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60 Seconds on the Histogram (& Which Slider Controls Which Part)

At the top of the right side Panels area is a histogram, which is basically what your image looks like if you charted the exposure on a graph. Reading a histogram is easier than it looks—the darkest parts (shadows) of your image appear on the left side of the graph, the midtones appear in the middle, and the brightest parts (highlights) are on the right side. If part of the graph is flat, there’s nothing in your photo in that range (so if it’s flat on the far right, that means your image doesn’t have any highlights. Well, not yet anyway).

Exposure Slider: Midtones

Move your cursor over the Exposure slider and a light gray area appears over the part of the histogram that the Exposure slider affects. In this case, it’s mostly the midtones (so the gray area is in the middle of the histogram), but it also affects some of the lower highlights, as well.

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Highlights Slider: Highlights

The Highlights slider covers the next brightest areas above the midtones. If you look at the histogram shown here, it’s flat right above that, which lets you know that this image doesn’t have a full range of tones—it’s missing the brightest parts. Moving the Highlights slider to the right can help fill in that gap, but there’s actually a different slider that covers that range.

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Shadows Slider: Shadows

This controls shadow areas. You can see it only controls a small area (but it’s an important area because details can get lost in the shadows). Below that area is a flat area, and that means that this image is missing tone in the darkest part of the image.

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Blacks & Whites Sliders

These two sliders control the very brightest (Whites) and darkest (Blacks) parts of your image. If your image looks washed out, drag the Blacks slider to the left to add in more black (and you’ll see the Blacks expand over to the left in the histogram). Need more really bright areas? Drag the Whites slider to the right (and you’ll see that area in the histogram slide over to fill in that missing gap).

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