will shurely help me get better photos :)
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-19 13:07
Quoting Cowseye:
Great video :)
Waiting for this topic for a long time. Very informative.

I have doubts on the spikes that I get in the middle on your histogram. What does those spikes tell me?


Higher spikes mean more saturation and luminance in that color range.
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0 # Candice 2011-05-19 13:09
So using the camera settings with the shot is better than the fix in LR or Photoshop?
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-19 13:11
Quoting Candice:
So using the camera settings with the shot is better than the fix in LR or Photoshop?


I don't quite understand your question. You should be checking your histogram as you shoot, then your post processing should take less time and result in better photographs.
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+1 # Michel 2011-05-19 13:22
Great video Greg. I always use histogram, especially when it is bright day light cause my pictures will appear a bit dark at the back of my camera (hard to see details) so histogram helps a lot. Waiting for the next video...
Keep up the good work!
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0 # Anthony 2011-05-19 13:29
Greg, The exposure histogram is tied to the green channel. It's possible to blow out the red or blue channel if you only go by the luminance histogram. Using the RGB histogram is more reliable. Extreme example:
home.comcast.net/.../...
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+1 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-19 13:35
Quoting Anthony:
Greg, The exposure histogram is tied to the green channel. It's possible to blow out the red or blue channel if you only go by the luminance histogram. Using the RGB histogram is more reliable. Extreme example:
home.comcast.net/.../...


Very true, but its rare when I need to see a full RGB Histogram with my type of photography. If I am shooting products I'll usually be tethered to a computer and view the histo in Lightroom.
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0 # Gary Thursby 2011-05-19 13:40
Thanks so much for this video Greg! I always never really understood the histogram because I shoot the F100 up till last year. Still shoot it but not as much because I got the d300s in January of last year. I did not realize that the histogram on the back of the camera was a Jpeg preview of the raw image. How different is the histogram when the image is opened up in Lightroom? Lastly Greg would it be possible to make sure your have a good exposure(by histogram as you explained to right) shoot image as tiff in camera and then be able to send that image out to be printed by a good lab. Would this be a good alternative to processing your own raw file then sending a Jpeg out to get printed. Thanks a million Greg.
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0 # Gary Thursby 2011-05-19 13:56
Sah Guerreiro said Big G! I love it! Its not a fat joke Greg, hey I could stand to lose a few pounds too, but a term of endearment! Big G! Big G! LOOOL!
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+1 # Sah Guerreiro 2011-05-19 14:00
Quote:
Gary Thursby
Sah Guerreiro said Big G! I love it! Its not a fat joke Greg, hey I could stand to lose a few pounds too, but a term of endearment! Big G! Big G! LOOOL!
hahaha it's not a fat joke! I hope Greg doens't take it the wrong way!
He's tall, his chubby, and he has big experience to share with us, so, BIG G! ;D
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+1 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-19 14:11
Quoting Gary Thursby:
How different is the histogram when the image is opened up in Lightroom? Lastly Greg would it be possible to make sure your have a good exposure(by histogram as you explained to right) shoot image as tiff in camera and then be able to send that image out to be printed by a good lab. Would this be a good alternative to processing your own raw file then sending a Jpeg out to get printed. Thanks a million Greg.


