Are you going to frame that histogram?


I’ll never forget when I was teaching a workshop in the Smoky Mountains and we were on a mountain ridge photographing a beautiful sunrise and a student came up to me and said “Look at that!” as he showed me the histogram on the back of the camera. I looked with a puzzled expression and asked, “What’s the matter? He replied “Look at its shape, it doesn’t look good.” I asked to see his image, which looked fine, and I pointed out the image looked fine but he said “But what about the histogram, the shape isn’t right? And I replied, “Who are you going to show the histogram to?
I constantly hear from photographers worried about their histograms. Personally I call people like that “histogram anal.” You have to remember a histogram is just a graph of the brightness range of the pixels in your image. There is no right or wrong histogram. People are always worried about losing detail and having a histogram with that hits the right edge and shows a lot of pixels on the right wall of the histogram. Something like this:
Most people would be appalled their histogram had such a spike on the right edge and would change the exposure of their image. This is the histogram from this image, and I am not changing my exposure!













Here is another histogram that I think most photographers would say requires an exposure adjustment.












 But that goes with this image:











I wanted it this way! 
All I am saying is don’t get too wrapped up in your histograms, be more concerned about how your images look! Use the histogram as a guide to answer questions about whether or not you have lost detail in an image and then use your head to decide if that is critical to the particular image you are trying to create. Remember you are in control of your image, not your camera!
But if you really are in love with your histogram you can always frame one and hang it on your wall!