PAUL POLITIS is a versatile amateur black and white photographer from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He began with traditional darkroom work and then switched when he discovered that he could produce the same results in the digital format.  His gallery will provide you with interesting visual ideas.  Visit him at:   Read the introduction below and then look for value, tone, and texture in his work.



Photography is an art form.  In art, VALUE means lights, darks, and middle tones that create a picture.  In black and white photography, value means whites, blacks, and middle gray tones.  In color photography, painting or graphic design, value is more complex. White is the lightest.  Yellow is darker than white and much lighter than orange.  Orange is a middle gray, is darker than yellow and lighter than the dark red.  One way you can visualize value in color is to squint so that the affect of the eyes cones or color sensors is reduced.  In a black and white picture we do not need color to recognize objects.  We do need to see value to distinguish one object from another. 


Look below at some work of the American early 20th century photographer and New Jersey born, Alfred Stieglitz, who was also the husband of painter Georgia O'Keeffe.  Single handedly, by sending 17 of his photographers to the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan, he challenged the traditional art world to recognize photography as an art form.  Although his efforts took photography the better part of the century to be fully recognized, by the end of the 20th century, photography was on a par with the other fine and decorative arts.  He used shapes, lines, textures, and carefully composed images to describe reality and emotion in life.






In photography we define three distinct TONAL RANGES of value.  The first is called HIGH KEY  Value or High Key Tonal Range (left below).   This describes an image whose predominant tones are pale or light in value.  The High Key picture may also contain some middle gray values or tones and some blacks. The majority of tones are light or pale.  LOW KEY Value or Low Key Tonal Range (center below) images contain a majority of dark tones or values.  The image may also contain some middle grays and whites.  A BALANCED Value or Balanced Tonal Range (right below) photograph contains a range of predominantly middle gray tones, which includes pure black and pure white.  In photography, pure black is referred to as D-Max while pure white is referred to as D-Min.






MERGER is also a factor of value in photography.  In merger things that are different distances apart appear to be together.  For example, you can have a man or woman with dark hair stand away from a wall with two black or dark plates on it.  If you position the person correctly, merger will give the illusion that the person has Mickey Mouse ears.  Mergers are fun and humorous.  Notice how the woman, below left, looks like there is something on her head.  Depth of field or focus from front to back in the picture, makes the object blurry while her body is in focus.  In the Portrait in the middle, a black background as well as blacks in the woman's hair merge so that the background becomes part of her hair or her hair does not completely conform to the shape of her head.  In the third manipulated image to the right, both blacks in the torso and red in the feet are used to merge background to subject matter.




SOURCES:,,, Jane Garnes, unknown sources which was sent via email.


TEXTURE is defined as the roughness or smoothness of a surface.  It is how a surface would feel as you touch it.  Rough surfaces like sandpaper, tree bark, and pebbles under bare feet contrast with smooth surfaces such as a mirror, polished metal or slick plastic.  Texture can appear hard as with glass or soft as with velvet.  Which pictures below are appear to record rough texture?  Which pics are smooth or have combinations of smooth or rough?


In color and black and white and photography and art, value and light source and strength give the photographer and artist important clues in creating the illusion of texture. Texture can actually be physical texture as in tree bark or VISUAL OR VIRTUAL texture as in a photograph of rough tree bark where the photograph surface is actually very smooth. Which pictures below are appear to record rough texture?  Which pics are smooth or have combinations of smooth or rough?







You may shoot your pictures in any order. 

_____  _____  _____  _____ High Key Tonal images


_____  _____  _____  _____ Low Key Tonal images


_____  _____  _____  _____ Balanced Tonal images


_____  _____  _____  _____ Merger shots


_____  _____  _____  _____ Outdoor scenes with rough and smooth textures


_____  _____  _____  _____ Rough or smooth Indoor textures near natural window


Submit only your best shots.  Submit shots in Black and White (keep a color version of all work).Take more than 24 so you have some to choose from.






1.  If your photo is in color, CONVERT TO BLACK AND WHITE.  In the top Photoshop menu, go to IMAGE/MODE/ GRAYSCALE.  Click on Grayscale and if it shows, hit yes to discard all color information.

2.  Size your image.  In the top Photoshop menu go to IMAGE/IMAGE SIZE.  Under Width and Height make certain that the image is 7" x 10" in any direction. 



    1. 1.  In your journal start a new page and title it “DP 3 – VALUE/TONE/MERGER & TEXTURE.” Under that glue 3 color or black and white photos (1 high key, 1 low key, and 1 balanced tonal range). 3 texture. Label what tonal range is shown.



        2.1.  Cut  3 -11” x 14” mats.

        2.2.  Dry mount 3 prints on 11" x 14" mat board.  Sign the work in pencil on the bottom right hand corner of the mat, just under the photo to the right.

        2.3. Write 3 inventories for the assignments and affix them to the backs of each mounted photograph.  WRITTEN INVENTORY 



    3.1.  Print your 3 best full frame shots in terms of composition in black and white on 8.5" x 11" paper.  1 must be high or low key, 1 must be a texture and 1 must be a merger shot (if a good merger shot is not had then choose one more from value or texture).

    3.2.  Choose 1 of the images from this assignment to be an "INVERT" POSITIVE/NEGATIVE PRINT:  Take your best and most simple photograph.  Use any of the tools behind the marquis tool to select various areas of the photograph to put in the negative.  Use Image/adjustment/invert in the top menu in Photoshop.  Save image in my teach folder for grading.


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