Remembering The Zone System for Better Black & Whites

Great tips!

Photofocus (old site)

Using zone 0 through X helps to frame this bride even more dynamically. Using zone 0 through X helps to frame this bride even more dynamically.

As someone who learned photography in the Age of Analog, I often find myself cringing when I see those who have only ever known digital, under-utilizing the power of black and white with the quick click of the “grayscale” button. Their images can be so much more than the general gray “blahness” that just the unrefined desaturation command can do.

In school, we were held to the standards of The Zone System; a method developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer. It was our constant benchmark of a dynamic exposure. And when one has a dynamic exposure, you can’t help but be interested in the image. While the scale was originally developed for black and white analog film, and later used with color film, we can still apply its basic ideals to bump our digital black and…

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About Mike
A resident of the “30 square miles surrounded by reality,” I spend most of my time teaching economics and statistics to undergraduate students. I enjoy, naturally, economics and business, but also science (I was once an astronomical observatory assistant), politics, photography, food, travel and sports. Madison has grown quite a bit since 1978 when Governor Lee Dreyfus made that remark. According to Wikipedia, Madison is 67.3 square miles of land and 16 square miles of water. Visit for one of my favorite views of the isthmus. Or, why not come visit us!

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