The Magic Of Histograms
Learn to read your camera's histograms and get the best exposures possible for your subject
Modern digital cameras do an impressive job in getting an acceptable exposure for most images. There's a difference between an acceptable exposure and an exceptional exposure, however. The best exposures make maximum use of the capabilities of the camera sensor and internal camera processing while causing only a few problems when printing or working on images in the computer.
While it's true that image-processing programs do allow some "fixing" of a photo in the computer, you're wise to get the best possible image captured to the memory card in the first place. This results in an image with clearer details, better tonal definition in highlights and shadows, improved color and fewer noise issues.
There's a serious misconception that with RAW capture, shooting the image right from the start is no longer important. Not true! The image sensor is only capable of handling a certain range of brightness. Outside of that range, you have problems. RAW files can help with challenging exposures, but even that format works best when the exposures also are at their best.
One way to ensure that your exposures are accurate is to use the histogram display, if your camera has one. More and more cameras are including this valuable technology, including so-called point-and-shoots priced at less than $500. You don't need to use it for every image, but if you check it when the light is tricky and for critical photos, the histogram can give you important information about an image's exposure.