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How to use the zone system to make better landscape photograph

How to use the zone system to make better landscape photograph

The zone system was developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer in the 1930s. The zone system is fantastic for mastering exposure and dynamic range in photography. By learning the zone system you are building solid foundations for your photographic skills. In fact, the zone system helps you read the light and tone of the scenario. The zone system gives you a huge amount of visualization of what is going on on the scene.

Through the zone system, you can control your camera to make expressive, creative photos. In other words, it is a really powerful tool. The zone system method provides you the opportunity to make more aware creative choices when setting your exposures.

Setting the right Iso, shutter speed, and aperture will be completely under your control.

The core of the zone system is the zone scale. The scale goes from 0 to 10 in one stop increment. At 0 you have pure black, 10 is pure white. Everything in between is a different shade of gray. Whatever you are shooting it doesn’t matter if it is black and white or color, film or digital. This is a system of tonal management and it is really powerful and you can use it in any situation.

This image is thank to Wikipedia.

The light meter when you are metering the zone gives you the reading for zone 5 which is middle gray. In this way the spot meter isn’t telling you which one is the best exposure for your landscape, is telling you what tone value will give you middle grey.

The spot meter will measure what you want placing it at zone 5. All you have to do is to imagine where you want in the zone scale what you are measuring and then move, for example, one stop if you want it to be in zone 6. Once you understand the zone system you know there is no correct exposure, there is only the exposure you want to make your photograph work. Through the zone system, you will make the exposure your way. You just need to use the spot meter of your camera.

Why the zone system is so important?

Thanks to the zone system you can evaluate the tone range in composition. And you can capture the exposure of the scenario in the way you want. This method, as said above, was developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer a long time before the invention of digital photography, in order to be more accurate about black and white sheet film exposure development.