No shooting RAW is still better. The difference is going to change for each image, so you will have to do some testing and see how your camera performs. Its usually a negligible difference for me.
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0 # Javi Zavala 2011-05-19 17:43
Greg,
thank you very much for keeping the good videos coming up. I enjoyed the 'exposure' and this video a lot. I prefer to see less videos with more info than lots of videos with no info at all. I know you know what I mean...
Regarding this video, since you highlight watching the ends of the histogram, some photographers prefer to just turn on the blinks so that they know when they are losing data at both ends. I always was comfortable with this option, but after watching your video I can see at least one caveat: the blinks tell you when you 'past the line', but if they don't blink then you actually don't know how close you are to that right end where according to your statement (which a suppose is just an statistics over thousands of different photographs) half of the data reside (in the statistical sense). I always find great information in your videos, thank you very much for posting them.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-19 17:46
Quoting Javi Zavala:
Greg,
thank you very much for keeping the good videos coming up. I enjoyed the 'exposure' and this video a lot. I prefer to see less videos with more info than lots of videos with no info at all. I know you know what I mean...
Regarding this video, since you highlight watching the ends of the histogram, some photographers prefer to just turn on the blinks so that they know when they are losing data at both ends. I always was comfortable with this option, but after watching your video I can see at least one caveat: the blinks tell you when you 'past the line', but if they don't blink then you actually don't know how close you are to that right end where according to your statement (which a suppose is just an statistics over thousands of different photographs) half of the data reside (in the statistical sense). I always find great information in your videos, thank you very much for posting them.

Kind of, yes. I never liked the blinking always found it annoying and less accurate. After time you will get used to the histogram and will be able to evaluate a photo instantly.
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0 # Todd 2011-05-19 18:50
Thanks Greg, great video. Good info. on something that can be very confusing. Helps me to understand it better. However sometimes it can be a challenge to expose to the right and not blow out highlights. I wasn't aware that underexposing by only ONE stop can cause noise and extra problems.
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0 # Kleemy 2011-05-19 19:46
Hi Greg, great videos you made on exposure and histogram. Just go on this way. You explained things so well that even I could understand it very well as a not native english speaker.
Keep up that good work!
Greetings from Berlin, Germany
Olaf (www.olaf-kleemeyer.de)
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0 # Ashleigh 2011-05-19 20:40
Thank you so much for sharing this video Greg!
Histograms are something I've struggled with to understand and this is the one of the most helpful tutorials I've come across. Thanks again! Keep up the good work.
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0 # Atilio Ranzuglia 2011-05-19 21:24
Great subject! Not an easy one. Right today, I went to an upgrade workshop, and we spoke a lot about histograms. I can't understand why are you saing that half of data is in the first stop, at the brightest side. Can you explain it a little bit more?

Thanks and nice to see you on your own
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0 # Rich Guadagno 2011-05-19 21:37
Thank you very informative.
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0 # john 2011-05-19 21:53
i always do check my histogram, it's different looking at a 3" screen than a 22" one i which all the camera don't have not unless you shoot and teether it thru lr or other software
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0 # Ralph J. Miller 2011-05-19 22:48
Great video Greg! I'm relatively a newcomer, so this helped me out immensely. Keep it up man!
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0 # Scott Photo 2011-05-19 23:09
Greg this helps lots going to have the wife watch it now too!
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0 # Kyle Farris 2011-05-19 23:48
Nice tutorial Greg. I remembered a lot of what you've said from other videos about histograms and this one does a good job of summing it all up into one video. I like that you're taking a more technical approach to photography since sometimes it's nice to know that a theory is backed by science/data.

One video I'd be really interested in seeing is something about how to know what aperture to choose in different situations. I mean, I know what aperture does to change the look of a scene and how it affects exposure, but, I tend to choose the lowest f/stop I can all the time to get the maximum bokeh. I know this can't always be ideal because I see some of you good shots and they are shot at f/4 or f/8 (like the family portrait you show in this video).
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+1 # Carsten Stann 2011-05-20 00:21
Great Video! very informative on something that i have completely overlooked for the year and a half i have been shooting seriously trying to improve my photography. Thanks for the help. Keep up the great work!
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0 # sabrina Takorabet 2011-05-20 03:31
Thanks a lot Greg, very well explained as usual. I have a question : when I uploading a photo to Aperture or any other software, and want to correct my exposure I drag the little arrow in the bottom line of the histogram from the right corner towards the center this gives me more light and brightens my photo. But if the 1/2 of the data, as you say it in this video, is in this area so I'm loosing a lot of data by dragging this arrow this way? If yes what is then the use of this arrows on the bottom of the histograms?
Thank you in advance
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0 # Kevin 2011-05-20 04:19
Great video, I never understood the histogram. But in the 12 minutes you gave, I think I have a chance to better understand it. I will be turning mine on and using it.

