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WHAT IS ADAMS ZONE SYSTEM. WHY SHE IS NEEDED AND HOW IT SUCCESSFULLY TO USE

Have you ever thought how some photographers can create images that are very different from what you can see with your eyes? Digital photography allows the computer to process images so that they look surreal. Many digital cameras have features such as wide dynamic range (HDR), multiple exposures. But in this article they will not be considered, but more natural technologies of shooting.

The Adams zone system is another essential tool in the skill set of the photographer, and therefore anyone who wants to be engaged in photography not at an amateur level should learn how it works and how to use it properly.

The zone system has been around for many decades. This is a method of determining the optimal exposure of the film and the parameters of the development of the image. The system was developed in the 1930s for black and white film by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer based on sensitometry, the science of measuring the properties of photosensitive materials.

The first thesis that you need to understand is how the camera’s exposure meter “sees” the world around it. Simply put, he sees everything in shades of gray, everything for him is a world of tones, a colorless world. The camera cannot distinguish trees from people, people from snow, etc.

Adams band system

Another important thesis is that your meter will want to make everything medium gray, usually called 18% gray. Remember this!

Compositions containing a limited range of mid-tones do not pose problems for modern cameras, especially when photographing them in a soft, low-contrast light. But such images often look boring and they have to be further processed. Cameras can not see the same way as a person. This means that you see a frame different from the one your camera captures.

Hard light and contrast always suggest that you need to work with the exposure before you take a photo.

Photographing a black cat on a black carpet or a white rabbit in the snow is difficult. Your meter will “want” to display both of these scenes as 18% gray, because this is what it is programmed for. Your camera does not know that your object should actually be black, and does not know that all this white color in the viewfinder is actually snow. If you leave it on the meter scale 0, or Meter as Read (MAR), then your photo of a black cat on a black carpet will be excessively exposed, and the photo of a white rabbit on white snow will not be sufficiently exposed. Both will be in medium gray tone. And here you will need knowledge of the zone system.

The Adams zone system divides any illuminated object into eleven zones, which are designated as 0 and further with Roman numerals from I to X. Zone 0 is completely black, zone X is completely white, zone V is standard gray, the reflectivity of which is 18%. The transition between the zones – one stage of exposure (one “stop”).

Zone 0: pure black, without details. That would be the edge of the negative film.
Zone I: almost pure black color with a slight tonality, but without details.
Zone II: this is the first zone where the details begin to appear; the darkest part of the image where the details are recorded.
Zone III: moderately dark tones.
Zone IV: landscape shadows, dark foliage.
Zone V: medium gray, as indicated by your meter, 18% gray.
Zone VI: the average shade of human skin.
Zone VII: very light human skin; shadows in the snow.
Zone VIII: the easiest tone with a texture.
Zone IX: weak tone without texture (for example, bright snow).
Zone X: pure white without detail. These may be light sources or reflections of light sources.
The meter will give you accurate readings of the frame for the medium gray area. That is why photographers often carry with them a small 18% gray card (zone V). They can read the color from the card in the prevailing lighting conditions and adjust their camera accordingly.

When there is a wide range of contrast in a frame, adjusting the exposure to medium gray often leads to poor results. In this case, it is best to decide exactly which part of the image will be most important, and adjust the exposure meter to it. Suppose you are photographing a white dress of the bride, very bright and with texture. It is in tone, according to the zone scheme, falls into zone VII or VIII, therefore, it is necessary to obtain exposure compensation in the direction of PLUSE by two or three steps (the difference between zone V and where your object should go).

As an experiment, try to photograph a sheet of white paper. First make sure that exposure compensation is not added – your exposure meter pointer should be in the middle, at 0.

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