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Making use of the histogram

From: Photoshop Elements 11 Essentials: 02 Editing and Retouching Photos

Video: Making use of the histogram

As you're processing a photo in Camera Raw, the histogram at the top of the basic column automatically updates to give you a live preview of how your adjustments are affecting the tones in the image. Sometime it's hard to judge what's happening with the naked eye by just looking at the preview of an image, so you might think that this photo looks pretty good, but it's actually lacking in contrast, and I can tell that by looking at the Histogram, as we'll see in just a moment. Now this histogram is a lot like the one that we saw earlier in the course in the Levels dialog box, and it's like the histogram that's in the Histogram Panel in Expert edit mode.

Making use of the histogram

As you're processing a photo in Camera Raw, the histogram at the top of the basic column automatically updates to give you a live preview of how your adjustments are affecting the tones in the image. Sometime it's hard to judge what's happening with the naked eye by just looking at the preview of an image, so you might think that this photo looks pretty good, but it's actually lacking in contrast, and I can tell that by looking at the Histogram, as we'll see in just a moment. Now this histogram is a lot like the one that we saw earlier in the course in the Levels dialog box, and it's like the histogram that's in the Histogram Panel in Expert edit mode.

It's a chart that represents the tones in the active image. The right side of this black bar represents the brightest possible tones and the left side, the darkest possible tones, with the range of gray tones in between. And the color mound represents the actual tones in this image, with the colors in the mound identifying the contribution of tones in the various color channels. This mound is made up of vertical bars that are set close up next to one another. The height of a bar represents the frequency of the corresponding tone along the bar at the bottom of the histogram. So this tall bar is above a relatively bright part of the histogram, and that means that there's a lot of this particular tone in the image.

As I drag the sliders in the Basic Panel, notice that the shape of the mound changes, so if I lower the Exposure, the mound moves over to the left on the histogram, and if I increase the Exposure it moves over toward the right. And if I drag the Contrast slider to the right, the values spread out on the histogram. Now contrast is a slightly different concept than brightness, so I think it's important to understand the difference. Brightness is just the lightness or darkness, but when we talk about contrast we mean the difference between the dark and light tones. Now many photos will look their best when they have enough contrast, so often your goal is to get a full range of tonal values across the histogram, but that's not always the case.

For example, the parts of an image that are far away usually are lower in contrast than areas that are closer to you, and to force that to be different could make the photo look inaccurate. Notice that there are two triangles at the top left and the top right of the histogram. These are the clipping warnings. They help you to see if, as you're adjusting the photo, you've clipped any highlights or shadows, in other words, whether any highlights or shadows have lost their detail. These triangles are active when there is a small white border around them, so right now the highlight clipping warning is on, and so if I go down to the Highlights slider, and I drag it way over to the right, farther than it should be, and maybe I'll get the Exposure slider and move that to the right too, you start to see areas of red in the image.

They represent the tones that are lacking in detail that are just too bright to have any detail. So if I have the Highlight Clipping warning on and I see this in the image I would probably come down and reduce the Exposure and reduce the Highlights as well until those red bits go away. By the way, when there is clipping in the highlights you'll also see something like this, a spike on the right side of the Histogram. So I will drag those back to get rid of those red bits in the image. Less crucial than the highlight clipping warning but also useful, is the Shadow Clipping warning.

So if I turn that one on and then I drag the Blacks slider way over, you can see some areas in the photo turn blue, and those are the areas that I'm pushing to pure black without detail. And now you see a spike on the left side of the histogram, representing those clipped pixels. So, I might move back on the Blacks a bit to bring more detail into those areas. If those clipping warnings are getting in your way, they're keeping you from seeing the photo, you can turn each one off by clicking on it to remove the white highlight. So, that's a quick look at the Histogram. As you're adjusting a photo in Camera Raw, remember to keep an eye on the histogram to help you understand how your changes are affecting the image, and suggest what other adjustments the image might need.

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This video is part of

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  1. 6m 14s
    1. Welcome
      1m 10s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 30s
    3. Overview of the editing workspaces
      3m 34s
  2. 43m 14s
    1. Touring the interface
      4m 21s
    2. Making the most of the tools in Elements
      4m 6s
    3. Arranging the panels
      4m 32s
    4. Zooming and panning
      4m 3s
    5. Viewing multiple photos
      3m 51s
    6. Undoing
      5m 15s
    7. Cropping
      3m 46s
    8. Resizing
      7m 18s
    9. Saving images and examining formats
      6m 2s
  3. 19m 23s
    1. Understanding layers
      7m 59s
    2. Managing layers in the Layers panel
      4m 33s
    3. Creating new layers
      6m 51s
  4. 38m 28s
    1. Why use selections?
      4m 20s
    2. Selecting with the marquee tools
      3m 56s
    3. Selecting with the lasso tools
      6m 40s
    4. Selecting by color and tone
      6m 22s
    5. Refining a selection
      4m 51s
    6. Selecting hair
      5m 42s
    7. Hiding content with a layer mask
      6m 37s
  5. 46m 54s
    1. Why use adjustment layers?
      5m 15s
    2. Adjusting color with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      4m 32s
    3. Correcting lighting with a Levels adjustment layer
      3m 32s
    4. Adjusting part of an image with an adjustment layer
      5m 19s
    5. Exploring auto adjustments
      3m 55s
    6. Improving shadows and highlights
      2m 14s
    7. Removing a color cast
      1m 47s
    8. Fine-tuning with Color Curves
      3m 16s
    9. Converting to black and white
      2m 26s
    10. Correcting camera distortion
      5m 32s
    11. Reducing noise
      2m 56s
    12. Sharpening
      6m 10s
  6. 20m 51s
    1. Creating a panorama
      5m 6s
    2. Merging bracketed exposures
      6m 0s
    3. Removing people from a scene
      5m 25s
    4. Combining group shots
      4m 20s
  7. 29m 24s
    1. Removing blemishes
      3m 42s
    2. Reducing wrinkles and circles
      4m 16s
    3. Enhancing eyes
      5m 19s
    4. Removing red-eye
      3m 15s
    5. Adjusting skin tone
      2m 21s
    6. Removing dust spots
      4m 7s
    7. Removing content
      6m 24s
  8. 52m 36s
    1. What is Camera Raw?
      5m 18s
    2. Using the latest Camera Raw controls
      3m 16s
    3. Camera Raw basics
      6m 22s
    4. Making use of the histogram
      3m 45s
    5. Setting white balance
      3m 44s
    6. Adjusting lighting
      4m 28s
    7. Adjusting color saturation
      2m 9s
    8. Cropping and straightening
      3m 58s
    9. Reducing noise
      3m 33s
    10. Sharpening
      3m 38s
    11. Synchronizing edits to multiple photos
      3m 36s
    12. Outputting from Camera Raw
      6m 14s
    13. Using Camera Raw with JPEGs
      2m 35s
  9. 48s
    1. Next steps
      48s

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