I've seen a few threads about surveys of favorite developer/film. Many people have found over the years that they like film XYZ a lot with developer ABC when using sheet films, and that a slight dash of QRN into their UKG will give them better accutance on their used rolls of FLGHSKALAOAZRT+. Great. I have a tougher question: how can I bootstrap myself into finding a good film/pair? Following someone else's formula is useless unless you know you're doing similar work; it would also lend one to merely replicate results rather than developing (hah!) an adequate method. For the moment I have one 35 and one 120 film cameras. I'm happy with my set of lenses (only one on the MF, so it simplifies things), my meter is an accurate handheld Metrastar (so it must be a 30 degrees one), and because I like to photograph in available light, I use Tri-X 400 film in my 35, and FP4+ 125 in my MF. Both films seem to be generic and flexible enough that they can allow for some experimentation, and to train my eye on contrast, definition, etc. I'm trying to do some Zone system, which means essentially that I stop down on dark subjects and open up on lighter ones. The first two pics I'm really proud of were on Tri-X 400, 35mm, developed in HC-110 3mins, then left to stand 3 mins in sodium bicarbonate. That's the formula my father uses for his own work, and we just applied it out of the blue on my negs, and it worked out very well. So far I've been through the stages of sending the rolls to the drugstore, sending them to an anonymous commercial lab, and now I just found a wonderful small lab with lots of nice people to chat with about my development. Eventually, I want to graduate to processing the film myself, as my lab standardizes only on HC-110 or XTOL for B&W neg. So what are the learning stages by which some of you have been to figure out your preferences? What conscious choices did you do to narrow down the range of what you're looking for in terms of film processing? Instead of asking for the right answer, I'd like to ask: What are the right questions I should ask myself? This is a fairly abstract topic, and I think it might border the epistemological inquiry, but it can always boil down to a few practical tips. I'm doing most of my photo learning by myself for now, so I'm sometimes left to wonder what's the road ahead.