Advanced Settings

Histogram part three

Written by Gail Bjork

Using the histogram when photo editing allows you to adjust brightness and contrast and improve tonal range.

Histogram: Part 1 – Part 2

levels-histogramOne of the most useful tools in photo editing is Levels. When you select Levels within an image editing program, it brings up a histogram.

A histogram is a visual display of the pixels from black to white in an image.

By moving sliders, you can adjust brightness and contrast, improve tonal range and eliminate the “flat” look of many images, all without losing detail.

Levels can be adjusted automatically but it doesn’t always work well. Start by adjusting the black areas (left slider), then the white areas (right slider) and finally, the midtones (middle slider).

Each photo has it’s own distinct histogram. When first using the histogram, note where the black and white starters are positioned.

Adjust them so that the black and white sliders are lined up under the data in the histogram. You can also change color balance by selecting an individual color Channel and making similar adjustments.

Original image

Original image


Image after making levels adjustments and sharpening.


Histogram for original image

Histogram for original image

Histogram for adjusted image

Histogram for adjusted image

Adjustments are a matter of personal taste, so experiment until you’re happy with the outcome. Always work on a copy of an original. If you make a mistake, you can go back and work from another copy of the original.

If your image editing software does not have histogram, you can use the brightness and contrast tool, which gives you less control but can be very effective.

 This article was contributed by Yin Wong.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.