Place and Fall

The concept of zone "placement" is extremely important in Zone System theory because it describes the process that will ultimately determine your exposure. In any photographic subject, you will always find some dark area that in your opinion absolutely needs adequate texture and detail. This part of your image is called the Important Shadow Area.After you have identified the Important Shadow Area, your goal in most cases will be to choose an exposure that will render that area as Zone III in the finished print. This is called "Placing the Important Shadow on Zone III" (see Figure 29B). Remember that Zone III is the first dark zone that has full texture and detail. Also remember that Zone III is not black.

When you decide to place a particular area of the subject on Zone III, you are saying in effect that you will not mind if any inherently darker area of the scene is black or nearly black in the finished print. Another way of putting this would be to say that after the Important Shadow has been placed on Zone III, darker areas of the subject will fall on Zones 0, I, or II.The dark interior behind the model's head in Figure 29A is a good example of an area that should logically fall below Zone III.You can see why the placement of Zone III is so important. Placing Important Shadow Areas of your subject too low on the Zone Scale is an excellent way to define underexposure. In this example, the model's hair would be lost against the dark interior of the building if it were placed on a zone lower than Zone III.

Areas of the subject that are inherently lighter than the placed shadow value will logically fall on zones above Zone III. If the Important Highlight Areas of your subject fall above Zone VIII, they will be too white in the print or "blocked up," as we say.The relative positions of all the values in the subject are determined by the placement of the Important Shadow Area on the Zone Scale. If you place your shadow value on a lower zone, all the other subject values will be darker. Placing the shadow value higher on the Zone Scale will cause the rest of the subject values to be lighter. I will discuss further implications of this statement in Chapter 6.

Once you have decided on the placement of Zone III, if you carefully meter that area, your last exposure problem is choosing the correct f/stop and shutter speed.

There are only two things you need to remember.

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