For this tutorial I’ll be using Adobe Lightroom 3, which I think is far and away the best processing program out there and because its develop workflow is almost identical to that of Adobe Camera RAW’s, which comes packaged with Photoshop and is thus the most popular processing program these days; no Apple Aperture or iPhoto here.
Hold Your Horses
The left side represents darker tones, like shadows, and the right side represents brighter tones, like daylight and whites. An untouched RAW image’s histogram should technically all be contained within the middle of the histogram, bunched slightly to the right, with no “clipping,” or loss of detail in the shadows (pure black) and highlights (pure white), on either end. This means that your image’s data is all there, nothing is missing, and you have the most information to play around with; the original file should be relatively flat looking, with very little contrast and saturation, as you can see below.
Before: Note the “clipped” highlights on the right side of the histogram; this represents the extremely bright, blown out highlights on the model’s face, skin, and in the white parts of the dress. On the left side of the histogram you’ll notice “clipped” data as well; this represents the upper left portion of the image, the shadowy part where the audience sits. You’ll also notice a high presence of red and yellow, as the runway lights are very warm and the image hasn’t been white balanced yet (which is one of the subjects for next week’s post).
After: Now notice how the histogram has changed to reflect the changes I made to the image. I brought the exposure down to bring out the detail in her face and skin, see how the right side of the histogram is no longer clipping at all? I also raised the level of the blacks to cut out the audience and make the model pop more, note that the histogram is now weighted more toward the left side. Also, after white balancing the image, you can see how there is less red and yellow in the histogram, which really brings out the blues in the dress.
More in This Series:
- Making Your Images Pop: A Guide to Processing Photos Pt. 2
- Making Your Images Pop: A Guide to Processing Photos Pt. 3
- Making Your Images Pop: A Guide to Processing Photos Pt. 4