Fine-tuning brightness and contrast can alter the character and lighting of a scene for a personal interpretation.

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</p>
<p>
In black and white, more than in colour, there is no such thing as a perfectly ‘correct’ print. Instead there is the individual photographer’s idea of how the image should look, what Ansel Adams called ‘visualization’. 
</p>
<p>
Here is how he described his ideas for one of his most famous images (Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, 1940): ‘Although the scene was of low general contrast, my visualization of the final print was quite vigorous. The subject had a very dramatic potential.’
</p>
<p>
Or, consider the work of English photographer Bill Brandt, who favoured glossy grade 4 paper for intense blacks and brilliant whites, and once said, “I try to convey the atmosphere of my subject by intensifying the elements that compose it.” 
</p>
<p>
Other photographers have aimed for lower contrast in order to reveal everything from shadow to highlight with the subtlest of distinctions. 
</p>
<p>
Just because the mood of an image is a less tangible quality than, say, its composition, makes it no less important to think about. The technical issues of digital imaging understandably occupy a lot of attention because they are new, complex, and detailed, but there is a tendency for them to push to one side those creative qualities that are less easy to pin down. 
</p>
<p>
Setting black- and white-points, and other ways of optimizing, are technical procedures that ought to follow on from your ideas of how an image should look, and not determine it. 
</p>
<p>
Consider the following descriptions as applied to B&W photographs: bright and open, mysterious, threatening, subdued, airy, cheerful, soft, brittle. All are valid, even though open to personal interpretation, and the language is far from technical. 
</p>
<p>
It describes the overall effect and not the process. Nevertheless, the means for creating these types of atmosphere suggest themselves readily enough in monochrome, as the table illustrates. Here is yet another instance in which discarding the dimension of colour from images tends to focus attention on the nuances of the tonal range. 
</p>
<p>
Arguably, mood and atmosphere are better served in B&W than in colour.
</p>
<p>
<TABLE BGCOLOR="#000000" BORDER="0" ALIGN="CENTER" CELLPADDING="4" CELLSPACING="0" WIDTH="95%"><tr><td colspan="4" STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14pt; font-weight: normal; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: left; width: 100%; color: #FFFFFF;">Qualities and effects</TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 10pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;"><b>Technical qualities</b></TD><TD STYLE="font-family Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 10pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Mood effects </TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Most of image falls into mid-to-light tones, large areas of highlight, no blacks, limited shadows.</TD><TD STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">High key, bright, cheerful but slightly mysterious through the sense of not being able to see everything. Luminous.</TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Most of image dark, with few highlights. The concentration of graphic activity is in the shadow areas.</TD><TD STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Low key, rich and dense, can be threatening, possibly mysterious.</TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Image largely in the second quarter of the tonal range (dark-to-mid), with no true blacks and very few light tones.</TD><TD STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Murky, crepuscular, with possibly industrial and even pollution overtones.</TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Shadows and highlights clipped or almost clipped, and much of the image close to these ends of the scale, with limited areas of mid-tone grey.</TD><TD STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">High contrast, stark, lunar, chiaroscuro, sharp and brittle.</TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Most of image concentrated in the mid-tones, with few if any dark shadows and bright highlights.</TD><TD STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Low contrast, dull, subdued.</TD></TR><TR><TD STYLE="font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Image largely in the third quarter of the tonal range (mid-to-light), with few dark areas but no really bright highlights.</TD><TD STYLE="font-family: arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold; padding: 4px; border-width: 1px; border-color: #FFFFFF; border-style: solid; border-collapse: collapse; text-align: center; width: 50%; color: #FFFFFF;">Soft, delicate, misty.</TD></TR></TABLE>
</p>
<p>
<p>
<h2>Case study: defining the mood</h2>
</p>
<p>
The scene here was a mountain stream coursing through the Isle of Skye in Western Scotland. How to interpret a landscape like this?
</p>
<p>
<div class=inlineimage><img src=

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