52 on Friday - The Zone System

Project 52 is a group of professional pet photographers who are provided a new theme each week.  We then interpret that theme through our pet photography and post a blog.   We link to each others blog posts to create a "circle of pet art".  It is very inspiring to see each photographers take on the theme.  It pushes me to think more creatively and to try new photography techniques.

This weeks theme revolves around achieving proper exposure.  Cameras record tones ranging from black to white.   If you underexpose, the image turns out too dark.  This is represented by the blacks.  If you overexpose, the image turns out too light.  This is represented by the whites.  In order to get an evenly exposed image, not too dark and not too light, you want the camera to record tones in the middle.   This is called 18% grey.   Many photographers use a grey card on the first image to help establish proper exposure for the entire session.

With the advent of digital photography and processing in Photoshop, Lightroom and other programs; it's easier for a photographer to "fix" exposure problems after the fact.  This is time consuming and one is not truly learning the science and art of photography.

Ansel Adams, probably the best known photographer to date, co-created a system for achieving correct exposure in any lighting situation called The Zone System.

The Zone System

Since I was shooting in the evenings, I used my studio as my "lab".   Lucy was my subject!  This was not going to provide an accurate example of this system, so I'm using before and after pics of post processing.

The first example I used a white piece of paper on Lucy to help with establishing my exposure.  This is the image on the left, straight out of camera (sooc).   The image on the right is after I quickly adjusted exposure and color balance in Adobe Lightroom.  Lucy is between III and IV on the system.

For the next example, I used an 18% grey card.   Note how thrilled my model looks!!  The sooc image looks better exposed than the one using plain white to meter.  Lucy is better exposed, between Zone IV and V!

This whole concept is very involved and very complicated.   Plus, there are other factors to consider; are you shooting RAW or JPEG, is your monitor properly calibrated, etc.   Professional photographers spend a lot of time researching, learning and taking continued education to provide their clients the highest quality photographic art they possibly can.  

Next up, check out my very dear friend, Shelley Castle Pet Photography in Washington, D.C.  Remember to follow the blog circle until you end up back here!