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  1. #1

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

    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. #2

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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. #3
    jp498's Avatar
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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. #4
    OldBodyOldSoul's Avatar
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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. #5

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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. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jsimoespedro View Post
    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)
    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.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  7. #7
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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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. #8
    Andrew Moxom's Avatar
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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.
    Please check out my website www.amoxomphotography.com and APUG Portfolio .....

  9. #9

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    Thomas, thank you for the great explanation.
    “You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.” - John Galt

  10. #10
    David Allen's Avatar
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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

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