The Zone System is a photographic technique for determining optimal film exposure and development, formulated by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer in 1939–1940. The Zone System provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualize the photographic subject and the final results. Although it originated with black and white sheet film, the Zone System is also applicable to roll film, both black and white and color, negative and reversal, and to digital photography.
Almost any scene of photographic interest contains elements of different luminance; consequently, the “exposure” actually is many different exposures. The exposure time is the same for all elements, but the image illuminance varies with the luminance of each subject element.
Exposure is often determined using a reflected-light exposure meter. The earliest meters measured overall average luminance; meter calibration was established to give satisfactory exposures for typical outdoor scenes. However, if the part of a scene that is metered includes large areas of unusually high or low reflectance, or unusually large areas of highlight or shadow, the “effective” average reflectance may differ substantially from that of a “typical” scene, and the rendering may not be as desired.
In the Zone System, measurements are made of individual scene elements, and exposure is adjusted based on the photographer’s knowledge of what is being metered: a photographer knows the difference between freshly fallen snow and a black horse, while a meter does not. Volumes have been written on the Zone System, but the concept is very simple just render light subjects as light, and dark subjects as dark, according to the photographer’s visualization. The Zone System assigns numbers from 0 through 10 to different brightness values, with 0 representing black, 5 middle gray, and 10 pure white; these values are known as zones.
Many small and medium-format cameras include provision for exposure compensation; this feature works well with the Zone System, especially if the camera includes spot metering, but obtaining proper results requires careful metering of individual scene elements and making appropriate adjustments.
To put Adams’ Zone system into easier to understand words, it involves light metering areas of your image and placing these tones onto a scale of black to white with 10 areas inbetween of the different tones. Once you find te tone you want use the aperture and shutter speed given on the light meter to achieve the perfect shot you visulised.
I have research Ansel Adams and his zone system to go in my essay about light in photographs and how it can be manipulated to change an image.
I am including this image Moonrise, Hernandez because of how Adams’ visulised how it would look after some manipulation in the darkroom. The image above is Adams’ final image how he wanted it to look, the image below is the actual image he took on location.