If your camera does offer an RGB historgram, use it. Here’s why:

If you rely on a standard histogram to determine whether or not you’ve blown your highlights or lost detail in your shadows, then you’re only getting about one third of the information you need to make an accurate decision.

Most modern cameras offer a regular histogram mode by default that merely represents the green channel. Unfortunately, this is the channel least likely to show clipping. If you have the ability to turn on an RGB histogram, you get to see the red and blue channels as well. Without this information, you may be losing detail and not know it if you’re only viewing the single histogram. That’s why it’s a best practice to set your camera up so it defaults to an RGB histogram if it’s available.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. I know the Fuji S3 and S5 allow you to view each channel as a separate histogram, making it a great tool for checking everything.

  2. Yet another reasone to upgrade my camera! Thanks! :)

  3. YES… this is a great way to learn. I got my girl a old D100 with that tiny little crappy screen and it was the best way for her see if the image would even have enough info to work till she could get it uploaded to a computer.

  4. Scott, I’ve often wondered what you do with this info. Say I’m shooting a picture and I see that the red channel is clipping. What do I do then? To my knowledge I can’t under expose or drop the exposure of the red channel only.

    Thanks, I really enjoy the show!!!

  5. Using the histogram to tweak exposure is a real eye opener. Judging exposure from the LCD alone is merely impossible. This is great tip.

  6. Very true. Another corollary is to retain your images and learn from the display. I used to offload the images from the card then immediately delete them. With the RGB histogram display, I’ve learned to retain those image files on the card and study them. For example, I may take a dozen photos using various settings just to go back and review the exposure and histograms to better understand how changes in the settings affected the final outcome. The other feature my camera has is a display which highlights and blinks those areas which likely have blown highlights. This immediately tells me where I have potential problems.

  7. I’ve been using the histogram for quite some time for reasons of exposure checking, I didn’t know that there might be a drawback to not looking at the color histogram. Both my dSLR cameras support it though, so I’m good there.

  8. My Nikon D40 doesn’t have it built-in directly, but you can access one. Click the “OK” button and get to the Retouch Menu. Then Filter Effects to Color Balance. You’ve now got a RGB histogram on screen. Once you do this once, you can then just hit the OK button 3x in succession to pull up the RGB histogram.

  9. Can someone explain to me – how do i use the individual histogram channels to tell if im loosing detail. IM LOST?!?!?!


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