52 on Friday :: Zone System

This week we are concentrating on using the zone system as an exposure model.  The zone system determines how many photographers meter and expose our cameras manually.   We look at our subject matter in frame looking for different tones.  These different tones make up the zone system from blacks, grays, to whites. Basically, all cameras meter for what we call middle gray (18% gray) for the “perfect exposure.”

zone system

So when taking pictures, most manual photographers use this zone system metering off objects to properly expose a picture.   If we meter on snow which is white, the camera is going to tell you the exposure for making the snow middle gray.  To expose properly for white, you have trick the camera and add more light to expose the snow in the proper zone.  Since we got a blizzard (also known as Snowzilla!) this past week in Washington, DC, I got plenty of snow to be able to show this as an example.  The first unedited, straight-out-of-the camera (SOOC) photograph is what the camera says to expose when metered off the whitest part of the snow; as you can see, it is makes the snow gray and the total picture underexposed.  To counteract that, we photographers expose allowing a few stops of light in, as shown in the second SOOC shown here.


And here is the final picture after editing and a few slight tweaks to the RAW file. (There will be more about RAW files next week!)


And here’s a few more pictures of Banjo’s romp in over two feet of snow we got.  We didn’t get very far since it was so deep, but he loved burrowing and laying around in it.
australian shepherd playing toy snowshelley-castle-photography-dog-snowaussie running snow toyshelley-castle-snow-sunset
dog burying head in snowfluffy dog playing in snowred merle playing snow

Be sure to click on to see how Rachel Moore from Hoof N Paw Artography and other project participants use the zone system.

January 29, 2016 - 4:46 pm

Susannah Maynard - Beautiful. The snow really helps to show how the Zone System can be so useful to follow.

January 29, 2016 - 10:20 pm

Kelly Middlebrooks - Wonderful images. I love the one with the sun coming through the trees.

January 29, 2016 - 11:01 pm

Karen - What a lucky pup to have so much snow to run around in. Beautiful images.

January 30, 2016 - 5:32 am

Elaine Mueller Tweedy - Beautiful photos in the snow!

January 30, 2016 - 11:25 am

Jodie Pholi - Amazing snow images

January 30, 2016 - 8:49 pm

Trina - What a happy dog! Love these photos of Banjo!

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