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Histogram for Low key studio work

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5 years 2 months ago #1305 by John Horton
Hey Greg hope you are well.

I recently watched your youtube video explaining the Histogram basics which has helped me loads. But recently whilst working in my home studio i found a problem, low key. Using black backgrounds, clothes and covers the only lighter colours being skin tones. I found I was getting totally different readings from my histogram. I used external canon flash guns, When I had everything set up the way i wanted and so that i couldn't see any details on the black backgrounds etc. I was getting good exposures on my subject, sometimes a little under exposed. But the difference of the histogram meant I didn't know how I should have been reading so i was forced to review the pictures on my cameras screen to see how well they had been exposed. I don't like doing that because Its normally a lot different when I get them into lightroom. The main problem with the histogram readings were obviously the dark spike on the left hand side which i expected but then it was flat all the way over the the right side with no other spikes. sometimes not reaching the last eighth on the right hand side of my histogram.

so my question is, what am I looking out for on my histogram when shooting low key pictures.

thanks for taking the time to read this, i hope you can make some sort of sense from it. John In kent, England.

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5 years 2 months ago #1306 by Andrew Olson
Maybe I can take a shot at this.

If you are shooting a subject against a black background and have the flash set pretty low or almost underexposing the subject then yes the background will be just totally black with no detail. Especially with no light on the background it will be totally black.

Also, when using flash/strobe and backgrounds you lose detail when the background is + or - three or more stops than the subject, with four stops being either pure white or pure black.

But sometimes having no light/s on the background can result in a nice low key if the background is not totally black like this one I shot a little while ago.



I had one strobe camera left and a reflector camera right to bounce light back in, but no light on the background. I also had a V-flat blocking the light on the background over his right shoulder but left some spill over his left shoulder to give a little separation. The background in this pic is actually white.

Do you have a handheld meter that can meter flash? You can't rely solely on the histogram for a good exposure when using flash or strobes, you need to meter them for a good exposure. For low key I usually have the background maybe 2 stops darker and sometimes three.

Does this help or did I not really answer your question?

Andy

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5 years 2 months ago #1308 by Gregory Cazillo
Can you post a photo and its histogram? That will help us to talk apples to apples. In general you want to push to the right...BUT there are always exceptions and low key work may be one of them, depending on what you want to create.

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5 years 2 months ago #1309 by Gregory Cazillo

Andrew Olson wrote: Do you have a handheld meter that can meter flash? You can't rely solely on the histogram for a good exposure when using flash or strobes, you need to meter them for a good exposure.


I don't know that I agree with this. I haven't used a flash meter in years, I check the histogram to see where my tones are at relative to the image then adjust.

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5 years 2 months ago #1310 by Andrew Olson

Gregory Cazillo wrote:

Andrew Olson wrote: Do you have a handheld meter that can meter flash? You can't rely solely on the histogram for a good exposure when using flash or strobes, you need to meter them for a good exposure.


I don't know that I agree with this. I haven't used a flash meter in years, I check the histogram to see where my tones are at relative to the image then adjust.


I use a meter for everything that involves speed lights (off camera) or strobes. Especially when using two or more lights, like a main light, rim light and background light for a portrait.

Plus, I shoot film fairly often and my meter is invaluable. :)

Just different ways of working.

Andy

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5 years 2 months ago - 5 years 2 months ago #1312 by John Horton
Thanx for the replies, I have no problem with getting my back ground how i want it. I would like to know the best way to read my histogram for low key photography to determine wether my subject is properly exposed.

This is the one of the original images from the shoot before I processed it in lightroom.



Attachments:
Last Edit: 5 years 2 months ago by John Horton.

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5 years 1 month ago #1418 by John Horton
hey greg, still looking for help with this. thanx

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5 years 1 month ago #1421 by Gregory Cazillo
Hey sorry for the late response! I think your histogram is fine for this image. You don't have any bright white colors which would give you more information on the right side of the histogram.

That said, I would still do a few test photos to be sure you are shooting the best exposure. Make sense?

Please use the forum for photo questions instead of a private message, that way everyone can learn.

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