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In this fifth edition of his well-regarded book Chris Johnson explains why the Zone System, developed as paradigm for film shooters, can also be easily applied in the digital age.  First developed by Ansel Adams (with whom the author studied) and Fred Archer, the Zone System encompasses both the scientific and quantifiable relationship between lights and darks within a frame as well as the more 'right-brain' process of pre-visualizing the tonal relationships within the desired final image. 

Johnson begins with an introduction to the system and a description of the 'Zone Scale' - a gradated line broken up into 10 symbolic tones arranged in order from black to white. He follows his overview of the Zone with several chapters about how to employ it when exposing, processing, and printing film (especially B&W). In the later chapters, using the same precepts, he describes an entirely digital workflow. In writing about both processes, he covers some of the major differences of exposing film vs. digital sensors.

A recurring adage in the film chapters, explained in great detail, is that when using film photographers ought to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. Digital photography on the other hand, especially when using a Raw workflow, encourages the photographers to expose for the highlights (i.e. to the right of the histogram). 

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Zone System - Wikipedia


The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography.

Posted by 2018 article

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