Now, I have to say that I found this frustrating. Not just the fact that we had to let the camera do all the work in iAuto mode, but more: Why do I really need to understand that little rectangle anyway? Will it revolutionize my understanding of an image? Doesn’t it just get in the way of framing on screens/viewfinders? Will I be sending my work to clients for printing one day so I should look to avoid clipping and what-not?
Saving detail from underexposure (excessive shadows, or ‘blackened out’) and overexposure, (blinding whites or ‘blown out’) might actually be something to work on in the future. Right now, though, it seems a little pointless.
What a brilliant approach to my first coursework mini project. Hey, where does it say we have to like everything about photography on this course? Like: maybe not, understand: probably yes.
I took few shots while leaning the camera on a low wall at night. Thought I’d try at night just to see how the camera handles it in iAuto, and to just do something different from the more obvious daytime shots (ok, ok, and because I wanted to get started and not wait for morning, I admit it!).
Here’s the brief for exercise 1.1:
And after some hair raising issues with trying to get sceenshots of Lightroom…
The histograms above clearly show that detail has been lost to the dark, as we can see by the far left ‘clipping’. To be expected, it was taken at night. Even so, there ARE differences that have been registered by the histogram; the red colour channel seems to shyly dance behind the yellow and grey channels. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye here.
Some seriously low resolution images here:
I did enjoy the one second slow shutter speed and purposely left the remnants of a passing car’s rear lights in the bottom right hand corner of this shot. And no, I wouldn’t be able to tell where that would be on the histogram, possibly a little more red? I don’t know.
Despite initially feeling that this was totally irrelevant, after reading up (only a little bit – references below), I found that it actually makes sense raising our awareness to such things. I had always thought that that annoying rectangle of coloured mountains was simply a waste of time and not worth the effort of trying to decipher it (something left to the ‘experts’). Moreover, if the histogram tool is of little importance, then wouldn’t that mean that we could equally argue that exposure has no role to play in our point and shoot world? How absurd would that be?
I think I was wrong. How wrong can you be?
Although, just like the twisted lyric you had always heard turns out to be something else, but everytime you hear it you still hear your own interpretation, so the little histogram will always be that colourful set of mountains for me. That being said, there are some things to remember here about how to ‘read’ it.
Firstly, left is dark and right is light. That’s unforgettable. Secondly, a steadily sloping ‘mountain’ towards the centre is a fair indication that you have good exposure, I mean, the histogram is, basically, a graphic indication of exposure. That in itself is reason enough to want to be able to read it correctly.
Garret, J., Harris, G., Collins Complete Photography Course, Collins, 2008 (p.21)
Freeman, M., Fotografare in Bianco e Nero, Logos, 2009, (pp. 96-97, 174-75)