"expose for the shadows, develop of the highlights" Meaning?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by jsimoespedro, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. jsimoespedro

    jsimoespedro Member

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    Hi all,

    I get this expression often on the web: "Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights".
    I understand what exposing for the shadows means, that is straightforward. But then, what to do in the development stage.

    Example: Assume to have shadows at -1 stop, mid-tones and 0 and highlights at +1. If exposing for the shadows, I give a +1 stop compensation, right? But then what should I do on the darkroom.

    For instance, if use a ISO100 film, shadows were shot at EI50. Should I now reduce development time to bring down highlights? Is that it? If yes, at what EI should I development the film, given the -1/0/+1 example.

    Thanks!

    (I am loving this forum, btw)
     
  2. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    This is how I interpret it - to determine the exposure of your negative, meter on the shadows - I meter on the darkest area of the scene where I want to retain detail in the print - and I place that in zone 4. When you develop the negative, the density will develop in those shadow areas first, and the amount of time that you develop for will have little effect on the density but it will impact the density in the highlight areas, so after metering on the shadows and determining how much exposure to give your negative, then meter on the highlights - the brightest part of the image where you want to retain detail, and use that to determine how long to develop the negative for.

    Personally, what I do is meter on the shadows, and determine exposure to place those in zone IV. I then expose two sheets of film identically (both sides of the film holder), and unless there is something really different about that particular scene, I develop one of the sheets normally, and inspect the negative - looking at the highlights, and seeing if I have enough or too much density - If I want to change the highlight density, then I develop the second sheet for longer or shorter.
     
  3. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    Gray day. Shadows and highlights are the same thing.

    Lets say on a hazy day there's not huge contrast. You do what your incident meter says. Highlights are reasonably brighter than the shadows.

    Lets say a burning sunny day, You do what your incident meter says (exposing for shadows). Highlights are extremely brighter than shadows and reducing development is one option to tame them. (Other options include compensating developer, lighting modifiers to reduce highlights or fill shadows, flash to reduce shadows)
     
  4. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    Quick and dirty answer:
    Shadows develop quickly and after that any further development doesn't have much effect on them. The length of developing process is determined by highlights i.e. you need to stop before they are blown. So, expose your film for the shadows so you have detail there and then develop as long as you need to get highlights the way you want them.

    Pulling or overexposing film requires shorter developing times to balance out overexposure (to avoid blown highlights). Often results in compressed tones.
    Pushing or underexposing film requires longer developing times to balance out underexposure (to reach decent highlights). Often results in strong contrast.
     
  5. momus

    momus Member

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    I usually just pick a middle value to meter at. With Tri-X you don't have to be that exact. Very forgiving film.
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It's a way to fine tune your negatives for the paper your print on (and the paper developer you use). That means that the tones captures on the negative has to have a certain range in order to fit the range of the paper. It's simply put a matter of not putting square pegs in round holes.

    When you expose for the shadows, you insure that you have sufficient shadow detail to print the way you like them. Shadows values are affected less by developing time changes than the rest of the tones are. The brighter the tone you recorded is, the more intense the light exposure is in that area of the negative, and the faster it will develop.
    This means that when you extend developing time, the highlights are affected the most.

    Effectively this really means that the longer you develop your film the more contrast you get. The correct way of saying what's implied by 'expose for shadows, develop for highlights' would be 'expose for shadows, develop for contrast'. That makes it much easier to think about, and to understand that your two main controls are film exposure and developing time.

    On a low contrast day of shooting this means you might expose the film less, because there are no shadows as deep as on a normal contrast day, but you may have to develop the film longer to build enough contrast to make a good print easily.
    On a high contrast day you may need a lot of film exposure to record all of the shadow values, and you may have to dial back development a little so that your highlights don't end up so dense that you can't shine through them with your enlarger light.
    Basically, if the amount of range/contrast you want in your negative to make a good work print at Grade 2 is an arbitrary number of 10, it's your job to match that as closely as possible to make life easy for yourself in the darkroom. If the scene you photograph has a range of 13, that is too much for your paper, so it makes sense to decrease development in order to get it down to the ideal 10. 13 might still be printable, and some might even prefer the results they get from such a negative, but it will be more difficult to print. It's a balance act, and you have to find a negative contrast that you think works well for how you want your prints to look, and then try to make your negatives that way, in all sorts of lighting conditions.

    With roll film this usually means you have to compromise, because all frames will not be the same. This is much easier with sheet film, where each individual sheet can be treated uniquely based on the lighting scenario.
     
