The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.
~ Brene Brown
There are two major ways of defining “Tone” in photography.
Pity is they seem to get mixed up by under or over use.
Tone 1. The scientific measurement of the range of dark to light values in a photograph. Formally known as the Characteristic Curve.
The bane of photostudents in the days of filum, as it required astounding numbers of tests, peering through densitometers and calculations from log tables. Never a topic that people qued up to be the first in the door.
Tone 2. The pictorial use of dark through light to help establish mood and emotion. Light areas attract the eye, darker areas hold mystery.
Ms Brown, was no photographer, but out of her writings its possible to distill some fine photo-enhancing thoughts.
One of my fav photoshoppie, tool is the Circular Grad Tool. As best I can recall it didn’t make a Photoshop appearance until Photoshop 5 in 1998.
Highlight my subject. Lighten for emphasis, Darken for mystery. Use two, one for the subject and one for the backdrop and the eye of the viewer is both drawn and surrounded by the environment without losing the subject. At least that’s the theory.
Funny how, even having taught the use of the tool, there is always just one more trick up its sleeve.
I was browsing the awesome book, THE DIGITAL NEGATIVE by the equally awesome Jeff Schewe, (my copy is dog-eared and bursting with postalnotes.) and noticed a technique of resizing each individual side of the Grad Tool when it’s been drawn. Oh, dear, how come I didn’t know that already. Big grins.
As a lot of my current softer feel technique is based around the use of the tool, I was somewhat taken back that I hadn’t noticed this small technique.
For the interested, draw the grad as normal, hold down the Alt key and each of the ‘handles’ is independently moveable to match the need of the subject.
I’d chosen this image sometime ago to match the good Ms Brown’s quote, so decided that it fitted well with the tonal series. Bring out the best of the red and orange in her dress and keep the green behind muted and job is done.