The Zone System is all about
Getting the Tonal Contrast You Want
This is all well & good except –
Sometimes what you think your eyes see
Is not accurate
Your brain fools you
It’s a problem if you’re trying to affect tonal contrast
and what you think you see isn’t what’s really there
Quick – Which Ellipse is the Lightest?
How would you make the tonal value of each the same?
What if I told you they are all Zone 10 – pure white?
They are all the same – pure white!
Your eyes are seeing pure white, but your brain says otherwise
Above & below – Wikipedia
There’s often a “gotcha” when it comes to
Getting the tonal contrast you want
That gotcha’s the human vision system
There is often a big difference between
The visual data captured by your eyes &
How your brain interprets that data
It’s the stuff that optical illusions are made of….
This can be a problem when judging tonal values IF
During capture and|or post-processing
What can be done about it?
Capture – take lots of pictures and train yourself to See
Post-processing – Use a program like Silver Efex Pro 2 that can display tonal regions
I’ll describe SEP2’s zone system features in a future post
As a preview, here’s SEP2 showing zone 10 areas for the ellipse image
As I said, all three ellipses are pure white
Your eye is fooled because of the surrounding tones which range from pure black to pure white
Note pure white in upper left background tone
Bottom right is pure black
This problem holds for color, too, not just B&W
Click to enlarge for details
For the PS literate, you can verify the tonal equality by using the color selection eye-dropper to test & compare the ellipses.
Just for fun, here’s another example of the same visual perception problem. The question is which of the three smaller squares is the darkest?
After the three ellipses you’re probably tempted to say – they’re all the same (regardless of what your eyes|brain say).
You’d be right. It’s another example of perceived tonal values being affected by the tonal values of the surrounding area.
This can be verified in the same way as suggested previously for the ellipses – test via SEP2 or PS, for example.
Or – just trust me 😉
There’s a second “illusion” present here as well for the visually acute.
Look at the large square in the center.
Doesn’t its left side appear to be lighter that the right side?
Same phenomena again
For both color and tone there can be quite a difference between true and apparent (perceived) values.
More tomorrow – keep shooting & train yourself to see tonality.
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