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tone / zone mapper that works like light zone

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I've always loved Lightzone's Zone Mapper - which is based loosely on Ansel Adam's zone/tone idea.


The idea is extremely intuitive .. but. the execution has an efficient and productive UI.


Despite having used Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Krita, Affinity Photo, etc .. I still keep the free Lightzone installed for the zone (tone) mapper.


(I also love the very easy and intuitive shape tool which acts as a mask for applying any filter or operation .. with adjustable non-destructive shape and edge transition)


Here's a set of video tutorials https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq1tyuZXbpo&list=PLUECp8xv0O0DPqRL8Qgrs6ZQVVvrGfZPP


I really wish Affinity did this .. instead of the less intuitive set of filters which seem to have a high barrier to expertise .. and seem very inefficient in terms of desktop real estate ... their retained settings are counterintuitive.


Just honest friendly feedback.



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this is just a curves adjustment tool for ansel adams fans 


you just have to understand curves once and you have even more options, but you can also stick to just this one workflow of course


levels adjustment gives you better control over white and black point and you et clipping indicators as well by holding down the alt key


you also have RGB and luma options in Affinity Photo as well btw.

and of course you have many options to make local adjustments, the easiest way is to just mask it with a brush but you can use refinement tools or vector paths as well


curves a re a bit tough to understand at first but once you get your head wrapped around it there is just no going back (as natalia taffarel says, she just needs curves and can a photo make to look like anything she wants)


btw Ansel Adams is pretty mich dead nowadays 

digital cameras have so much dynamic range and you just expose to the right using your clipping indictors in the liveview and you have the perfekt spot

(the point I want to make is - sometimes one has to adapt to new technology/ workflow)


Levels and curves can then easily be tweaked in post.

although it is fair to argue that curves in AP are not really finished yet




same topic, further explanations:



Edited by MBd



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  • 1 month later...

'this is just a curves adjustment tool for ansel adams fans'


Are you confident in what you've stated here MBd?


The zone mapper tool is quite versatile and IMO a lot more efficient than using curves. In fact I'd be hard pushed getting results from curves compared to the zone mapper! 


With this tool one can lock off tonalities (zones) then expand (or contract) narrow bands of tones... rather clever, and very simple if one has a working knowledge of the zone system.  


I won't go into the depths of zone system tonal/texture control here except to say the zone mapper is based on the original 10 zones Ansel (and Fred Archer) pioneered (and later abandoned to 11 — fortunately the 10 zones were kept alive by Fred Picker and others}. The panel drops out zone 0 (pure black) and zone IX (pure white) therefore retaining 8 zones broken into half steps (stops) — 16 tonal steps in total.


The versatility within these 16 steps offers tonality/texture control IMO much greater than curves offered currently with other image editors. The only other editor I'm aware of that comes close is  ACDSee's Ultimate (current version 10) - their LIght EQ does pretty much the same... but, of course geared up for the digital photographer who may or may not have an understanding of zone systems...or anything to do with the alchemy of the golden days of silver and smelly chemicals   :) 


Exposing to the right is ...well, ok. Recognition of tonalities and exposing for is, well, more desirable — and I'm not talking about full tonal range images. I constantly drop tones from my abstract style images.   ;) 

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thanks @pedroofoz .. 


I'm sure the curves tool can do everything the zone mapper can do .. because mathematically it reduces down to the same thing


but this is about ease of use and user experience .. and the tool in LightZone is amazingly intuitive and easy to use .. and can create results that are really hard (but not impossible) using curves or similar tools in Photoshop etc

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  • 1 year later...

It would be nice to see a "Zone Mapper" adjustment layer added to Affinity Photo. Perhaps the best location to place a tool like this would be in the Tone Mapping Persona? Or as a Live Adjustment Layer in the Photo Persona? Unsure, as I am new to Affinity Photo.

Most of us (who aren't dead yet, we're mostly barely "In our Fourties") learned the Zone System in Fine-Art Photography as idealistic young photographers. We learned the limitations of contrast and perception (which are still valid), and Zone System is just a simple and intuitive way to acheive placement of tones from Absolute Black to Absolute White in a logical fashion.

There are so many books on the Zone System. The methods and concepts OF the Zone System (for Color or B&W) break down into a VERY intuitive fashion once you wrap your head around the ideas involved. They're actually not THAT involved.

Easily with the Zone Scale you can place tones from Absoute Black to Maximum Shadow Detail to Midtone to Maximum Highlight Detail and then to Absolute White. (Zones 0, 3, 5, 7, 10, and then you can fine tune a bit more if you like with the placement of the other Zones/Tones). The best example of this in Software that I have found is LightZone. I would like to have this concept incorporated into Affinity Photo so I can work with a single tool and have the results I want to achieve in just a single, coherent, powerful Application for a clean workflow.

I don't see how adding an optional Adjustment Layer type could hurt Affinity Photo's workflow or usability. In fact I definitely think it would be an enhancement. Especially for photographers interested in preparing Exhibition Quality Black and White Prints, or want to adapt color images via the "Color" Zone System.

I agree that the Zone Mapper tool in Light Zone would be and could be beautifully emulated as an adjustment layer in Affinity Photo. I'd really like to see this happen!

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  • 2 years later...
  • 1 year later...

I am a great fan of the Zone System. I used it when I was processing and printing Black and White film for a number of years.
Digital cameras are getting better, but cannot match the dynamic rage of film, yet.

With film you exposed for the shadows and developed the highlights and yes I know it is not as simple as that. I spent many weeks calibrating camera to film and film to paper and reading Ansel Adams books.
For digital it's the other way round, expose for the highlights and develop the shadows.

There is no process that can match the dynamic range of the human eye. This is why Ansel Adams and Fred Archer developed the Zone System as a reliable method of giving the greatest possible dynamic range in an image.

The Zone system is applicable now as it was in Ansel Adams and Fred Archers day.

A change to the curves dialog to manipulate the zones would be the easiest way. At the moment you don't have values for the tonal range, It would be ideal to be able to select for Zone System and display the Zone System values on the X,Y axis.

Must have option - No
Ideal - Yes

At the moment I will continue guess values to assist in developing the image.

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