A Digital Photography Post Editing Tip-So Just How Good Is Our Histogram?

About 3 weeks ago I received a fantastic digital photography question from a lovely gentleman named John, on my blog about the Histogram. It was such a good question that I simply had to respond by writing about it. He asked me this question; “I’ve heard people say that it dangerous to just change the lighting because that moves the whole histogram, and thus you lose the some of the colors. What do you think about that?”

I think he is right and I thank him very much for asking me this question. When you are post editing your digital photography via the handy Histogram, it does change the whole lighting components in your digital photograph. This is why it’s important to study the Histogram as you are taking your digital photos so you learn exactly the impact it has.

To really understand what does work in digital photography we first must understand that this is an art form. I’ve always said, and will continue to say that all good photography comes from the photographer, not the camera. On saying that, this is where tools such as the Histogram come in very handy to enhance the digital photos you have taken. I don’t care what anyone says, post editing tools are no substitute for artistic talent.

So let’s look at Johns question in detail for enhancing your digital photography. The way the Histogram works is to indeed reduce the overall light very effectively and decrease it just as effectively. The beauty about the Histogram is that it allows you to do this easily and with more control. As far as the colours go whenever you change the light the colours will be affected, there is no doubt about that. And at the same time, if you have a digital photograph that’s suffering from overexposure you can reduce the light and the colours will be richer. You can also increase the beauty of colours by getting rid of underexposure. Increasing the light by using a Histogram can bring out the real blues and greens in a digital photo.

The Histogram is a tool I love because you can have fun and learn with it. You can learn what overexposure and what underexposure in a digital does, and change the light accordingly. But John is right, if you have too much light or too little light, you can loose colour and definition of colour easily. That’s why the Histogram should be used only when needed and to enhance lighting rather than change colours or affect composition.

Let’s take for example this photo I took a few months ago of Karen. My aim for this picture was a candid picture where I could keep the colours as natural as possible. I was luck to have an overcast day under shelter, which enhanced the beauty of the colours already in the picture. The picture has a lot of blue tones thanks to the overcast light, but is offset by her hair colour and skin tone.


If we increase the light using the Histogram, what would happen?


John is right, we loose colour. So, on the other hand, what happens if we decrease the light?


You can see how the digital photo has lost definition now? This is why I decided not to use the Histogram on this digital photo because I like the light and colour as it is. I felt the natural light was nice so I kept it that way. Most importantly Karen loved it.

Remeber that a Histograms purpose is about regaining the even balance of light.

So whenever you are using any digital photography post editing tools, make sure you are using it for the purpose of enhancement, and learning.

Happy shooting

Amy Renfrey 🙂


11 comments on “A Digital Photography Post Editing Tip-So Just How Good Is Our Histogram?

  1. I was wondering if the histogram is the same thing as what you see in photoshop as you do in your camera. Why do they give bit different readings?

    • Hi Justin,

      It has to do with colour management. Each device and program can interpret colour differently unless you create a profile to begin with, or shoot in a certain colour space and then edit your photos in that same colour space.

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