Using the Histogram in Adobe Photoshop to Easily Make Color & Exposure Edits


I was reading through a post that was recently written on the blog that discussed the many different options available in the Histogram panel in Adobe Photoshop and was inspired to take things a few steps further than that post in one of my own. Basically, I'd like to talk about how you can use the various histograms in the All Channels View of the Histogram panel to assist you when making exposure and color choices. Typically, editors (people) will take advantage of the various available adjustment layers in the Adjustments panel to modify the look of an image and I wanted to offer a few examples of how these adjustments can be used alongside the histograms. Since the Levels adjustment was already covered in the post, I figured I'd move on with the Curves adjustment. So, to follow along, go ahead and open up an image in Photoshop and apply the Curves adjustment to it. Then, make sure the Histogram panel is opened up and undocked, so it's floating around your workspace. That's the easiest way to view both panels simultaneously. What you should see is something like this:


As a reminder, the Histogram panel doesn't actually do anything. It merely displays the information you'll need to do that something with a different tool. In this case, the tool we'll use is the Curves adjustment. So what we've got here is the Histogram panel in the All Channels View on the left and the Properties panel for the Curves adjustment on the right. Having this clear view of both panels is the reason I suggested undocking the Histogram panel above.

In today's post, I'll be simply adjusting the colors of the image via the individual color channels. To start off with, I'll keep the Channels drop-down in the Properties panel set to RGB. I'll then give the center of the curve a click and drag downward a bit, just to get an idea of what that not only does to the image, but to the three color histograms as well. Here's the screenshot of that.


Do you see how that one adjustment affected all of the histograms? I know you can't see the bottom two (Green and Blue), so you'll have to trust me that they moved. The photo was also darkened overall.

In the next example, I'll set the Channels drop-down in the Properties panel to Red. I'll then click and drag the curve up a hair. Let's see what that does to the Red histogram.


If you compare the Red histogram on the left in this most recent screenshot with the one in the previous screenshot, you'll see how it changed. Basically, taking advantage of the various elements of the Histogram panel can help out a lot when it comes to correcting the color and exposure of an image because it can give you more information than you'd have otherwise. And the best part is, the histograms can be used in conjunction with many different adjustment layers, not only the Curves one I used today in this example.

Do you have anything to add to this post or any questions regarding histograms or adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop? If so, please add them below. Thank you.