Saturday, 11 May 2013

Am I a bad person?

I have a confession to make. I have been carrying a guilty secret around with me for the past few years but I think it is time I got it out there so I can move on with my life with some degree of normality.

I don't use the histogram.

There, I've said it. I don't feel any different right now but I am almost sure it will help to have got that great weight off my shoulders. But the question remains; does this make me a bad person?

I say this because I read quite a lot about photography and it seems that every description of someone making a picture requires them to pay great attention to the histogram in order to get an accurately exposed image. I've never done this. I do refer to the histogram when applying relatively minimal tweaks during post processing but I can't recall ever having done so at the time of making the exposure.

Now, clearly, I have my tongue firmly in my cheek right now but I honestly do wonder whether I am missing a trick by ignoring what appears to be commonly held best practice for digital photography. Alternatively, is the value of doing this overstated somewhat? To answer that, I will tell you what my approach is: For general landscape photography (i.e. fairly straightforward lighting conditions), I generally use aperture priority (I can almost hear the sound of mouths dropping as I write - that is, assuming anyone ever reads this) because the aperture is typically what I need to control. If the camera is on a tripod (almost always the case for landscapes), I obviously don't care how slow the shutter speed is and I trust the very advanced metering to cope with such lighting conditions.For trickier lighting conditions (for instance, sunrise or sunset), I usually switch to using manual exposure and employ my trusty, handheld spot meter - very old school I know but also very accurate.Wedding and street photography are a different matter. I still tend to use aperture priority but if the lighting is contrasty I find it easier to switch to the highlight view on the display; this means a very quick glance at the back of the camera gives me instant feedback (in the form of flashing) of any burnt out areas and I can quickly determine whether I need to re-shoot with, maybe, some exposure compensation. I certainly don't have the time to study the histogram in such circumstances.

So, in my opinion, reviewing the histogram isn't really as crucial as some would make out. I don't even think it is necessarily the best way of checking exposure. However, everyone out there in printed media land seems to think it is crucial so perhaps it is just pure, dumb luck when I do get something correctly exposed.

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