2.3. Elements: Tone

In art, design and photography, tone is related to how much light or dark there is in a composition.

In photography, you will work with highlights (where the light is the strongest) and with shades (where is darker); you will use tone to create:

  • the illusion of form-
  • a specific atmosphere, mood
  • to suggest depth and distance

Illusion of Form / Shapes

Claude Monet created a dramatic scene (could be sunset or sunrise), where you can barely see the shape of the parliament.

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George Seurat used different tones with different light intensity around the main subject, you can can create the ilussion of a form.

This way, the changing tones create the illusion of light hitting an object, moving like from a 2D to a 3D painting:

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Abrecht Durer used black, white and brown to illustrate the different nuances of the fur, as well as for creating direct shade:

Creating atmosphere

Low and high value in tones.

Value is used to show how light (high value) or how dark (low value) a tone is.

You can compare it somehow to an overexposed or underexposed picture.


Contrast

Claude Monet created contrast by using a specific colour palette:

Paying attention to the moment of the day, you can create the desired contrast - for example, in the afternoon, shooting directly in the sun, you will get the harshest shadow.

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Creating depth and distance

This concept is related to depth of field; here is a progressive tone used to gradually change from a light tone in the foreground to a dark tone in the background.

When using this technique, you will be in charge creating the focal point, to catch the veiwer’s attention!

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