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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Throughout my inital research, I found Bruce Percey’s articles about tone to be an invaluable read. Hope you enjoy.
How do you understand and demonstrate tone within your photographs?