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I found this article about different types of film.

Nicholas Nixon shoots 11×14 Kodak Tri-X and he says this:

“Tri-X Professional 320 ISO rating, but I cut it in half because it makes the shadows richer. Steiglitz and Weston did it. Keep the highlights down and boost the shadows. Overexpose by one stop, under developing by 20%.”

Source: Time website

Is he cutting the film in half, or the ISO? And how would this benefit the final result?

I am wondering if this is a known technique, and whether it can be done in 35mm film (which I shoot).

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    The rest of the quote explains what he meant by the first sentence you included. – Michael C Feb 9 '18 at 21:04
  • Obviously not cutting the film in half because then it wouldn't work in the camera. – David Richerby Feb 10 '18 at 10:11
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He is using ISO 320 film and exposing it as if it were ISO 160. This is over-exposing the film by 1 stop. He's then under-developing the film by 20% off the normal development times recommended for shooting at ISO 320.

This technique is called Pull processing. Its reverse is called Push Processing.

In Pulling film, you overexpose the film and then reduce development time to compensate for that overexposure. In Pushing, things are reversed - you underexpose the film and then overdevelop to compensate.

There are recommended developing charts for just about every modern film and developer combo, pushed and pulled. Massive Dev Chart.

That being said, you really need to test things out to see if you like the result. In your case, Nixon really likes the shadow details of Tri-X pulled 1 stop and then developed at normal minus 20%. Will you like the combo? Maybe...maybe not.

Keep in mind the format as well as this changes things a bit. For example, I really like shooting Delta3200 at ISO 800 (pulled 2 stops) and developed in Rodinal 1+100 for 60 minutes - when shot on 120 film. However, the grain is just too much when using this combo with 35mm.

Do some more reading on Pull and Push processing and give it a go!

  • Thanks, I understand now. I've heard of pull and push (currently pushing HP5 2 stops), it was the wording that confused me! – marcellothearcane Feb 9 '18 at 20:30
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    @marcellothearcane - no worries. Given that he's shooting 11x14 - i wouldn't of been surprised if he actually did cut it in half :-D. That's a big negative! – Hueco Feb 9 '18 at 20:33
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Over exposing will slide all the exposure values up the D-logE curve. This runs the risk of hitting the shoulder of the negative and losing detail in the highlights depending on the latitude of the stock. However it also moves the scene shadow exposures off the toe and onto the straight line portion of negative allowing even deeper shadows to be captured and greater separation in the values a few stops below mid-gray. Pulling the processing will generally lower the contrast mitigating the effects to some degree. This is particularly helpful with avoiding extreme loss of highlight detail. Note, some films have very high latitude (e.g. color negative film) so pull processing isn’t necessary because you won’t hit the shoulder until you overexposed by >3 stops or so.

  • Sigh. When developing with different exposures did not just mean to multiply RGB values by some constant ... :) – Hagen von Eitzen Feb 10 '18 at 4:52
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    @HagenvonEitzen this is a film question – agf1997 Feb 10 '18 at 4:53

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