Why the Zone Systems in Photoshop?

Why the Zone Systems in Photoshop?

The Zone Systems… with everything else out there… why bother?

I get this question a lot… why the Zone Systems?  I’d say at least 3 times a month.  With the Launch of the new Zone Systems Master Class I feel like I have not heard the end of it!  However, I get it.  If you are new to image editing the Zone Systems seem like daunting labor intensive redundant tasks.  The likewise is actually more accurate.

While the Zone Systems are Layer Intensive, they are not Labor Intensive.  They do create a lot of layers in the process, but when you get focused and used to them, they make editing at least 80% faster.  With that many Layers how can that be possible?

BandADZSCZS 2 Zone Systems

Well the Zone Systems are designed for Accurate, Deliberate, and Efficient editing.  Let’s break these down:

  • Accuracy:  With any image it is important to know exactly what is being edited.  There is no other technique or program on the market like the Color Zone System.  It shows you exactly what the selection of your color is so you know what will be edited.  The Digital Zone System does the same for tone.  While Lightroom, ACR, and Photoshop are all designed to be efficient and deliberate, they are missing this critical element… Accuracy.


  • Deliberate: When I first started editing photos in Photoshop it was like I was in hog heaven.  I was bouncing all over the place between Saturation, Curves, Levels, Exposure, etc.  I would make all kinds of hodgepodge edits and never be able to reproduce the effect exactly like the last one.  The Zone Systems are structured and meticulous and designed for deliberate editing.  This makes reproducing the effect from one image to another a breeze.


  • Efficiency:  While most products on the photo editing market are designed for efficiency (they wouldn’t be on the market if they weren’t) they fail to establish a blueprint for your workflow.  They are designed to be in and out and have the tools in the right place.  While that is efficient it does not minimize your time in the program.  The Zone Systems are blue print structured for efficiency, modify Tone, Color, Dodge and Burn, maybe a sharpen and you are done.  Most of my Masterpiece edits don’t take me longer than 10 minutes to produce, they used to take hours.

Check out this video tutorial.  I elaborate much more on the possibilities of the systems by showing you the loopholes and deficiencies in Lightroom and Photoshop editing without the Zone Systems.  Also checkout the new Zone Systems Master Class!

Learn More About the Master Class


Blake Rudis
Creator of f.64 Academy
Most people think I am passionate about Photography, but in reality I am not.


Wait, before you freak out, you are on a photo site, I am addicted to post processing. To be more specific, I am addicted to workflow efficiency and cracking the codes to complex systems. That's what I do here, crack the code to photo post processing and present it in a concise way, for you :)
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  1. Will you be having a booth at Photoshop World next month? I have all 3 systems (having just purchased the Master Class yesterday)and do see the advantages of using the DZS and CZS, but have yet to understand how everything fits together. It seems the Master Class will answer that but it would be great to see a demo from the Master if you plan to be there next month.

    • Thanks Colleen! I was going to go, but things changed up on me last minute. If it were September I’d have been there in a heart beat!

  2. The Master Zone System Video Series.

    This is a phenomenal piece of work by Blake. Having learned how to work with Ansell Adams zone system with my film camera I was disappointed to loose those skills when digital photography took over.

    I purchased the black and white zone system through HDR Insider and was delighted to see how it improved my bw images. Trying that system on my colour images didn’t work all the time and I felt that the colour zone system would be a step too far for me. Now that I have the complete set I can see how the system can be tamed and controlled but it is essential to go through each lesson in their order to understand the basics.

    One of Blakes first colour images showed a parrot and I shouted out “Oh No” because I was convinced that our tutor was about to cross the line of photographic integrity, so frowned on by birding enthusiasts the world over. No, all was well, as the picture was simply revived and kept faithful to the original.

    Blake Rudis is a master of his craft and a groundbreaker in post photographic creation. We will all be better photographers and artists at the end of this journey. well done.

  3. Blake, I was using the Digital Zone System 2.1 yesterday and everything was working fine. However later after completing the B/W action I clicked on the action Color Zone System 2.1 and got the message that the “object action red is unavailable”. None of the color action layers are available. I do have the Color Zone System installed in the actions.
    They worked earlier in the day. I have tried deleting the action and reloading and also downloading the Master class again but to no avail.
    Hope you can help. Thanks.


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