By Robert Correll

There’s more to photo playback on your digital SLR camera than you might think. It’s an especially useful tool that enables you to check the exposure and color of every photo you take. There are two ways to go about playback.

With auto review, the camera displays the photo for a specific amount of time. You may already have auto review enabled. You can also initiate playback by pressing your camera’s Playback button. The figure points out the Playback button on a typical dSLR, and other buttons you might use during playback.

slrphoto-playback
The Playback button is somewhere on the back of your camera.

You’ll have to turn to your camera’s manual to see how to use specific features. Pressing the Playback button allows you to do the following:

  • Display different amounts of data. You can change what information you see during photo playback by pressing your camera’s Display or Info button. If you want a general sense of the photo, turn off everything. If you want a reminder of the settings you used, increase the amount of information, as shown here.
slrphoto-playback-info
A range of information is available during playback.
  • Zoom in and out. Press your camera’s Zoom button to go in and closely inspect your photos.
  • Pan back and forth. When you’re zoomed in, use your camera’s controller or cross keys to move back and forth in the photo.
  • View indices. You can often show small thumbnails of your photos: 4, 6, or 9 — sometimes as many as 100 — at a time.
  • Check the histogram. Examine the photo’s histogram to check general exposure and color.
  • Check for clipped highlights. See whether you have clipped highlights with the Highlight Alert (Canon) or Highlights (Nikon) display during photo playback. When this feature’s on, overexposed areas will blink. If you see large areas blinking (and that isn’t your creative goal), rethink the camera’s exposure and take another shot.

There is one caveat to this feature: Areas of the photo that are clipped in one or two color channels, but not all three, may not register as clipped highlights. This means they won’t blink. Examine the photo’s color histograms for exposure across the board. (All photos have three layers of color information: red, green, and blue.)

  • Delete the bad ones. Don’t save obviously bad photos. Delete them from your camera’s memory card to save space, time, and trouble. This should involve pressing your camera’s Delete or Trash button and confirming.
  • Protect the good ones. Alternatively, you can protect the photos you want to keep so they don’t accidentally get deleted. You might be able to press a specific button to protect a photo or use the menu in Playback mode.
  • View playback on a TV (HD or otherwise). If you haven’t already, view playback on a large HDTV. Photos (and movies, but that’s another story) look fantastic and it’s easier to spot focus, color, and exposure problems. Look at the terminals on the side of your camera. HDMI terminals, located on the side of your camera under a rubberized cover, enable you to connect your camera to an HDTV. Older dSLRs use analog audio/video connections.