For this week’s ABCs of Photography, we’re going to learn about grayscale. Depending on who you ask, it’s also spelled gray-scale, or gray scale. But let’s not get into that, eh?
In a grayscale image, there are no color tones, so things that have color look black, white, or various shades of gray. Dictionary.com defines grayscale as follows:
a scale of achromatic colors having several, usually ten, equal gradations ranging from white to black, used in television and photography.
Photographers often talk about grayscale in terms of the Zone System, which was an exposure/development tool to help translate tones of things in real life into tones that the film and paper could capture and display. Here’s Dictionary.com’s definition of the Zone System:
a system for envisioning the values to appear in a black-and-white print and for determining exposure and development, based on a scale of shades ranging from 0 (black) to IX (white).
I won’t go into detailed explanation since you could take whole classes on the subject, but to sum things up, the Zone System is often used to make sure that the important parts of an image are properly exposed and developed so that they have the right amount of light/dark.
Grayscale Coloring Page
If you want to get a little more involved with learning about grayscale, I’ve created a grayscale coloring page that older kids (or parents?) may enjoy coloring. It features a continuous gradient (black to white with every shade of gray between) as well as the Zone System’s eleven step tonal range from black to white.
Here’s what the coloring page looks like (see below).
Notice I’ve included the complete tonal range of a continuous grayscale from black to white, as well as the simplified eleven step tonal range of the Zone System.
Grayscale Activity for Younger Kids
If your kids are a little young for the coloring activity, you could just print it out, talk about different tones of gray, and maybe have them color with a pencil pressing down hard to create dark gray and then pressing down lightly to create light gray. Or, give them some crayons in varying shades of, say, green and help them arrange the tones from light to dark.
More Grayscale Activities
Once you’ve completed your grayscale drawings, you can call it quits, or continue on to real-world applications:
- Go on a grayscale scavenger hunt. Can you and your kids find images around your home that use only grayscale tones?
- Examine a grayscale picture alongside your Zone System chart from the printable. Which tones can you find in the image?
- Print out a color photo using the grayscale feature on your printer. Compare the two (color and grayscale), noting which colors come across lighter or darker.
I’m sure there are some more activities you could come up with to further learn about grayscale. If you decide to do so, please report back with your findings! I’m always interested to hear about fun new takes on a topic.
Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter H (histogram, hue?). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about flash.
Join Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography! We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids
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