a photo study: tone

toneweb
Nikon D750   f/4.5   1/320s   85mm   100 ISO

This week’s photo study is inspired by my initial reading of Bruce Percy’s ebook, “The Art of Tonal Adjustment.”  Thus far into this photo study project, the majority of discussions about composition generally concentrate on the basics of photography; such as, the rule-of-thirds, rule of odds, leading lines, the color red, and so on.  Tone, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be a popular subject and one that has a variance of definitions. For example:

Hue is the color. Saturation is the purity/intensity of the color. Tone is the degree of lightness and darkness.

blossom32web
Nikon D750     f/4.5    1/160   85mm   100 ISO

Tone is probably the most intangible element of composition. Tone may consist of shadings from white-to-gray-to-black, or it may consist of darks against lights with little or no grays. The use of dark areas against light areas is a common method of adding the feeling of a third dimension to a two-dimensional black-and-white picture. The interaction of light against dark shades in varying degrees helps to set the mood of a composition. 

blossom3desatweb
Nikon D750     f/4.5    1/160   85mm   100 ISO

A picture consisting of dark or somber shades conveys mystery, intrigue, or sadness. When the tones are mostly light and airy, the picture portrays lightness, joy, or airiness.

“Tonal range” is another way of saying what the difference is between the darkest and the lightest parts of a picture.

waterabstract-15webbnw
Nikon D750    f/4.5   1/4,000    85mm   800 ISO

“Tonal contrast” is created when light tones and dark tones lie alongside each other. In any photograph it is natural for the eye to go straight to the highlights and then move about the image, taking in the details. 

tone-1web
Nikon D750   f/4.5   1/320s   85mm   100 ISO

Tonal contrast is the basis of many successful black and white images. If you need help to see the tones in your color photos an easy way to do so is to reduce the color saturation to zero. It is easier to see tonal contrast in black and white images because there is no color to distract your eye from the brightness values within the photo. It is important to note that reducing the color saturation to zero is usually not the best way to convert a color image to monochrome.

tone-2web
Nikon D750   f/4.5   1/320s   85mm   100 ISO

Throughout my inital research, I found Bruce Percey’s articles about tone to be an invaluable read.  Hope you enjoy.  

https://www.brucepercy.co.uk/blog/?category=Tonal+Relationships

How do you understand and demonstrate tone within your photographs? 

16 thoughts on “a photo study: tone

    1. Thanks for visiting Sue. Over the past year I’ve experimented with the various tone presets in Color Efex…sorta like speaking…if it sounds good then I just assume the grammar must be right 🙂

    1. Thanks for visiting, Hopyrane. Tone is a new concept for me, also. Hopefully, over time and experimentation, I’ll become more aware and attentive.

  1. When it comes to color grading, it’s very important to know what you want to do with your photo. I try to pay attention to tones especially in polychrome images. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Robert, thank you for taking the time to visit and sharing your process. As I am in the process of expanding my elementary understanding and application of photography as an art form, I appreciate feedback from others, especially those who have an intention to share the beauty of Mother Nature.

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