You see it all the time. The histogram is highly noticeable in Lightroom’s Library and Develop Modules.
Beginners to photography and Lightroom may find the histogram confusing. But it’s actually straightforward. Once you understand it initially, you’ll never forget, unlike many tools in Photoshop. In this article, I’ll explain how the Lightroom histogram works.
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What is the Lightroom Histogram?
The Lightroom histogram is a graphical representation of the tonal values. In other words, it’s the brightness values of the image pixels and how many pixels at each value.
The left side of the Lightroom histogram represents the blacks and shadows, the right side represents the whites and highlights, while the middle represents the mid-tones or the grey tones. The exact middle is neutral grey (50% white and 50% black).
Furthermore, Lightroom’s histogram provides extra information because it also has the histogram for colors. You can ignore the colors histogram for now and focus on the front graph, which is greyish. This will help you understand the Lightroom histogram easier.
Adobe named the sections of the Lightroom histogram from left to right as Blacks, Shadows, Exposure, Highlights, and Whites. But Exposure is misleading because the middle is really grey or mid-tones. The reason for the label is because you can use the histogram to control some of the Basic Panel sliders by left-clicking and dragging.
One thing to keep in mind is the histogram doesn’t provide a numerical value. For example, it doesn’t state there are 143 black pixels and 432 whites pixels. It’s only a graph to provide a visual idea of the tonal range. Though other applications with histograms may provide the pixel count, it’s not crucial for Lightroom.
On the other hand, the Lightroom histogram provides the RGB values of each pixel when you scroll over the image. The value is percentage-based. All colors are a combination of the primary colors red, green, and blue, plus the opposites of cyan, magenta, and yellow, respectively.
What Should a Lightroom Histogram Look Like?
There’s no photography code of what the Lightroom Histogram should look like. But in general, it shouldn’t be shoved to the left or right, which causes clipping, also known as underexposed or overexposed. Clipping is caused when the pixel values are 100% black or 100% white. This results in no detail in the image’s affected area.
Usually, some clipping is okay. In contrast, some photographic styles have heavy clipping, including mine.
How to Turn On and Off Lightroom Clipping Indicators
Press ‘J’ to turn on and off the Lightroom Clipping Indicators. You can also press the two triangles in the top corners of the histogram to turn toggle the indicators. The left one is for Blacks (called shadow clipping), and the right is for Whites (called highlight clipping).
Shadow clipping is represented by a blue overlay, whereas highlight clipping has a red overlay.
You can see clipping in the example photo below. Even with the image looking dark, I still find it an aesthetic photo. The histogram also appears to be lacking any value for 100% white, but it’s there. You should see the photos of the most famous photographers. Many of their photos had a lot of shadows.
There is also color clipping; this is done for soft proofing to get an image ready for print. Not all colors can be reproduced on paper with ink, so color grading needs to be completed.
How to Remove Histogram from Lightroom
There is no way of removing the Lightroom Histogram. The only thing you can do is minimize the panel by pressing the triangle beside ‘Histogram.’ I also recommend you keep on solo mode, which will help keep the interface clutter-free. Right-click on the panel head and select ‘Solo Mode.’
Histogram Lightroom Mobile
The histogram is also available on Lightroom Mobile for Android and iPhone.
To turn the histogram on or off, press on the ellipsis when viewing an image. Then select ‘View Options.’ Here you’ll have the option to toggle the histogram on/ff.
Using the Histogram with Your Camera
Probably the most practical use of the histogram is when you’re out in the field and shooting.
It’s easier to determine an image’s exposure or brightness values by looking at the camera’s histogram. This scenario is more helpful when the camera’s display is not lit correctly or when there is glare due to sunlight.
There you have it. The Lightroom Histogram represents the tonal range of an image. In addition, it provides a few features to make the photography workflow faster, such as RGB values, clipping indicators, and Basic Panel adjustments. I guess it makes sense for Adobe to pimp out the histogram since the Lightroom price is subscription-based and you can’t buy the software outright.