Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
(post #43) The tone reproduction chapter in The Theory of the Photographic Process 3rd edition covers both objective and subjective tone reproduction in great detail. Along with the mid-tone gradient, one other critical condition is required. The print tones need to be lighter than the original subject.
Steven, I don't think I can go along with this part, "print tones need to be lighter..." I don't have that edition, so can't confirm what it says, but I really think you may be misreading something.

Regarding the two tone-reproduction charts you attached, I don't believe that either of those responses can make a successful general purpose print (but they may be ok for copy work). My reasoning: if you look at reproduction of white, the "perfect white" in the subject (a hypothetical 100% diffuse reflector with equivalent reflection density = 0) is being mapped onto paper white (density ~ 0.10, the lightest photo papers get).

What this means is that there is no headroom for specular reflection. I think it is pretty crucial to allow specular objects to print lighter than a "pure white" in the scene. If you don't do this, shiny silver jewelry doesn't look like silver anymore, flesh highlights don't look shiny, etc. Everything has the look of being "clipped" to white rather than being shiny.

When you redo the tonal reproduction to allow for some specularity (on your upper right quadrant, map the scene beyond density = 0 to at least -0.20 and preferably to -0.30 (equiv to 1 f-stop brighter than "pure white" in the scene); this gets mapped to the white paper base.) When you do this, unfortunately everything else on the print has to become darker; the result is that almost all of the tones on the paper end up having a higher density than the equivalent subject density.

I don't know if I'm being clear on this. Anyway, this is not just academic, it's also from experience using studio-type portrait work. Anyone who has a high-quality print including a Macbeth Colorchecker (or other gray scale) and a densitometer can cross check; I think you'll find that the 2nd and 3rd lightest patches are similar (perhaps print is even a touch lighter), but going darker the print will have progressively higher densities.