I've some confusion when metering & developing for film.

  1. I've learned that it is preferred to overexpose a negative film, e.g. ISO400 film and use as ISO200 film, and develop using standard development time specified in digitaltruth.com

  2. Now, I also learned to decrease the development time in order to "develop for the highlights", and make the image more easy to print.

  3. I also learned in order to increase the contrast, I need to underexpose and increase the development time. (e.g. Tri-X 400 use as ISO1600, and push the film during development)

(1) & (2) seems okay for me, which means I can always do the following

  • Half rate my film ISO when shooting, e.g. (rate my TMax400 as ISO200)
  • Decrease the development time (e.g. standard Tmax400 development time is 5.5min, now I only use 80% which is 4.4min

But for (3), sounds like it contradicts with (1), (2) above?

Any guideline I could follow more easily?

[1] http://petapixel.com/2015/08/10/how-much-can-you-overexpose-negative-film-have-a-look/

[2] http://www.redisonellis.com/exposure.html

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just going to say, for 3) I'd just use a contrast filter in the enlarger..Take the picture as it is and then use other "magic" skills to change the looks. \$\endgroup\$
    – SailorCire
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the basis of the "Zone System" developed (!) by Fred Archer and the little-known Ansel Adams. It professed: 1. Visualize how you want the image to appear. 2. Meter the luminance values of the scene and assign the luminance values to the scene (shadow, mid, highlight - ignoring specular highlights). 3. Expose for the exposure range you wish to capture. 4. Process to compress or expand the contrast range to fit the dynamic range of the print paper. 5. Print the resulting negative with little or no manipulation onto graded (not multi-grade) photographic paper for display. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


Yes, as far as my knowledge goes, [1] and [2] aim for a maximum of captured and accessible dynamic range with a flat gradation (which can then in print be tuned for more contrast), while [3] aimes for a steep gradation curve that might be harder to print (because of the higher density) and may result in thicker grain and loss of tonal range due to the high contrast.

Good shooting practice would be 1&2, while the result is a good print. Practice 3 has been established and recognized as a distinguished look only by the need to shoot film in low light conditions in the beginning.

So it does mainly depend on the look you want to achieve, some things cannot be achieved in print. However, 1&2 would be the more flexible option.


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