  7. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I'm new to this so bear with me. Regarding, pulling and pushing, wouldn't you want to expose "properly" so that you can standardize the developing and create a negative that will give good tones throughout?
     
  8. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Member

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    Photographing a normal scene normally and developing normally will work most of the time. However, some films have a listed box speed, and that is not always accurate. To correct that, adjustments must be made to exposure, development. They also depend on the accuracy of your camera/shutter, and light meter. The adage of exposing for the shadows, develop for the highlights is to be sure your film will capture detail in the shadows. If you do not capture details in the shadows, it cannot be brought back through over development. So somewhere in all this is a balance that needs to found that suits your way of working, and what you need to convey in the print... Personally, i overexpose and underdevelop, or use a highly compensating developer like pyrocat. This developer has tamed extreme subject brightness ranges for me to a point, I do not need to do N- development to get prints with good tonal range, and with easily printed highlights.
     
  9. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Thomas, thank you for the great explanation.
     
  10. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    Hi there,

    'Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights' is basically photographers' shorthand for the facts that you require sufficient exposure to record the shadow detail that you feel is important for the image that you want to make and that you need to process your film so that bright highlights will print as a very light grey with a bit of detail.

    Clear? - well the problem is that it is great form of shorthand when you know what you are doing.

    Basically, there are two contrasting approaches to photography:
    Don't worry about anything and just deal with the resulting negatives (there are plenty of people who work this way and produce great images).
    Undertake some tests to determine exactly how you want your images to look (this is more associated with large-format work by people such as Ansel Adams BUT it can be used by everyone regardless of format).

    I prefer to have total control over my photography and therefore spent a little time doing a few boring tests so that I could be sure that I was really exposing for the shadows and developing for the correct time to achieve the negative contrast I want without this causing the highlights to become so dense that they are either un-prinatble or very difficult to print. If this approach would suit your way of photographing, here is a testing procedure and associated exposure / development methodology that I have successfully taught to a wide range of students:

    Now the key to achieving consistently good negatives is the correct placement of your shadows when exposing the film and ascertaining the correct development time for achieving good separation without losing the highlights. A simple and relatively quick way to way to pin all this down for the future is to do the following (WARNING: reading these instructions is more time consuming and a lot more laborious than actually doing it!!):

    1. Find a scene with with a good range of tones
    2. Using the box speed, meter the darkest area in which you wish to retain shadow detail
    3. Move the camera so that you are only photographing this shadow area
    4. From the meter's reading close down the aperture by 2 stops or increase the shutter speed by two stops and then expose 6 frames at: the given exposure then +1 stop, +2 stops, -1 stop, -2 stops and -3 stops less than the meter has indicated

    5. Process the film

    6. Using the frame that was exposed at -3 stops less than the meter indicated (which should be practically clear but will have received lens flair and fogging - i.e a real world maximum black rather than an exposed piece of film that has processing fog) and do a test strip to find out what is the minimum exposure to achieve maximum black - Print must be fully dry before assessing this
    7. Do another test strip with the first exposure being what you have selected for achieving maximum black minus your dry-down compensation then plus 1 second, 2 seconds, etc
    8. The time that achieves full black inclusive of compensation for dry-down is you minimum exposure to achieve maximum black for all future printing sessions - print must be fully dry before assessing
    9 You now know the minimum time to achieve full black inclusive of exposure reduction to accommodate dry-down
    10. Using this minimum exposure to achieve maximum black exposure time, expose all of the other test frames.
    11. The test print that has good shadow detail indicates which exposure will render good shadow detail and achieve maximum black and provides you with your personal EI for the tested film/developer combination

    12 If the negative exposed at the meter reading gives good shadows, your EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 400)
    13. If the negative exposed at +1 stop more than the meter reading gives good shadows, your EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 1/2 the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 200)
    14. If the negative exposed at +2 stops more than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 1/4 box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 100)
    15. If the negative exposed at -1 stop less than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) double the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 800)
    16. If the negative exposed at -2 stop less than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 4x the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 1600)

    You have now fixed your personal EI but there is one more testing stage to go.

