The Zone System


Fletcher8

Link Posted 20/11/2011 - 19:23
As I started photography in the digital age I missed out on the film era, but through my photography journey I have learned that some of the old film lessons need to be learned and should not be overlooked. Anyway what I wanted to ask was how many people use the Zone System? I have found it really useful in relation to learning about mid tones, and how to improve my metering skills, technique which has really improved my photography.

Just inquisitive I guess.
Fletcher8.

grahamwalton

Link Posted 20/11/2011 - 19:46
Using the histogram at the taking stage, controlling the clipping in the Raw Converter and using levels in Post Processing, is the modern equivalent of the Zone System.
Friendly Regards
Graham

chunky

Link Posted 20/11/2011 - 20:15
Mmmmm,

I guess I'm probably old school having had my formal education in photography 40 years ago, but I still refer to the zone system if I'm uncertain about the contrast range of a given scene.
Ansel Adams and Fred Archer invented the Zone System in the late 30's early 40's at an art school in Los Angeles.
The value of zero representing true black and then going through to the value of ten which represents pure white the value five being the perfect midtone, based on a true grey card of 12% reflectance value (in ambient light)

In practice I find that most modern DSLR's give very accurate meter readings and therefore exposure using matrix or evaluative metering.
However when I am using my RZ67 with a digi back I meter with a spot reading using a hand held exposure meter of a mid tone. I then take shadow and high light readings and go from there. A bit of a faff I admit, and time consuming but it's the way I work and the way I know is reliable.

Can't really fault the K5's or the KR for exposure overall so with them I don't bother much with faffing around.
But understanding tone values as represented by the Zone System is a sign of a serious and dedicated photographer.
Chunky

johnriley

Link Posted 20/11/2011 - 21:07
I do use the Zone System, but only in quite a simplistic way.

On film, I would over or under expose compared to the meter reading up to three stops either way, if the suject was predominantly dark or light. That would give me a printable range from about Zone II to Zone VIII, leaving a whisker of detail in both shadows and highlights.

On digital I have found I don't need as much correction, to two stops either way is usually the limit. If you look at the EXIF on all my EPZ photos it will show you the correction applied and the sort of image it was thought necessary for.

In all other respects, I would expose as though using slide film, so definitely no over-exposure.
Best regards, John

tyronet2000

Link Posted 20/11/2011 - 22:42
grahamwalton wrote:
Using the histogram at the taking stage, controlling the clipping in the Raw Converter and using levels in Post Processing, is the modern equivalent of the Zone System.

I thought Zone System was something to to with American Zip codes

I think I'll just go back to taking photos on my phone, the results will probably be the same
Regards
Stan

PPG

gartmore

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 07:04
I take incident light readings, that is I measure the light falling on the subject rather than the light reflected by it. it is 100% accurate for what I do.
Ken
“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson -

Fletcher8

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 07:50
Thanks for your feedback! I use the Zone System to meter off the mid tones and check the highlights which has really helped me. I asked the question as when I started photography and asked people what a mid tone was lots of photographers could not provide examples or did not know. Zeroing out your meter on a mid tone gives you a good starting point to check out the scene and obtain the best exposure possible.
Fletcher8.

tyronet2000

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 08:45
gartmore wrote:
I take incident light readings, that is I measure the light falling on the subject rather than the light reflected by it. it is 100% accurate for what I do.

Really new to this, what meter do you use. I understand with film going to the subject and taking a reading ( through the dome? ) or metering my hand, does it work the same for digital. What about in wide open spaces? Should I always take a test shot at different exposures. Of course I'm talking of having plenty of time to set it up type of photos.
Regards
Stan

PPG

gartmore

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 09:28
It is exactly the same as with film, I use a Minolta meter which, of course you cant buy any more. A lot of my commercial work involves shooting white or black objects which is the very situation where reflected metering goes awry. I think I might do a 'how-to' article next time I'm on one of those shoots.
Ken
“We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson -

dougf8

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 09:43
For landscapes, incident metering can involve long walks.

A good spot meter and reflective metering is probably the way to go. You might be able to do something similar with spot metering on your camera and using a sketch book to note exposures.

or quicker, use a K-5, bracket 7 shots with a full stop for each gap and sort it out later? Adams did a heck of a lot of work in the darkroom!
Lurking is shirking.!
Last Edited by dougf8 on 21/11/2011 - 09:45

Blythman

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 10:13
gartmore wrote:
It is exactly the same as with film, I use a Minolta meter which, of course you cant buy any more. A lot of my commercial work involves shooting white or black objects which is the very situation where reflected metering goes awry. I think I might do a 'how-to' article next time I'm on one of those shoots.

Use to regularly use my Minolata Autometer III, together with a Pentax MX with no batteries in. Tend not to bother with the meter now I'm using digital, as you don't waste film shooting off different exposures. Not to mention the capabilities of recovery via software (lightroom, photoshop). It has made us very lazy.
Alan


PPG
Flickr

Mannesty

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 15:06
gartmore wrote:
I take incident light readings, that is I measure the light falling on the subject rather than the light reflected by it. it is 100% accurate for what I do.

If you are photographing a wedding for instance, and using a zoom lens, taking incident light readings is the only way to get consistent exposures.

Using in-camera metering will give almost as many different exposures as the focal lengths of the zooms range you use.

When you vary the focal length of a zoom lens, the amount of light entering the lens also varies and the cameras metering system will alter the exposure accordingly.

Using a light meter and the camera on manual aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, assuming the light level remains constant, will give you the same exposure shot after shot. If aunt Doris' blue rinse is a little too dark in one shot, it'll be the same throughout.

This does have it's benefits believe it or not, when you get to the post processing stage, you make the necessary fine adjustment to exposure/contrast etc, then copy those settings to all images taken in the same conditions.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream

Mannesty

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 15:12
tyronet2000 wrote:
[quote:3496ace15f="gartmore"]I understand with film going to the subject and taking a reading ( through the dome? ) or metering my hand, does it work the same for digital.

"Going to the subject" and taking a reading will almost always be taking an incident light reading. "Metering my hand" is taking a reflective reading. Two different ways of measuring.

With regard to landscapes, if your distant subject is illuminated by the sun, and where you are standing is also sunny, take an incident reading from where you are, that is, turn the Dome, or Invacone as Weston used to call it, towards the sun and take a reading. That'll save you walking perhaps a couple of miles, only to find the two readings are identical, assuming no cloud, or uniform cloud cover.

Whilst you are interested in exposure and light measuring/estimation techniques, check out the internet for the "sunny 16 rule". You may find it interesting.
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream
Last Edited by Mannesty on 21/11/2011 - 15:14

tyronet2000

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 15:40
I've just dug out a Vivitar 45 meter which appears to work. I'll have to compare readings with the camera and see what the results are. Not sure how "sharp" they will be doing everything manual Pointing the meter at the computer monitor lining up the pointers and reading the dial it's f8 at '15 so I'm assuming that means 1/15sec. I think it's the first time since 1995 it been out of the bag

Walking two miles Peter I thought it was photography not golf
Regards
Stan

PPG

Mannesty

Link Posted 21/11/2011 - 16:37
tyronet2000 wrote:
Not sure how "sharp" they will be doing everything manual

You can still use AF, sharpness shouldn't suffer.


Quote:
Walking two miles Peter I thought it was photography not golf

I day write "distant subject"
Peter E Smith

My flickr Photostream
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