Keep them coming
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0 # Oliver 2011-05-20 09:25
Very informative video! Feel really inspired to start using my histogram now, keep these awesome videos coming! Would love to see some videos about shoots you have recently done, and maybe even some outdoor in the field videos!
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-20 09:58
Quoting sabrina Takorabet:
Thanks a lot Greg, very well explained as usual. I have a question : when I uploading a photo to Aperture or any other software, and want to correct my exposure I drag the little arrow in the bottom line of the histogram from the right corner towards the center this gives me more light and brightens my photo. But if the 1/2 of the data, as you say it in this video, is in this area so I'm loosing a lot of data by dragging this arrow this way? If yes what is then the use of this arrows on the bottom of the histograms?
Thank you in advance

You have already lost the data at time of exposure, so adjusting in post is the only way to save the image.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-20 10:00
Quoting Kyle Farris:
One video I'd be really interested in seeing is something about how to know what aperture to choose in different situations. I mean, I know what aperture does to change the look of a scene and how it affects exposure, but, I tend to choose the lowest f/stop I can all the time to get the maximum bokeh. I know this can't always be ideal because I see some of you good shots and they are shot at f/4 or f/8 (like the family portrait you show in this video).

Most of the time I shoot wide open, that image was shot at f8 because I was using fill flash from a long distance and needed to mix the available light and strobe properly. The majority of my images I prefer to have a shallow DOF to keep the viewers eye on the subject not the background.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-05-20 10:07
Quoting Atilio Ranzuglia:
Great subject! Not an easy one. Right today, I went to an upgrade workshop, and we spoke a lot about histograms. I can't understand why are you saing that half of data is in the first stop, at the brightest side. Can you explain it a little bit more?

Thanks and nice to see you on your own

Its a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, too much to explain here and more than most people really need to know. This is an old article but still very good information... www.normankoren.com/.../
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0 # Rick Raively 2011-05-20 10:43
Please do more on histograms. After watching the video 3 times I went back over my vacations photos and started to see where my problems were. Inside shots were mostly to the left and some were blurry even though on the screen they look fine. There are spikes in the middle that hit the top of the gram and normally there is blinking in the photo(is that ok??). I can't trust the brightness level of my screen since the pictures are darker than what it shows. So the histogram will help there.

Thanks Greg for the wonder info

Rick
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+4 # Marcelo Eler 2011-05-20 16:11
Thanks Greg. I didn't know that 1/2 of the data is on the first stop...
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0 # Dima 2011-05-20 22:42
Greg, excellent video, I've learned A LOT from it. Started following you on twitter, looking forward do more informative posts. Thank you for your hard work!
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0 # Jesper 2011-05-21 04:00
Wow, at last some excellent explaination on how to use the histogram, I been looking forward to this ever since you and Jared spilt up. I appriciate the technical side to photography so keep it up Greg.

cheers from Denmark
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0 # Chris Bourne 2011-05-21 04:29
Thankyou Greg!

You've really kicked it up a notch and given us something new to learn now that we've mastered the relationship between iso/aperture/sh utter speed.

Where to next? I'd love some tips on the creative side of photography... composition etc.
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-1 # Mike 2011-05-21 10:58
Quoting Rick Raively:
Please do more on histograms. After watching the video 3 times I went back over my vacations photos and started to see where my problems were. Inside shots were mostly to the left and some were blurry even though on the screen they look fine. There are spikes in the middle that hit the top of the gram and normally there is blinking in the photo(is that ok??). I can't trust the brightness level of my screen since the pictures are darker than what it shows. So the histogram will help there.

