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Set your camera’s highlight alert

By May 12, 2017 Photography No Comments

There is a problem with continually reviewing the LCD panel histogram—it’s not as much fun as seeing the photos.

highlight alert

Viewing the histogram usually means displaying the picture at such a small size that it can’t be evaluated, so you have to scroll the panel between the different views. More expensive cameras often make available separate red, green, and blue channel histograms, in addition to the combined RGB view. Unless you are technically-inclined and interested in the data, how much detail do you really need? Do you even need to see the histogram?

Fortunately, most digital cameras offer a great alternative—a ‘highlights alert.’ Usually, this is an option which you can activate somewhere in the LCD panel’s menu. It’s well worth trying.

The idea is that most of the time you switch on the camera’s LCD panel to review the photo, not its histogram. You only want—or need—to be told when something may be amiss. So when the highlights alert option is enabled, the camera detects highlights which may be overexposed and blinks or flashes those parts of the photo.

While the highlights alert shows which parts of the image appear to contain blown highlights, it doesn’t tell you how much you may have overexposed, or what you might do. Should you adjust the exposure bias by -1 or -1/3? You may wish to switch to the histogram for more clues. A lot of pixels over on the right—a slope rather than a spike—would usually indicate that you need to reduce the exposure by a greater amount.

Alternatively, you may just prefer to reduce exposure by -1 or -2, repeat the picture, and then review the LCD panel again. It is also worth emphasising that these highlights alerts tend to err on the conservative side. If the camera is set to JPEG mode, the blinking highlights may well be completely overexposed, but Raw files may contain detail in those areas. Take the picture again, if you wish, but it may be best not to delete photos until you’ve had a chance to review the blown highlights on the computer.

101 Top Tips for Black & White Digital Photography is John Beardsworth’s exploration of the most powerful techniques for converting your colour shots into stunning, high-quality black-and-white photos, with detailed explanations of how each tool works and why you should try it on your own images. In addition to providing an abundance of step-by-step instructions with brilliant imagery, Beardsworth also teaches the aesthetic value of black and white, and how to visualize the creative potential of each shot.

101 Top Tips for Black & White Digital Photography, John Beardsworth101 Top Tips for Black & White Digital Photography
John Beardsworth

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