Out With the Histograms, In With the Waveforms

One of the first things budding photographers learn is how to read a histogram. And after mastering this knowledge, it feels pretty good to feel more in control of your images. So then what are waveforms and how could they be any better than using histograms?

In this video, Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake for DPReview are educating us on why waveforms are better than histograms. Waveforms are more prevalent in videography, where judging exposure on the fly needs more nuance and feedback to not blow a clip. The DPReview TV team argues, however, that all forms of imagemakers benefit from having this tool, not just video people.

One point that is made here is how hybrid cameras being released today are powerhouses in both stills and video. More videographers look to hybrid cameras to get started with shooting films, so why not give them the correct tool for the job with waveforms being included in the camera's software. And on top of that, if they are there for video, why not let have photographers have access to waveforms in stills shooting?

Watch the video above for a good demonstration on how to read waveforms and let us know in the comments if you agree that it's a better tool than histograms for judging exposure.

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Johnny Rico's picture

Maybe this makes sense for an EVF? But as a primarily stills shooter I don't see how this is faster/simpler than Histogram and Blinking Highlights when quickly chimping. Same thing when shooting tethered to C1 Pro, I look at histogram for overall tones and then click on the safety zebra's (not sure actual name) to show any clipping if I question something. I can see where it is clipping.

Kirk Darling's picture

The wave form definitely gives the photographer more information. Once you understand how they work, for sure they are better than histograms. But their biggest advantage being how exposure changes as the scene changes over its duration. The fact that it's real time and "over time" is important for video. It will identify, for instance, how an actor will be unevenly exposed over the stretch of time he walks across the scene. That's huge for video.

But a still image only gets one exposure in one moment. The exposure is what it is in that moment, and the histogram plus LCD/EVF provides the information necessary to determine what areas will be out of the dynamic range of the image in the moment of exposure.

The advantages of wave forms for still imaging are not significant enough to be worth the downsides of converting to different hardware or software for that reason alone. it's not as though other tools are failing the purpose.

OTOH, if they did provide waveforms instead of histograms, it would be a change that should be welcomed.

Navi Retlav's picture

There is any plugin for Adobe Photoshop to edit and see waveforms ?

Dave Middleton's picture

Waveform panel has been available in Affinity Photo for some time now and I prefer it over the classic Histogram.

filmkennedy's picture

Waveforms? Meh haven’t looked back since false color

Christoph .'s picture

False color is useful, but not as versatile as waveforms. RGB waveforms for example are very helpful for color balance.

John Pesina's picture

In the absence of a wave form Zebra Stripes at 75%, with a histogram works for me when doing video.