House of Hacks

Monday, October 3, 2016

How to quickly isolate a subject on white using the histogram


The histogram is a powerful tool for the photographer. In this tutorial, Harley shows how to use this feature found on most cameras to quickly and easily setup lighting to isolate a subject on a pure white background. Properly done, a subject isolated on a white background is simple to cut out to composite into another image.

Histogram playlist
Photography playlist

Special thanks to my wife Diane for being the test model and my buddy Rich at Studio 020 for letting me use one of the rooms.

Overhead diagram created by the Online Lighting Diagram Creator.

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at
Incidental: "Sweeter Vermouth" by Kevin MacLeod at
Sound effect: living-room-light-switch by alienxxx at


Today at the House of Hacks, I’m going to talk about an impulse purchase I made several years ago that’s turned out to be one of the most used tools in my workshop.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

A number of years ago I had an Amazon order that I needed to fill out to get free shipping on. So I ended up purchasing one of these inexpensive digital calipers. It was just an impulse purchase. I figured it’s cheap enough that if I never use it or I don’t like it, no great loss.

As it turned out, this little thing has… I use it on almost every project. It measures up to six inches and anything under six inches I’m pretty much using this to measure with.

It’s just really, really handy.

There’s a whole bunch of these on Amazon. This one I picked up for around 37 or so dollars. It’s one of the more expensive ones. I’ve seen them on, just searching before this video, I was searching and saw them for under ten dollars. They’re so inexpensive, I’ve seen people buy them new, cut them up to use the measuring device in things like jigs and things like that. So, they’re really inexpensive for whatever purpose you want to use them for. Like I said, I use them for almost every project whenever I need to measure things.

They’re great for measuring outside measurements using these big calipers. Using the smaller inside calipers you can measure inside measurements. And on the end you can measure depth.

They have a zero button on them so you can zero it out. You either close the jaws, zero it out and then you get an accurate measurement. Or, you can use it to get the difference between two measurements. Take one measurement, zero it out, take another measurement and that gives you the difference between the two sizes. That can be really handy.

And it’s also good for transferring distances. You can use the ends, they are sharp so you can scribe a little bit. Measure one thing and then use it to scribe.

It does have an on/off switch which doesn’t really work all that well. All it does is turn on and off the LCD display which really doesn’t draw much power. If you’re going to leave these sitting around unused for a week, you really should take the battery out and that’ll give you much longer battery life on it.

That said, the batteries are 357 button cells. Little things that you can get at Walmart, Target, places like that for a couple bucks a piece. They’re much cheaper on Amazon if you buy them in bulk. So I recommend buying them on Amazon because I think they’re less than a dollar a piece whereas the cheapest I’ve found locally is like a buck fifty, two bucks, something like that.

They have a units switch that switches between millimeters, inches as decimal and inches as fractions. So that can be handy depending on what it is you’re measuring and you’re comparing it to other things and what units you’re most comfortable with.

The device also came with a plastic carrying case. Just kind of inexpensive, but it does protect it. And inside it has a foam cutout for the calipers and two places for batteries. So if you’re carrying it around, that kind of protects it and keeps it from getting beat up.

A really, really handy device. I really recommend getting one.

So that’s it for today. I’ll leave a link down in the description for an affiliate link if you’re interested in helping support the channel.

Until next time, go make something. Perfection’s not required. Fun is!