    1. Find a scene with with a good range of tones
    2. Using your EI, meter the brightest area in which you wish to retain highlight detail
    3. Move the camera so that you are only photographing this highlight area
    4. From the meter's reading open up the aperture by 3 stops or decrease the shutter speed by three stops
    5. Expose the whole roll at this setting
    6. In the darkroom, process one third of the film for recommended development time

    7. When dry put negative in the enlarger and make a three section test strip exposing for half the minimum black time established earlier, for the established minimum black time and for double the minimum black time.
    8. Process print and dry it.
    9. If the section of the test strip exposed for 1/2 the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film requires 20% more development
    10. If the section of the test strip exposed for the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film is correctly developed
    11. If the section of the test strip exposed for double the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film requires 20% less development
    12. You can use the rest of the exposed highlight test film to fine tune the development time.

    YES - it is VERY boring but . . .for the investment of minimal materials and a few of hours you will have pinned down so many variables that it is really worth doing.

    Back in the real world, all you need to do in future is meter the shadows that you wish to retain good detail with meter set at your EI and then stop down the aperture 2 stops or increase the shutter speed by 2 stops. In the darkroom start your first test print with the minimum exposure to achieve maximum black (inclusive of dry-down compensation) and go from there.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  11. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    I may add to point 2, that you meter the darkest area with a spot meter.
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    With roll film a happy medium is almost unavoidable. I have found that for every day shooting with a 35mm, I just shoot everything at EI 250 (using HP5+ or Tri-X film) and give plenty of development. That way I get enough shadow detail at all times, and in 99% of the cases, decent negatives to print without too much darkroom gymnastics. These pictures are mostly about content, where tonal qualities in the final print are not as important as when I shoot landscape or things like that.

    If I'm out with the Hasselblad or shooting sheets, I'm more careful, because I will want the negatives to print a certain way. This is when I pay attention to lighting and make lots of notes so that I can adjust development to perfectly develop the negatives.

    You have to think about the end result. If you want a really fine print with amazing print values that sing a symphony of tones, it's best to have a negative with intentional results with as little left to chance as possible. I think the best way to achieve this is to use the same materials over and over and over again. Those that do often have a very consistent and cohesive look to their output. If you just look critically at the results, print the negatives often, eventually anybody will come to a place where they almost automatically learn how to compensate for varying lighting conditions.

    Anyway, it is true that better negatives can be had by intentionally exposing to make sure there is enough shadow detail (an objective observer will realize that this is a subjective thing and not everybody will agree on how much shadow detail that is), and then learn how to develop the negative to exactly the contrast needed to make that amazing print.
     
  13. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    I really think it's all about what end result you are going after.

    Everything I do is based on the mood I want to achieve. Some projects I expose the p*** out of the film and some I under. I might way over soup it to establish a heavy oppressive mood. There is a lot of amazing work out there that is very dark and heavy and some that is light and ethereal. I think you should determine what you want to achieve first. Some of our greatest discoveries and effects have been achieved merely by veering off course.

    But have fun in your discoveries!
     
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  15. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    This is neither necessary nor (in general) helpful.

    The use of a spot meter can be very informative BUT you have to understand that, because a spot meter uses a lens, there are other factors at work. You have to then include in your testing the fact that a spot meter will have it's own flare issues (due to using a lens) and that will affect your results meaning that you need to interpret them with the experience that a novice will not have. The single most important thing that you need to do when using a spot meter is to fit the inner core of a toilet roll on the front to create an effective lens shade and be aware that the spot meter may be seeing a specifically dark part of your important shadow and this will give results that do not meet your intentions. Far more practical is to use an averaging meter such as any of the Weston Master range.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  16. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Correct, as it depends on what you want your final image to look like.
     
  17. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Of course you can control the highlights by using a compensating developer and adopting a stand or semi-stand regime. This is helpful when using roll film with lots of different photographs on it.

    RR
     
  18. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Excellent advice, especially the last sentence...

    RR
     
  19. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    How do you compensate for different colors in the shadows when metering? In other words, wouldn't you get different values if reading shadows in grass vs. shadows of a lighted colored rock? Do you just increase the exposure by two stops in either case?

    Since I don't have darkroom, I would be getting film delvelope in an outside lab. They can pull and push 1,2 etc. What would I ask them to do at this point, just develope normally? Which film would be good to start with with medium format? I do landscape.
     
  20. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    A little irreverent, but perhaps a way of pushing the buttons of those who get so hung up over the minutia of Zone Systems is Jim Brick's version:

    There are four zones.
    Zone Good, Zone Bad, Zone Ugly, Zone Butt Ugly.

    To use the system:
    Wake up. Get out of bed. Go outside.

