Food Photography – Histogram & Key Tones

Pin on Pinterest0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Yummly0Share on Tumblr0

Pears in a rustic background

I am into the fourth week of the course after viewing my second set of video tutorials from Michael Freeman’s Perfect Exposure Masterclass on MyPhotoSchool. The highlight of this session were two things – Histogram and Key Tones.
For the first time, I have deliberately and consciously clicked the images keeping the Histogram in mind. We were told to try and predict in our mind’s eye what the shape and extent of the histogram will look like. I am slowly understanding this, but still need to put in my efforts consciously to anticipate the results correctly.


Exposure Triangle

There are three camera settings that each control the brightness of the image you capture—aperture, shutter speed and ISO—and this lets you choose a combination to get any particular exposure, hence the expression exposure triangle. Using it efficiently means knowing clearly what your priorities are for any shot. Apart from controlling the light, the aperture and shutter speed each do another job for the image. Aperture affects depth of field while shutter speed affects motion blur, and you may want less or more of either in any specific shooting situation. ISO raises the sensitivity when you need it, but the result is noise, which has no redeeming qualities, so this just increases the compromises you need to make when light levels are low..

Key Tones

Key Tones are one of the most important principle of  Exposure. Nearly always there’s one, maybe two areas of the scene that you’ve framed that absolutely need to be at a particular level of brightness.

By framing everything just as we are expecting our eyes to treat , we would be exercising a Mid Tone. But in that case, there would not be any drama and the scene you are looking to convey would not do that.

I went on to read further and here are some of the links that can guide you further

Back to the Basics: Exposure Triangle

Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Tones and Contrast

Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Luminosity and Color


Assignment 2.1: Using and Predicting the Histogram

Photograph three scenes that are in some way extreme for the histogram: one could be with a significant area of a pure colour, another with a prominent and sharp difference in brightness.

For this exercise , I have chosen 3 images that are quite apart from each other.

White Mugs on White Background

Set of white soup mugs stacked on a white background. The histogram for this image had peaks on the extreme right.

Palak Paneer - evenly spread histogram (1 of 1)

Second Image for this exercise is a curry called Palak Paneer ( Cubed Cottage Cheese in a Spinach Gravy). The peaks in the Histogram for this image is evenly spread with a little mountain steep right in the middle .


The third chosen image has got plums stacked in a glass bowl. The peaks for this image in the histogram are steeping towards the left since there is a single dark color tone chosen.

As I previously mentioned, I am slowly learning to understand the trends in a histogram. But tracking the peaks with the image will come with gradual conscious practice.

Assignment 2.2: Your Personal Taste (1 Image)

Photograph a subject or scene which from the start, before shooting, you have decided should be significantly darker or lighter than average.

vine tomatoes in a basket, low key image (1 of 1)
I deliberately set a scene where the whole image conveys a moody dark set up. While shooting this image, I made sure the the peaks in the histogram are towards the far left and also shot one  f-stop lesser than the average bright image.
Assignment 2.3: Choosing Key Tones
Select the two images which you feel most clearly show a distinct key tone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an average tone: It could be important and lighter than average or important and darker than average.
vine tomatoes in a basket, low key image (1 of 1)
While picturizing this image, I wanted the  Vine tomatoes to stand out in the dark as opposed to having an average tone in the image. This image is my contribution to the low key tone category.


Lemon and ice cubes , ready for mocktail preparation (1 of 1)Second image shot is an image from my Mocktail Set. I wanted a bright background posing a refreshing feel, as opposed to a smoky, dull feel in the image. Hence went for a brighter than average tone here.



Freelancer Food Photographer, Recipe Developer & Food Stylist

Comments (6)

  • this is just brilliant! could you also do a post on how you add text to the pictures and what program you use for editing or enhancing pics?

  • Very nicely done Sandhya – Sreelatha

  • Nicely done Sandhya!

  • Loved the new look of your blog Sandhya!! Very clean and crisp 🙂

  • Your space looks beautiful Sandhya. It’s truly deserving of your beautiful pictures and writing now!

  • Beautiful pictures, write up and well illustrated…….. 🙂


Write a comment