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Thread: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

  1. #1

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    Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    With large format, I arrived late to the party, I have only been using it for a couple of years now and the majority of that time has been spent reading books and watching videos. I know I should have probably been out there making photographs and mistakes but I like to try and have a basic understanding on what I am doing rather than just fumbling my way through, its just the way I am made.

    After reading lot's of material and watching tons of videos about the Zone System, they all relate to the tone in the final print.

    What has got me wondering is, how the Zone System pans out to a scanning workflow rather than a wet darkroom workflow. For example, does an Epson V series scanner have a wider latitude than photographic papers. Is placing low values on Zone III and developing for Zone VIII high values still a good idea for scanners.

    Interested in your thoughts on this.

  2. #2
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Hi Ian

    If you Dabble with LAB numbers you can use a colour meter set to LAB to start measuring the L channel which is 0 black - 100 white. So I use this information when setting my scans up as well use this information in PS as well when editing my files.

    Once you figure out where your out put paper clips or goes to white or black, you can then start placing significant details Highlight and Shadow within these clipping points..

    For example I have found that with inkjet any L value above 94 will go to pure white on paper and any value below 6 will go to black.
    but with silver output these values change to 96/7 and 4/5 respectively.

    Matt paper and gloss paper have different values..

    there fore I would argue this is somewhat like the Zone System where you know your endpoints and within those endpoints you can curve shape to produce any look you desire.

    Bob

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    It makes sense to me.

    I would set a film speed that ensures proper detail in the shadows. The typical test is to choose the film speed that renders a Zone I exposure at 0.1 density units above film base plus fog. Using this standard works to achieve proper shadow detail when developing using an enlarger.

    Versus "0.1" necessarily, I would experiment with values that achieve proper detail in the shadows when scanning.

    For me, using whatever film speed I've determined with the 0.1 threshold, developing in a way that renders a Zone VIII at 1.35 density units gives me the detail in the highlights that I like. But again, that's assuming that I'm enlarging.

    Using whatever film speed yields the best results for scanning, versus 1.35, I would determine a value for Zone VIII that best renders proper detail in the highlights when scanning. Or, perhaps one should pivot on Zone VII instead of Zone VIII?

    The zone system helps to render nice results with traditional photography. I don't see why the same general methodology couldn't be used to render nice results when scanning.

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Bob makes a good point. Matt digital paper may require different testing values than glossy digital papers.

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Zone System (and equivalents) is less needed for scanner workflow, darkroom optic prints need a suitable negative to obtain what you want without excessive effort.

    With Photoshop it is really pronographic how easy it is manipulating a tonal scale if one is an advanced Ps user, and later lambda prints on FB are just perfect.

    Also you can use blended monochrome inkjet inks: https://piezography.com/piezography-pro#overview

    Silver photo paper (that can be used in a Lambda or in the darkroom) can deliver until 1:125 contrast (DMax 2.1D) if toned, inkjets may deliver some 1:65 contrast (DMax 1.8D) with good ink sets (several "black" inks for a BW print).

    So with digital workflow you still may use ZS to obtain a suitable negative but this is not as critical as with darkroom prints. High densities may be difficult to print in the darkroom , and manipulating tonality is also a burden.

    I come from manipulating everything in Ps... but now I find amazing obtaining a sound print in the darkroom, perhaps with some digital help: http://phototechmag.com/selective-ma...onal-darkroom/

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    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    If you are uncomfortable with LAB you can set your info Pallete on the colour meter to read K values which once again read 0-100 tailor made for someone use to thinking in 10 zones... basically you just need to find out where pixel drop off point is.
    Just because you can see detail on the monitor and you read pixel differencess ( I am talking above 95 and below 5) the proof is in the pudding or your paper you are going to print on and different papers can handle different pixel levels.

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    SE Penna. chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Ian, good topic.

    I notice that several of the early replies address paper/hardcopy output. What is the output medium as it relates to your question? Digital only (monitor/tablet/mobile phone) or does it also include hardcopy/paper print?

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    From what I have been doing, I have been using the method Bob mentions which so far is proving good for the prints.

    After watching Fred Picker's videos where he prints a series of patches to show him the limits of the paper, I am wondering if doing the same with a scanner would be beneficial, what I mean is knowing what the upper and lower limits of the scanner is when it comes to tonal separation.

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by chassis View Post
    Ian, good topic.

    I notice that several of the early replies address paper/hardcopy output. What is the output medium as it relates to your question? Digital only (monitor/tablet/mobile phone) or does it also include hardcopy/paper print?
    Although I do display some of my work on the internet, I always edit them with a digital print in mind. As Bob mentions, I also try to edit with the paper which I shall be printing on in mind also, whether this be Baryta or Matte.

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    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    From what I have been doing, I have been using the method Bob mentions which so far is proving good for the prints.

    After watching Fred Picker's videos where he prints a series of patches to show him the limits of the paper, I am wondering if doing the same with a scanner would be beneficial, what I mean is knowing what the upper and lower limits of the scanner is when it comes to tonal separation.
    Ian I always scan outside the end points, in other words make sure its flatter, never make the scan look acceptable you chance loosing end information, also with scanning I always turn off the sharpening, much better vehicles to sharpen post scan..

    So I want as much as the scanner can physically give me at both ends and then work in PS.
    Bob

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