Since the histogram is computed from JPEG that is burned into RAW file using Picture Control (PC), how can one actualy rely on it? How precise is it when PC is set to Neutral?

Simple test: Make 2 RAW pictures of colorful bonbons using Manual mode, one with Neutral PC and the second one with Vivid PC. Check the RGB histogram and you'll see the difference. But when you import the image into Lightroom, it manages RAW file it's own way and there is no clipping. Both images looks same.

I always shoot Neutral, but I am not sure if I can trust the histogram since this "discovery"..

  • If the picture ends up fine in RAW, what's the problem exactly? Feb 9 '13 at 19:43
  • The problem is when you shoot with Neutral PC and your RGB histogram shows clipping. The underlaying RAW can still be fine. But you don't know that. You make some corrections to exposure, eg. you underexpose and you loose some shadow details. And this correction could have been unnecessary knowing the RAW was fine in the first place. Feb 9 '13 at 20:09

As you've stated, the histogram is based off the converted JPG, not the RAW. If you are shooting RAW, you're probably better off sticking with the Neutral setting.

If you want the most accurate histogram in RAW, you can try something called Universal White Balance (UniWB). I have never tried it myself, but a few photographers I know swear by it. It's basically an adjusted white balance that makes your preview JPG look horrible, but gives you a more accurate histogram (on the right at least).

Here is one write-up of UniWB with instructions:


  • UniWB looks unusable for me. I'll stick with the Neutral settings and use the histogram only as an estimation. But thank you very much for the answer, I didn't know about the UniWB! Feb 26 '13 at 0:09
  • Not for me either honestly, but it's an interesting concept. Hopefully manufacturers will develop true raw histograms at some point.
    – MikeW
    Feb 26 '13 at 3:30

The trouble with UniWB is that you sacrifice color display for histogram accuracy. It is a bit too much for my taste, I leave WB on auto usually.

Instead of using a neutral setting, I even set contrast and saturation to lowest settings. The result matches the RAW relatively well on my camera. Just give it a try.

  • Yes, it's pretty drastic. I'd rather bracket or add a bit of safety, but I know others that wouldn't do without it.
    – MikeW
    Feb 10 '13 at 0:19

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