    Zone Good
    It is light overcast, light shadows but good light direction. Normal contrast.
    Expose normal (eg: ASA-100 @ 100) develop normal.

    Zone Bad
    It is dismally overcast, no shadows, perhaps even drizzle. Low contrast.
    Underexpose one stop (eg: ASA-100 @ 200) overdevelop 20%

    Zone Ugly
    The sun is out, sky is clear with puffy clouds, and there are blatant shadows. High contrast.
    Overexpose one stop (eg: ASA-100 @ 50) underdevelop 20%

    Zone Butt Ugly
    The sun is squinty bright, cloudless sky, and the shadows really deep. Very high contrast.
    Go in, and go back to bed!. But, if you are a die-hard...
    Overexpose two stops (eg: ASA-100 @ 25) underdevelop 30%

    Take it or leave it as you like, but don't let uncertainty over the process stop you from taking photographs.

    Tom
     
  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Without being flippant or demeaning... It's OK not to get it, even though it makes sense and even though you understand it... You still will have a future point in time no matter how many times it is repeated to you, there will be a future point in time when you will suddenly "get" it.

    I was never a dummy when it came to photographic processes, I read Todd-Zakia Sensitometry cover-to-cover as a teenager. But I never felt the meaning in my bones, can say I never "got" it until I did film testing of my own, about the time I joined APUG. Now it is so obvious to me, I don't immediately know how anyone can not see what it means. I should be able to explain it to you in one post. I have to reflect back on my past to remember when I figured it out. And that point was when I painted the two-tone board and setup a film test with tungsten lights and exposing several sheets of film according to a complex pattern specified by Minor White. Not that it had to be his way. Zone System, BTZS, ring-around, all these methods you read about here on APUG could have done the trick. Once you do a test of your own, I think you'll "get" it.
     
  22. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    This whole post by Thomas Bertilsson is a very clear summary, and is purely helpful
     
  23. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I'll try a different explanation for the fun of it...

    It's kind of like tape recording music. If you don't get close enough to the singer, no amount of amplification will help, you will just hear hiss. Maybe you'll hear a little of the singer when they're being loud. That's underexposure. Move the mic in and that is exposing for the shadows. Now turn up the gain. That's developing. Crank it up to the point of distortion and that's like "blocking the highlights".
     
  24. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    As someone who does live sound for fun sometimes, this is a great analogy.
     
  25. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Image.jpg

    Exposure for the shadows is a mantra because you need a certain minimum amount of light to hit the film in order to get over the threshold where they will develop. The shadows areas on a negative receive the least amount of light from the scene and are closest to clear after development. In the attached diagram this is close to 1 on the relative log side of the graph.

    Adjusting EI from 100 to 50 moves all your subject matter to the right. Shadow detail from the scene that may have been at 0.9 and not depicted on the negative at EI 100 may now be at 1.2 and visible at EI 50.

    That doesn't mean it will print yet though. The area between the red lines represents what might straight print on grade 2 paper. (That is not actually a fixed area, it is controlled by enlarger exposure and paper grade. It is normal though to have preferred settings for printing that you target, so for this example I will assume the lines are that target.)

    Lets follow the black line for a second. At about 1.3 on the relative log scale negative density reaches a point where it will stops printing black and starts printing shades of gray and at about 2.8 it reaches the point where it stops printing shades of gray and only paper white shows.

    In this example your camera exposure has to be able to get the negative to 1.3 before the print will care.

    You have to test for yourself to figure out where this point is for yourself.

    As you can see from the three curves on the graph the bottom end is a bit like a hinge on a door, ISO and EI ratings are all basically ways to know where that hinge is.

    The three curves represent changes to development (same exposure), blue is more development (N+), black is normal (N), green is less (N-). Notice that the hinge point doesn't change much. At this end of the scale exposure is king.

    When you increase camera exposure all the subject matter moves right and following the curve. New subject matter rises out of the black past the lower red line into the printable area. The problem is though that at the upper red line highlight detail does the same thing moving up and out of the printable range.

    Reducing negative development, green line, allows us to keep some of that highlight subject matter from moving out of the printable range. At this end of the scale development is king and provides real control.

    Hence, expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights.

    Even though this is quoted as mantra by many, it is a special case. It completely ignores any preferences we might have for say mid tone contrast. It's basis is sound but it's use must be tempered by experience.

    The most usable portion of the saying is to expose for the shadows. If you don't reach the lower exposure threshold on the negative there is simply nothing there to develop.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2014
  26. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Nicely put, Mark.