Your photo might look perfect on your screen, but when you print it, you find that you’ve clipped blacks and whites. Photographers can make great use of pure black, but blown-out highlights can be especially distracting, as the eye is drawn to places where no ink has been laid on the paper. “I tell my students, if they’re going to print, always look at the histogram first,” photographer and teacher Tina Tryforos says. “Then adjust the right and left sliders to ensure you have a full tonal range in your print.”
When you print, if your photo’s colors look vastly different from what you expected, you might need to calibrate your monitor. Mac and Windows machines offer color calibration tools, but truly accurate calibration requires a colorimeter. These devices measure your screen’s colors against industry color standards and create a unique color profile for your monitor.
With an accurate color profile, as well as a balanced histogram, you can capture the full dynamic range of your photos. You’ll avoid any unpleasant surprises when you print and trust that you’ve maintained shadow and highlight detail when you share images online. And by making the histogram part of your process while shooting, you’ll have better images before you even begin editing.