When you place shadows in Zone IV, you print them down to Zone II. The highlights, for example if they fell on Zone XI, should follow down to Zone IX on the print.
Hope you got answers you can use...
If you can't see detail in the shadow of the negative then I recommend exposing more, whether you plan to develop longer or not.
If you get detail on the neg, you can always use higher contrast paper to get more contrast when you print.
If you still think the negatives are flat you can develop the film longer. You can tell the lab to push the film if you aren't developing it yourself.
I'd recommend making one change at a time.
I don't think that the OP is at the stage where any discussion of the Zone System is going to be anything but incomprehensible to him. So mentioning it is really not helpful. Then too it is only practical for LF photography and not 35mm which he shoots.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Gerald's right, Zones are not what you want to be thinking...
Tell the lab to push one more stop than you really shot.
If you shoot at twice the film's rated speed, tell the lab to push your film 2 stops.
How do you know they're flat? Have you printed them?
Originally Posted by daniele_vittorio
A little story: I once sent a slightly underexposed and very underdeveloped (and I mean wafer thin) negative to Michael A. Smith. I never bothered to print it, thin as it was. Either he or Paula printed it and sent me back 4 stunning prints from it made on grade 3 paper. That was a real eye opener. Since I often use staining developers, many negatives really surprise me with how much contrast they convey to the print. I never pre-judge any more. I always make the best print I can from a negative before I judge it.
In any case I would start with pinning down the shadow density first, then worrying about the contrast. Shoot a roll of an average scene during the day at box speed (maybe put a gray card in the scene to meter on), and expose -1,-2,-3,0,+1,+2,+3. Develop according to the directions with the developer and then print them all. Make the best print you can of each negative. The one with shadow detail the way you want it tells you what your film speed should be. In my case I expose HP5+ roll film at 100. (Box speed is 400.) I use an incident meter for a handheld roll film camera. In my view camera I expose sheet film at 200 speed, but I place the shadows on Zone IV. So Zone System purists who put their shadows on Zone III would say that I'm really exposing the film at 100. Whatever, I get negatives that print the way I want them to. Similar trial and error with development yields contrast the way I want it.
It's all about how you want your pictures to look. Just never forget that you're making negatives to print. Always ask yourself "How will this negative print?" There's only one way to get the answer.
I'm pretty sure that the highlights at XI will be blocked up if you don't reduce the Dev time, let alone add to it as haryanto suggested.
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
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Exposure controls shadow detail. If underexposed, there is none.
Development controls highlight density. More development = greater highlight density without changing shadow density significantly.
“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.” - Plato
I don't want to risk confusing the original poster by continuing Zone System terms in this thread, and I want to reasonably simplify. This applies "within reason" as long as you don't start with a high contrast scene.
Originally Posted by LJH
Contrast is basically the difference between dark and light. Overexposing won't increase the contrast, it bumps up the shadows and highlights equally. Yes the highlights go where you might worry about them. But you print longer because shadows are overexposed just as much, so highlights come back down.
Pushing (developing longer) bumps up contrast. Then the difference between dark and light spreads. Then you have to be careful not to block highlights.
With a flat neg you can print it in high contrast while the neg actually still has all the details if you change your mind. Like some suggested, how do you know they are flat?
[ Insert meaningless camera listing here ]
As far as I know, this is not the complete picture. Development does indeed change the contrast curve with more development raising the curve. However, if you have already developed your negative then you're stuck with whatever curve you get and your exposure further determines the contrast characteristics of your negative. You could have exposed your negative such that all density values fall on the straight line of the curve, but it's also possible that you've exposed too little and the dark tones are on the toe of the curve, resulting in lower shadow contrast and also lower overall contrast (difference between lowest and highest density values).
Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch
The concepts of the Zone System are not hard to grasp and the associated testing is simply a way of eliminating the variables that the OP is currently confronted with. Also, I have never understood why people believe that the Zone System is only practical for large format users.
Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch
The simple answer to the OP's question is that, in practice, exposure controls the amount of shadow detail and development controls the contrast:
If you have flat negatives with detail in the shadows then you are not processing for long enough (increase by 20% in the first instance).
If you have flat negatives with too little detail in the shadows then you need to give more exposure and develop for longer.
If you pin down your exposure technique and processing then you can get on with the real business of enjoying your photography. For details of how to do this, you can read my detailed instructions in this thread: