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Stem-and-Leaf Plots and Histograms

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Histograms in Photography
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Credit: Rob Wieland/U.S. Air Force
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USAF_photographer.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Have you ever taken a picture that you thought was great at the time, but not so great once you downloaded it later? The previews that you see on your LCD screen can sometimes be quite deceiving, especially when you are shooting photos outdoors in the sun.

How Histograms Can Help

One of the first things photographers want to know after taking a photo is whether or not they got the right exposure. Image editing software and many digital cameras create histograms that can be analyzed to determine if the exposure was right. These histograms count how many pixels are at each level between black and white. The height of the graph at each point depends on the number of pixels that are that bright.

Credit: Tobias Rutten
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Histogram_1.png
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Lighter images will produce histograms with bars mostly on the right side of the graph. Darker images will have bars mostly on the left side of the graph. A good image often will have bars spread all over. If you're able to take a peek at the histograms of your images while you’re shooting, this can help you figure out if you have room to tweak the exposure of your photos.

See for yourself: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/understanding-histograms.shtml

Explore More

Check out the following video and article for more on how you can use your camera's histogram function to get the most from your photographs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whJJ5odMDhw

http://psd.tutsplus.com/tutorials/photo-effects-tutorials/using-your-cameras-histogram-to-take-better-digital-photographs/

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Rob Wieland/U.S. Air Force; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USAF_photographer.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Tobias Rutten; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Histogram_1.png; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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