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Mastering Your Digital Camera

Lesson 26 of 51

How To Read Tonality

Chris Weston

Mastering Your Digital Camera

Chris Weston

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Lesson Info

26. How To Read Tonality
Understanding tone will help you predict how the camera's meter will read any given scene to take well-exposed images, without the guesswork.


Lesson Info

How To Read Tonality

What color is snow? We tend to think of snow is being white on did in bright sunlight. Snow is white, but take a look at my shadow. Snow in shadow isn't white is gray, and this is what I mean when I talk about tonality, Tone refers to a lightness and darkness and is distinct from color. So when you think about color, you don't think about the color itself. But you think about the lightness and darkness of that color are perfect. Example of that is the sky. The sky is blue, but in the morning is a light blue. In the middle of the day, it's a medium blue, and as we get towards dusk, it becomes a dark blue. So let's look at some other examples as well. A snow swan's feathers and a traditional white wedding dress on a sunny day. Also, white clouds are all examples of white tones, early morning blue sky, dry sand in the palm of your hand or examples of light gray tones. Medium tones would be green grass, blue sky at noon, wet sand poppy red on examples of dark tones are black skin, Conifer,...

green storm clouds and coal in terms of black, very little in the world is actually black. Often, what we think of as being black, such as cold, is actually very dark gray but very dense shadows and an unlit night sky. Two examples of black tones A great skill to learn is to mentally see the world in gray tones. Now, to practice, this takes on color images and turn them black and white and study how color translates into shades of gray. Another great way to learn about tone, particularly in the field, is to carry one of these. And this is a medium toned gray card, and what you do is you hold it up against the subject and compare the tone of the subject to the tone of the card. So if I do it against the snow, we can see is very obvious that the tone of the subjects know is much lighter than the card we were holding up against the shadow. Now we can see that the tone of the subject, the shadow is darker than the card. If I hold it up against the sky, well, what do you think? Well, we know that the tone of a blue sky in the middle of the day is a medium tone, and if you compare the subject to the card, will see that, yes, there is a match. And not only that, if I turn this whole scene into black and white and compare the two, we'll see that the tone of the sky and the tone of the card are in fact, the same shade of great. Now, the more you practice is out in the field that easy or get to learn how to read tone on them or instinctive your exposure decisions will become.

Class Description


  • Set up your camera with confidence
  • Better understand shutter speed, aperture, and ISO
  • Capture perfect exposures in camera
  • Get sharp, focused images quickly
  • Understand white balance and the difference between RAW and JPEG
  • Quickly and confidently capture images “in the moment”
  • Become a better photographer by building an understanding of basic photography techniques


CreativeLive is partnering with Chris Weston to offer you his Complete Photography Master Course.

Turn terms like aperture, shutter speed and ISO from a bunch of obscure photography jargon to a toolset that you can easily manipulate to capture great photos. Led by landscape photographer Chris Weston, this class covers everything beginners need to know to master photography basics from exposure to focus.

Turn that camera dial off of auto and learn how to properly expose a photograph. With a few basic camera settings, get the most image quality and the best colors from your mirrorless or DSLR camera. Then, master focus modes and techniques for sharp photographs.

Learn the basics of photography in a series of short, memorable lessons. Chris' straight-forward teaching style is great for newbies that find the task of learning photography daunting, while the to-the-point lessons make it possible to spend just a few minutes a day mastering your camera with easy photography tips and techniques.


  • Beginner photographers
  • First time DSLR or mirrorless camera users
  • Any photographer that wants to get off automatic mode to shoot better photos


Named one of the world's most influential wildlife photographers, Chris Weston takes a contemporary approach to photography. After launching his career in 2001, the Fujifilm ambassador's images have graced the pages of top publications like BBC, The Times, Outdoor Photography, Practical Photography, and Digital Photography. As a photography educator, Chris has written over 20 photography books, along with leading photo tours and online workshops.


mark jacobson

What a marvelous course! What a marvelous teacher! When I went to college, my father would always ask me about my professors, more than the courses themselves. He was passionate about learning and although too busy with earning an income to go beyond an undergrad degree, continued to read 50 books a year. I still remember how he'd get almost visibly excited when I'd tell him about some special professor who taught with such enthusiasm and, more than just passion, evident delight and joy in the subject. 'Ah they're the best, son. How wonderful you have such a teacher." Well, he passed away decades ago but if he were still around I'd get a kick out of telling him about Chris Weston, the 'Prof' of this course. He's one of the very special ones: a teacher who's loved and lived his vocation--his avocation--since he was a boy--and still is as excited about it now as he was then. The result: a course that seems to be more a labor of love--of pouring far more energy and thought into the details then one typically finds in these courses--than anything else. Bravo Chris! I'm already on to your next one.


Chris is an amazing instructor who dissects theory giving amazing analogies that bring concepts to life. I have rarely been able to sit through most video course for more than a half-hour but watched this one from beginning to end. A good refresher course if you've been away from the camera for awhile or there are some concepts that still illude you. I highly recommend this course and look forward to watching his others. Thank you for the clarity and great explanations.

Sky Bergman

This was an amazing class. I have looked at a number of basic photography classes. This one was by far the best I have seen. Chris is an exceptional teacher. He breaks things down into digestible information and then inspires you to be creative. Thank you!