Lightroom: Zone System as adopted by Ansel Adams

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  • Updated 4 years ago
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This idea came about from histograms, and how we use it to determine the levels in the image. If LR (or PS) is smart enough to determine levels, it should be smart enough to determine the brightness or intensity of the elements in the photo. Maybe there would be an overlay tool that decomposes the image into blocks of 'intensities', something that looks like a grayscale posterization effect, and have each zone labeled with the zone 'number'.

Another tool that might help is a zone match system, a graphical black point or white point, but with more freedom to assign any two points within a zone. For instance, usually skin tone will be 'zoned' within the middle area of the system, but with the zone match system, you can assign skin tone as the brightest point of the image, and have the tail side of the shadow side be either flexible, adjustable with a slider, or assignable with a numbered zone.

Also, this matching system might also be helpful in matching a certain spot to match a certain color, either a pre shot color chart, or a system maintained color chart. I guess, within the constraints of Lightroom usage scenario, this matching system shouldn't be too much of a change on how RAW processing usually works.
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Posted 4 years ago

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Photo of Kent Messamore

Kent Messamore

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I agree. This would be very useful with B&W photography. Something like NIK's SilverFX pro. You select zones from 1to10 and the app highlights each level of lumanence. You can either just view it or select each zone or group of zones, and then change the exposure level of those zones selected.
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Robert Cullen

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What does Lightroom provide now?
1. The Develop module histogram shows five zones when you hover the mouse cursor. Click and drag (left/right) will adjust this 'Zone' of the histogram.
2. The Tone Curve can be marked with several points (10 if you like) and each 'zone' moved up or down on the point curve.
3. The Targeted Adjustment Tool when selected with the point tone curve will select the exact point on the curve that matches the tone in the image under the cursor.
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Joe Boxer

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Take a look at the Adobe video "Make any Photo Look Like an Ansel Adams Masterpiece" at
It's under "Lightroom Coffee Break" - Bear in mind this was posted in honor of April Fool's Day!