Understanding Histograms and How to Use Them

Histograms can be a useful tool for better understanding the tonal ranges within a photograph, but for those who are unfamiliar with them, they can also be confusing.

In this Photoshop class, Karl will be taking a closer look at histograms, explaining what they are, how to read them and how we can use them to enhance our photography.

Throughout this class Karl examines multiple images with different histograms, clearly explaining what each means. He also shows a simple example of an in-camera histogram and how this changes when an image is under or overexposed.

This class covers the following:

  • How to read histograms in photography
  • Colour vs RGB histograms
  • Understanding highlight, mid-tone and shadow information in an image
  • Histograms and exposure in photography

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.


  1. Hi Karl

    Thank you for this video. Do you have one for the correction of shadows/ highlights and midtones where the shot is either under/ over exposed using the ‘tone curve’? At the moment, it is partly guesswork based on how the picture looks, but I am sure you use a more appropriate / methodical workflow using the histogram information? You touched on it early on in your video when you were ‘pulling’ the histogram to the left and made everything darker.

  2. I edit on a pretty decent iMac. I am horrified when I see some of my images on my client’s computer monitors. Have you ever had to compensate for your clients’ equipment even though your vision and histograms say the image is right where you want it to be?

    1. Hi Aaron no you shouldn’t do that because your clients bad screen isn’t the ultimate destination for the images it’s for everyone else to see in print or on their screens and we must always stick to a benchmark standard. It would be better to encourage your client to upgrade one of their screens.

  3. Yes I’m tired of being told by other alleged professional photographers to “shoot to the right” when a lot of the times my histogram is mainly in the midtones or the far left but I know it’s correctly exposed.

    Very interesting to have a proper review of how to use the histogram.

  4. Hi Karl,

    Eagerly waiting for this.

    I am an enthusiast photographer. I take pictures during my travel trips. If you include the following topics in your talk, It would help me a lot in understanding this phenomenon.

    1. Many of the photography experts advocate the idea of “Exposing To The Right (ETTR)”, saying that a camera records best pixel information when you overexpose the image, so that more of the histogram is towards the right and later pull it back in post processing.

    2. The histogram shown by a camera in field is based on the JPEG image cooked by it during capture and has more information in the RAW file. So if you overexpose the image in the field, you can have more in the file than what you see in camera during the time of capture.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Anant,
      1. This is a myth perpetrated by people that don’t fully understand the capabilities of RAW file, 14bit or 16bit capture and often leads to constant confusion amongst new photographers and is not to their advantage. In fact I actually expose more to the left, primarily because I light my work and scenes properly and I prefer the dramatic look acheived. I also control my highlights with lighting or filtration to ensure they are not blow. Right now I can tell you Forget about ETTR nonsense – shoot in RAW and expose the picture correctly and follow the classes on this platform to do with good capture techniques and post production. Focus on the art and craft of capture technique rather than some nerd in his bedroom purported on the web.
      2. Yes there is more in the RAW file that can be extracted, the histogram is a guide of what has been recorded based on doing no adjustments to the RAW file. You can also have far more out of the shadows too, please forget about the ETTR nonsense, if you’d like evidence of why this is nonsense find the portfolios of those supporting this method and then compare them to mine – http://www.karltaylor.com

      1. DougHowell

        Karl, will you tell us how you accomplished the MSA shoot? Those photographs of the safety apparatuses are perfect as can be and they perfectly tell us what the equipment is for, no need for words! Now I know you said you used a lot of lights and modifiers. But how did you shoot the MSA self contained breathing apparatus, without a person in it? I mean what did that take?

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