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TOPIC: Zone system from aesthetic perspective

Zone system from aesthetic perspective 2 years 1 month ago #1102

  • Desmond Hokin
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Hi All,
Many years ago I read a great book that discussed how a good image can become a great image by adjusting the exposure of the image up or down so that the focal areas in the image fitted within one of the 'ideal' zones. The Zone System Wikipedia article is unfortunately very dry, and doesn't provide much practical use info.

The book I read showed 1 particular image that was exposed at 'normal' brightness , and drew lines on the image that divided the subject of interest, the foreground, mid and background sections , and then overlayed the zone-system number of the brightness that section of the image had. To be fair, it was a rather plain and ordinary photo.

They then showed the same image that had been underexposed in Post, and it was completely different. It had this mysterious and intriguing quality to it. Dropping the exposure eliminated most of the distracting parts of the image, and placed the focus right on the subject.

What I'm after is a book or website that discusses and explains this technique, and hopefully also provides practical guidance on how to objectively measure and test the zone brightness of various sections in an image.

Anyone explored this or anything similar?

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Zone system from aesthetic perspective 2 years 1 month ago #1105

  • Ian Wilson
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Hi Des,
Graham Cam gave an interesting talk on this subject at the Geelong DPITB. He showed how to use a proprietary software package to isolate the zones and make adjustments. Unfortunately, I don't recall the name of the software but I am sure Graham will let you know the details. This technique has been used to good effect in landscape photography and in principle could be applied to bird images. Many bird photographers make luminance adjustments to selected areas of the bird or its surrounds using simple manual selections, for example, brightening up a bird's face that might be partially shaded or darkening a background to make a light coloured bird 'pop'. Sorry I am unable to be more forthcoming.
Cheers, Ian
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