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In this tutorial, we will show you how to maximize the Histogram tool located on the top right of your Lightroom screen to fully encapsulate your image’s true potential. The histogram in essence tells you where your edits should be made when it comes to exposure, contrast, etc. It will outline where certain details are lost and how to recover them. We’ll break down the tutorial into five categories:

  1. Clipping/Shadows
  2. Exposure
  3. Contrast
  4. Tones
  5. Luminance/Saturation


To check for clipping, we click the Show Shadow Clipping and Show Highlight Clipping triangular icons on the top left and right.

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In the photo below, we see a very small portion of red showing that there is no shadow clipping, but a little highlight clipping. Since it is minor, we can bypass that little correction.

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Now, say I chose to increase my exposure to +2.15, the image would display a big blotch of red meaning I’ve lost detail in the sky and that I’ve increased the exposure too much.

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Now if there is a gap on the right side of the histogram, that is a clear indicator that the image is underexposed. An example of that would be of the image below.

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By looking at the histogram up top, we can verify that the photo was heavily underexposed. By moving the Exposure slider to the right (+0.20), we can fix the brightness in the mid-tones to prevent any highlight clipping and therefore makes the histogram look much better.

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In this photos case, since we are trying to capture the essence of dusk, the middle of the histogram indicates exposure is low. That is okay since we want to keep the feel of night approaching within the photo, so by having the exposure lower, the histogram will show no elevation in the middle.


If the histogram starts to bunch together and doesn’t span the entirety of the graph, then that means the photo has low contrast. For example, if we made our photo in black and white and decreased the contrast, we would see the graph bunch together.

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By using the Tone sliders, we can bring the histogram back to it’s dusk feel.

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When it comes to tones, there are 5 zones in the Lightroom Histogram. When you adjust the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks in the panel to the right, each specific zone is affected on the histogram. They are outlined below.






Keep in mind, each slider controls a specific zone, so if you move the shadows over on the histogram by dragging and sliding, the other zones will also be affected. If you are slightly confused, don’t worry, over time with practice, you will start to understand the relationship between the tones and the histogram.


One of the cool features of Lightroom is that the histogram is actually showing you four histograms on top of each other. On the top, is the luminance histogram shown in gray. This shows only brightness values and nothing to do with color. The other three histograms are colored red, green and blue and correspond to the color spectrums in the image.

To understand saturation, we show you an example on how moving the saturation slider with affect the histogram. The histogram below is with the saturation set to zero.

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Now when I move the Saturation bar to +100, we notice the colors are stronger and that the peaks of the color histograms are slightly higher. One other aspect to point out is the Shadow Clipping icon in the top left has turned blue. This indicates that there is clipping in the shadows, but only in the blue hues channel.

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Finally, when I move the Saturation slide to -100, we notice we have removed all color from the photo and that the color histogram has disappeared and we are solely left with the luminance histogram. This can be useful at times if you wish to just see the luminance histogram by itself.

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Now go out there and mess around with the histogram tool in Adobe Lightroom. You will be surprised to see how much you learn about photography just by messing around with the histogram tool. If you need awesome gear to capture stunning images, check out Lumoid to rent the latest and greatest technology ranging from photo gear to drones.


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