About histograms, metering methods and post processing

Started Nov 28, 2005 | Discussions thread
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Yoddle Laheehoo
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About histograms, metering methods and post processing
Nov 28, 2005

So, after all the good advice I received in the "E500 frustrations" thread (thank you all for that) I now got my E500. This weekend, I have tried the suggestions. On Friday, we got al lot of snow, so I knew I could expect some exposure issues when shooting in my garden. I took over a hundred pictures of a birdhouse on a pole, about 5 feet high, in my snow covered garden. After each shot I checked the histogram and then took the same shot with different settings to see how it affected the histogram. I think I am getting the hang of it, but ofcourse there are questions, some of which I'd like to ask here.

The bars in the middel part of the histogram are not very well represented when compared to the left and right. I believe this is because I had mainly light (snow) and dark (brown birdhouse) objects in my pictures (very few mid tones). The histogram kind of looks like a bowl. With ESP the birdhouse is very dark. With Center Weighted Avarage the birdhouse is better, but the histogram's right tends to clip. I can understand that, because with this method the brown center is weighed more than the white surroundings. With spot metering on the birdhouse, the white clips even more, let alone the spot with highlights metering. Spot-sh gives an almost black picture. I can understand this all and it translates to the histogram as I expected.

From one of the sites you directed me to I learned that the histogram must always be judged together with the picture. I concluded that my histogram looks like a bowl, because there are very very few midtones in my picture. Now I can boost the midtones by a different metering method or by overexposing a little bit, but when I do so the highlights clip.

I am not very experienced yet in postprocessing but I remember from my analogue days that in a situation like this, I would shoot with settings for the birdhouse (get the dark part correctly exposed) and when exposing the photopaper during processing I would block the light beam on the overexposed parts by moving my hand through the beam a couple of times. So there would be different exposure times for one photo.

Now, what is the way to do this in digital processing? Should I accept a histogram with low midtones and than crank up the midtones with Photoshop or another program? Or is it better to take the picture with a higher midtone histogram and than decrease the highlights later? I believe it should be the first approach, because I believe clipped bars in the histogram indicate loss of information that cannot be recovered during post processing? Am I right?

Overall, I have been trying to get the best possible result from the camera and then do the rest in postprocessing. But sometimes the WB gives me headaches. So I now consider setting it to Auto, shoot raw format and than adjust the whitebalance later during postprocessing. It saves a lot of time. Are there other settings that can be adjusted during post processing as if they were preset when shooting? Rephrase: are there other settings that I shouldn't worry about when I cannot get it right immediately when shooting because they can be adjusted in postprocessing?

Thank you all for reading this lengthy textn and for your comments. They are highly appreciated.

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