6th Edition

The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography Classic Tool, Universal Applications

By Chris Johnson Copyright 2017
    374 Pages 263 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    374 Pages 263 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This sixth edition of The Practical Zone System by Chris Johnson updates the classic manual on Ansel Adams's landmark technique for the digital age. For photographers working digitally or with film, in color or black and white, in the studio or on the go, this simple visual language helps to control contrast and, through a process called Previsualization, provides photographers with the power of free creative expression.


    This new edition discusses recent advances in technology and potentials for their use in zone photography, including HDR, smartphone cameras that shoot in raw format and smartphone light meters. Johnson demonstrates how the Zone System is a universal visual and conceptual language that dramatically simplifies the problem of creating and rendering complex lighting setups.

    1. "Will It Come Out?"

    2. Print Quality, Negative Contrast, and Dynamic Range

    3. The Control of Negative Contrast

    4. The Zone

    5. Exposure

    6. Development

    7. An Overview of the Zone System

    8. Zone System Testing: Method 1

    9. Zone System Testing: Method 2

    10. The Zone System and Digital Photography

    11. The Zone System and Studio Photography

    Appendix A. Color Management, Profiles, and Color Spaces

    Appendix B. A Primer on Studio Lighting Photography

    Appendix C. What is a Pixel?

    Appendix D. Bit Depth

    Appendix E. Exposure and the Digital Linear Effect

    Appendix F. Digital Light Meters and the Zone System.

    Appendix G. A Primer on Basic Film Photography

    Appendix H. Films, Developers, and Processing

    Appendix I. The Practical Zone System Film and Developer Testing Method

    Appendix J. Film and Developer Commentary by Iris Davis

    Appendix K. Alternative Methods for Extreme Expansion and Contraction Development

    Appendix L. Contrast Control with Paper Grades

    Appendix M. Developer Dilution

    Appendix N. Compensating Developers

    Appendix O. Inspection Development

    Appendix P. Condenser and Diffusion Enlargers

    Appendix Q. ASA/ISO Numbers

    Appendix R. Filter Factors, the Reciprocity Effect, and Bellows Extension Factors

    Appendix S. A Compensation Method for Inaccurate Meters

    Appendix T. Zone System Metering Form

    Appendix U. Exposure Record and Checklist for Zone System Testing

    Appendix V. Examples: Zone System Applications

    Appendix W. Suggested Reading

    Appendix X. A Brief Directory of Online Digital and Photography-Related Resources

    Appendix Y. A Brief Glossary of Zone System and Digital Terminology.


    Chris Johnson is a Professor of Photography at California College of the Arts. He is a photographic and video artist, curator and writer; his work has been exhibited in numerous gallery and museum shows. He is the creator of the Question Bridge video project and Co-Director with Hank Willis Thomas of Question Bridge: Black Males.  This project won the 2015 ICP Infinity Award; was published as a book by Aperture, and the video installation has been inducted into the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.