Ouch. Not the response I was expecting...
[note to self: never use the word Photoshop around these guys]
Maybe I've been confused all these years, but I thought the Zone System was a methodology for defining the parameters and procedures regarding the equipment, materials, and processing to allow a photographer to produce a visual presentation of a concept regarding a given setting. Be that a contact print, enlargement by diffusion, enlargement by condenser, or projection; all which require calibration and fine tuning nuances. And, now, a digitization technique.
I'm quite sure many members here are scanning, be it negatives or prints.
The galleries which are full of images are evidence enough.
Yes Stoogley, you've felt the WRATH of us APUG Luddites. You'd think that since transparency scanning only relates to film it'd be ok to talk about... but... well.. yeah. Sorry, don't take it personally.
However, open up the topic at DPUG, because there needs to be more activity over there... it's quite stagnant.
These responses seem a bit harsh. Searching APUG returns hundreds of threads about scanning. It seemed like a reasonable question to me.
On a related topic, I would remind everyone that APUG is a USER GROUP hosted on digital servers. If you insist on talking about APUG please go and do it on DPUG...
Fundamentally, the Zone System starts at the print parameters and works backward through the preceding processes that lead to the final print.
So, the first thing to do is to pick a standard printing material, printer, and process. This may be Lightjet/Lambda prints from a lab, inkjet prints from a lab, inkjet prints from your own printer, or even alternative process paper via inkjet contact negatives. You then work backward from the printer to the files that you use for print. How do you optimize those files for printing with the chosen printing equipment/materials? You make your profiles, or use existing profiles. You calibrate your monitor.
Then you think about how you get those files perfectly prepared for printing. What sort of contrast do you want in the file when you start Photoshopping it, in order to let you do the most in the program? You figure out how exactly your scanner interprets negatives. How do you get the scan that will give you the raw material to craft the file you need to make the print you want?
Then, how do you get the negative necessary to get that ideal scan? What sort of contrast do you need on the neg in order to get that scan? What sort of film, exposure, and processing do you need to get that contrast?
The technology used doesn't really change the basic theory. You work from the print backwards, calibrating every step to the last. And this is all easy in the grand scheme of things. The hard part is always deciding exactly what you want the print to look like when taking the picture. If you cannot do that, everything else is pretty pointless – just a bunch of time-consuming and fruitless technical exercises.
At any rate, anything except the film, exposure, and film processing discussions belong on DPUG. But if you get to the point when you have decided what sort of negatives you need, this is the place to find out how to get them.
I'm actually quite skilled in PS and I'm happy to talk PS on occasion, but not here. This site is dedicated to traditional non-digital methods.
Originally Posted by Stoogley
Your arguments have all been considered and hashed out many times.
Originally Posted by JamesDean
Stoogley, look at it this way: The whole internet is just filled with people who would love to discuss your subject, and they do it all over the place. APUG is about about the only place dedicated to film photography discussion. Some of the people here are included in those who love to discuss it, they just leave APUG as an oasis in the desert for those who don't.
The Zone System is a method to examine the scene in front of you, analyse its brightness range, decide what kind of brightness range you want in your final print (visualise the final print), and then chose an exposure, and then a development, that - given the film you use, the developer you use, the developing process, the paper and the tests you made with them - you know will give you a negative that, when printed*, will give you that final print just as you visualised it.
So the zone system asks you to make, for each frame, a certain exposure and development choice finalised to a certain desired result, especially regarding contrast.
All this makes no sense when using slides, or when printing from scanned film. You have the basic exposure problem (how to make the brightness range fit inside the dynamic range of your film) and that's all. Once your slide is properly exposed, a good dedicated film scanner will capture all its dynamic range, and in postprocessing you will obtain the contrast that you want using what Photoshop calls "Levels" and "Curves". You only need to expose your film "properly" and to have a capable scanner, you don't need to make exposure and developing decisions frame by frame. Your question will be answered by the many threads about exposure here on APUG.
A small variant might be that, if you really think that your slide will see no other use than scanning, then you might choose to underexpose them a bit, as a good scanner will be able to dig in the shadows and you'll be able to recover shadows but - as with digital - a clipped highlight is detail lost forever. I personally don't belong to that school, though, and I try to expose normally "for the highlights" figuring where they will fall on the slide, as scanning quality is influenced by density, and a darker slide is recoverable, but the result is not optimal, so I try to exploit all the (limited) curve I have on the highlights as well.
I understand I did not answer your original question - a workaround for a densitometer - but I think I somehow gave an answer to the underlying assumption.
* When printed on a paper of a certain contrast. This original version of the zone system is somehow made redundant by the introduction of variable contrast papers as far as I can read, but I'm no printer (yet).
No arguments here, just an attempt at jocularity. I'm a new comer here so still finding my feet.
Originally Posted by markbarendt
Pointing the OP to DPUG is helpful if it helps him find the answer to his question. Repeating the pointer again and again makes this group appear less friendly than I give it credit for. Whilst some people may believe that APUG is only about exposure and chemistry, I enjoy it for discussions about aesthetics, morality, legality, locations, culture, people and humour (and I can do all of this whilst calling myself an analogue photographer). I hope I've come to the right place...
You're fine and welcome. People can get antsy about it, mainly because we do try to keep things in the scope of darkroom, camera, film, chemicals realm solely out of the fact that there are millions of users talking digital all across the interwebs, hence the somtimes hasty and poignant responses: we like it all about Analog here.
Originally Posted by JamesDean
To the OP. You have two very good responses to your original question above me. I think the advice to work backwards knowing your print media, methods, camera, and then scene will greatly improve your images.
Welcome guys, and don't be skirted, there's plenty to learn here and we like our fun!
Originally Posted by Stoogley
If you want to make negatives that aren't useless in a darkroom, that seems like a respectable APUG question.
Some scanning software, such as VueScan, can give you density readings.
Just don't save the file.
A reasonable question might be what is a good aim point for gelatin silver printing.
I aim Zone VII for 1.6 density for graded paper using enlarger with a fluorescent light source. Next time I calibrate, I expect that number to go down closer to 1.2 density. But I still might run denser than the usual member because of my paper and enlarger choices.