Thanks Greg for the wonder info

Rick


The blinking in the photo indicates lost data. It's either under or over exposed.
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+1 # dave seymour 2011-05-21 13:34
ive learnt something new again Greg so thanks from me.
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0 # nighti 2011-05-22 12:11
Nice video, well done.

What I would like to know, where can I find more information about the assumption "50% of the information is stored in the 'right side' of the histogram/in the brigher areas" - could you give me some sources please?

That would affect my tendency so underexpose an image by 0.5, 1 or even 1.5 stops to use a lower ISO to reduce the image noise when I'm shooter some events which require a fast shutter speed (1/300 - 1/500, with f/2.8). This way I'm using ISO 1600-2000 instead of ISO 3200-4000.

Thanks in advance!
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0 # Atilio Ranzuglia 2011-05-22 15:27
Quoting Gregory Cazillo:
Quoting Atilio Ranzuglia:
Great subject! Not an easy one. Right today, I went to an upgrade workshop, and we spoke a lot about histograms. I can't understand why are you saing that half of data is in the first stop, at the brightest side. Can you explain it a little bit more?

Thanks and nice to see you on your own

Its a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, too much to explain here and more than most people really need to know. This is an old article but still very good information... www.normankoren.com/.../


Thanks for your time. I read almost the half from that article, so many things I don't know! Thanks again
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0 # Julian N 2011-05-22 15:27
Hey Greg,
Great Video. Im really enjoying the technical side of photography that you are giving us. Thank you.

What would be cool to see along with this vid, would be a series of images with their respective histograms.

That would really help me to understand what the histogram is telling me, in relation to the image i am taking.

I think you have opened up a big can of beans on this one.. And I just want more.

Thanks Again.
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+2 # evanR 2011-05-22 19:25
Great video Greg. Thanks very much. This is very confusing to most beginners so they tend to shy away from using the histogram. its a shame because it can be so valuable. Keep em going.
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0 # Dima 2011-05-23 15:12
Quoting Julian N:
What would be cool to see along with this vid, would be a series of images with their respective histograms.


I thing Greg has given us enough info to understand the basics of histogram reading; best way to see photos with histograms is to open your Lightroom library :)
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0 # ryan 2011-05-24 07:20
excellent video there greg, just one question, do you or did you ever lens calibrate your DSLR?
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0 # Brian 2011-05-24 15:13
Invaluable info as always. I always look forward to your videos. Please keep your motivation; once again, solid info!
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+2 # Galen 2011-05-24 23:36
Hi Greg!

Your video was just published on fstoppers.com.

Congratulations!
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0 # Dugger 2011-05-26 03:06
Enjoyed and learned from histogram demo. My question is could you show what it is you do as your photographing something. For instance if the photo is under exposed what are some of the corrective measures you make to the camera. In particular the specific settings or maybe some of the particular buttons, just to give a novice some ideas.
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0 # Dalibor 2011-05-26 03:45
Hi Greg, any plans on installing forum where people can share photos and discuss them and techniques, more comfortably then on facebook?
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0 # chris 2011-05-26 06:58
is it true that the histogram you see on your camera's display (in my case a d5000) is for the jpg the camera is displaying and not for the raw file?
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0 # Colin 2011-05-26 12:12
Really enjoyed this, thanks.
Question: I've been under the impression that avoiding 'burned out' spots is imperative but surely pushing the histogram to the right increases the risk of this. I'd love to see a follow up video explaining how to get the balance right.
Thanks again for an excellent video.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:27
Quoting Colin:
Really enjoyed this, thanks.
Question: I've been under the impression that avoiding 'burned out' spots is imperative but surely pushing the histogram to the right increases the risk of this. I'd love to see a follow up video explaining how to get the balance right.
Thanks again for an excellent video.

There is no "right" way to expose an image, it all comes down to how you want to create it. There is a correct way to use the histogram and I believe I explained that ok in this video.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:27
Quoting chris:
is it true that the histogram you see on your camera's display (in my case a d5000) is for the jpg the camera is displaying and not for the raw file?

