What information can I get from these two images about how a series of photos that shares such a histogram were taken/edited?

Both photo series are quite pretty and nostalgic, but I don't get the same effect in simply dragging down blacks and increasing whites, which would be my first guess.

Is it possible there are tone curve, point curve, clarity, or contrast changes, or anything else? What would I do to attain the same effect?

histogram 1 (from first pic below)

histogram 2 (from second pic below)

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    Your question is not very clear, can you clarify if you are trying to obtain an "old photo" effect starting from a "normal" picture? it would be helpful too if you posted the different "nostalgic" photos and explained which effect you wanted to achieve Oct 15 '15 at 5:32
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    From a histogramm you CAN NOT get any information about how a photo has been processed. The only information a histogram gives you is the tonal distribution in the image (more dark tones, more light tones etc.)
    – Zenit
    Oct 15 '15 at 8:37
  • No problem, just added the associated pics. Both nostalgic/old photo-y while still very vibrant. I do believe this is related to the editing, since there's such a specific, non-random-seeming histogram pattern and all the photos in each series with the above share the same; I think she must be using a tone-curve or point-curve preset but don't know what its shape or values would be.
    – user41848
    Oct 15 '15 at 20:52

The first histogram tells you that you mostly have a lot of everything: darks, mids, and highlights. The darks are in the shade to the right side of the photo, the mids are the road and sunny-side stuff on the left, and the highlights are mainly in the street itself. The only standout is that spike of white, which is the nearly blown-out sky.

The second histogram just tells you it's a relatively high-key photo, owing to all that cream building front. It has very little pure white, primarily in that dress, and very little pure black, probably only in the window above the model. Because of the warm tone of the photograph, the yellows extend considerably higher into the highlights than the cool tones, which is where that big yellow patch comes from.

You wouldn't use the histogram to try and replicate this look. Lightroom histograms are about brightness and lighting, not about color.

Photoshop lets you break a histogram down into its individual color components. Doing so in Lab color space can be a useful way of affecting color. A common way to mimic the highly-saturated appearance of Fuji Velvia is to compress the a and b channels, leaving L alone, for example.

  • Thanks Warren. What Lightroom post-production steps would you advise to achieve this look, in that case? In looking at her photos, their histograms do have too un-random of a pattern – and all the photos within each series generally share this pattern – leading me to think she's using some kind of tone or point curve preset. Is there a curve you'd be aware of that would do this? Or suggested changes in the basic panel, or other changes I'm not thinking of?
    – user41848
    Oct 16 '15 at 3:00
  • @user41848 Are you saying you see a strong commonality between these two histograms? I don't, and I think it'd safe to say others aren't seeing it either. Perhaps you could elaborate on that?
    – mattdm
    Dec 1 '15 at 3:42
  • @mattdm I've noticed when experimenting with the exposure on a histogram that has a somewhat flat distribution, like the first image, it usually seems to pull it into a skewed distribution similar to that of the second. So I feel like these histograms are similar, with the spike at the far left, but with the exposure just brought up in the second. What I'm less sure about is the meaning of that spike. Would that indicate a boost in highlights, whites, or both? How can you tell? Is there a tone curve that you think is at work, or just changes I could try on the basic panel – and if so, which?
    – user41848
    Dec 2 '15 at 4:29

To answer your questions in your response to Warren, I'll repeat what Alex said above- given a certain histogram, you can't tell what processing was done to the photo.

But if you're really obsessed with an evenly distributed histogram, you can always use the "Equalize" command, which will give you a perfectly uniformly distributed histogram. Just don't expect to get a good looking picture out of it.


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