Yes, just like I said in the video ;).
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:28
Quoting Dalibor:
Hi Greg, any plans on installing forum where people can share photos and discuss them and techniques, more comfortably then on facebook?

I'd like to but I wouldn't want to put up a forum where I don't have the time or resources to make sure that it runs well.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:29
Quoting Dugger:
Enjoyed and learned from histogram demo. My question is could you show what it is you do as your photographing something. For instance if the photo is under exposed what are some of the corrective measures you make to the camera. In particular the specific settings or maybe some of the particular buttons, just to give a novice some ideas.

Your corrective settings are easy, adjust your shutter speed, aperture or ISO!
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:30
Quoting ryan:
excellent video there greg, just one question, do you or did you ever lens calibrate your DSLR?

Nope, if I have problems with it I send it back to Nikon and have them do it.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2011-06-07 07:44
Quoting sabrina Takorabet:
Thanks a lot Greg, very well explained as usual. I have a question : when I uploading a photo to Aperture or any other software, and want to correct my exposure I drag the little arrow in the bottom line of the histogram from the right corner towards the center this gives me more light and brightens my photo. But if the 1/2 of the data, as you say it in this video, is in this area so I'm loosing a lot of data by dragging this arrow this way? If yes what is then the use of this arrows on the bottom of the histograms?
Thank you in advance

If you have to brighten your exposure you have already lost the data that could have been captured. Now all you can do is recover it and allow the software to do what it can to make it look good/acceptable .
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0 # Ved 2011-06-17 10:54
Great video, great info. Loved the examples you gave to make us understand it. Has lessen the fear of histograms a bit, I'll try to practice what you shared. thanks!
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0 # Phil Restan 2011-10-20 12:05
Just found your videos,never really understood the histogram but after watching this I will use it from now on.

Thanks for sharing these. You have a great teaching manner which made it very easy to watch.
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0 # Sharon 2012-06-08 01:15
Found the histogram video very helpful. Will definitely be paying more attention to it rather than the RBG histogram!
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0 # Keith 2012-06-09 22:38
Great Job Explaining the histogram.. Puts so much into perspective for me.. i am still getting used to my camera and this is a good starting point.. I want to shoot in 100% manual mode but seem to lose shots i really wanted because i am always fumbling to get the right exposure quickly..
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0 # Marcelo Canda 2012-12-08 19:11
Hi Greg!

I was watching this video and it is very helpfull. I want to ask a question to clarify my ideas. When you say "shot for the highlights" do you mean that I have to meter with my camera the shadows in order to over expose a little bit so I can have more information in my photography and I can manage better when I postprocess it with photoshop?

Thanks Marcelo Canda from Buenos Aires Argentina.
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2012-12-09 20:35
Shoot for the highlights means your primary concern when capturing images should be the highlights, not the shadows. You can adjust shadows easily & without loss of data in post processing. Hence the term "shoot for the highlights, print for the shadows."
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0 # Joe Darmiento 2013-02-11 17:27
Shooting to the right would seem to imply (to me at least) a lean towards overexposure and potential for blowing out highlights. Thought I read somewhere it's better to be slightly underexposed than overexposed because you can recover highlights in post-processing , and that seems to be consistent with my admittedly limited experience. Where am I going wrong?
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0 # RichyRich 2013-03-20 14:40
Wow! What a video! I loved that! No one was able to really explain the histogram to my liking. Good job!
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0 # Karen K 2014-04-17 07:11
Hi Greg.... i just watched your video of Histograms and bracketing and you made me understand them much better. The one thing i would like to know is what is stacking and what program do you use for that?
I love watching your videos and reading about your experience.
Keep up the great work and thanx for having me as a client.
Karen
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0 # Gregory Cazillo 2014-05-26 15:11
We are going to talk about this next week, what type of stacking are you talking about?
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