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  1. #1
    Kevin Kehler's Avatar
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    Overexpose and Underdevelop?

    A question regarding exposures and developing, which while stemming from the Zone System, is not meant to mean that I am using that system. I recently borrowed several books from the library and have done some research on-line about negative development; a common suggestion is to overexpose to allow for shadow detail and then under-develop to save highlights. This should increase contrast and allow better prints; I also realize that all shots on a role of film would have to be exposed/developed the same amounts. My question is how to calculate these types of scenarios.

    I am using a Minolta Spotmeter (digital) so I am able to have very accurate measurements and can have 1/3 or 1/2 steps in ISO (i.e., I usually expose Velvia 50 at 40 as I like the colour and highlights better but I don't develop E-6 myself). I like using PanF, which is a 50 ISO, and then exposing at 25 ISO so there is an over-exposure already; however, looking at the development times (1:1 Perceptol), there is a 4:30 difference between 25 and 50 (I have been following recommended development times so far). HP5+ has a 3 minute difference in ID-11 between 400 and 800 ISO.

    So, how does one decide how long to leave the roll in the developer?
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    Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.

    Andreas Feininger

  2. #2

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    Hi Kevin. First off, know that many folks that try different films ask this question on every roll! (I do.)

    Regarding your spot meter: I recommend carrying a 15% gray card to read off, unless you plan on spotting the whole scene to see how many stops you need.

    Regarding your development: Do whatever necessary to be consistent with your agitation schedule and temperature. If you vary either of these, you can never really know the reason for your results, good or bad.

    Recommended times and dilutions are starting points. It's boring as hell, but the best thing I've found is to put my grey card in a scene and shoot a roll and see what happens. If you plan on spending time with the PanF+, I really think this a good idea.

  3. #3

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    Under development will Decrease contrast. Dan

  4. #4
    smieglitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dancqu View Post
    Under development will Decrease contrast. Dan
    As will overexposure (or underexposure for that matter). Overdevelopment is the only one of the 4 that increases contrast.

    If you are in a high contrast lighting situation (bright sun w/ hard-edged, distinct shadows, etc.), then you might consider pulling the film as you suggest. For other lighting contrasts I would not recommend the OE/UD route.

    Pulling is usually recommended only when you have mixed lighting situations on the roll or if for some reason you would want finer grain at the expense of film contrast.

    Testing is the only way to discover how long to develop.

  5. #5

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    If your important highlights print as you intended on the paper grade you intended your development time for that particular scene is correct. If highlights are too gray development time is too short. If highlights are so light in tone that little or no detail shows development time is too long. With practice you can use your spot meter to determine the spread between important shadow detail and highlights in order to tailor development. Otherwise, you are resigned to pick a development time that allows the majority of frames to print satisfactorily by changing paper contrast and or with dodging and burning. I would recommend against arbitrarily choosing to expose Pan F at 25. Expose at the E.I. that produces the shadow detail you want. Exposing Pan F at 25 may not be over exposing the film. It may be exposing it just right. Developing for times shorter than those recommended by Ilford may not be under developing at all. The shorter times may be just right for your conditions.

  6. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    1. Exposure determines shadow details. Take a roll of film and expose it in the kind of lighting you are most likely to work. Bracket plus and minus one stop. Develop normal.

    2. Examine these negatives, or better yet - print them, and see which of the negatives give you the shadow density you want. Forget about highlight for now.

    3. Expose another roll at the setting you decided gave best shadow details.

    4. Cut roll in thirds. Develop one third at 25% less than the recommended time, one third at the recommended time, and the last third at 25% more than the recommended time.

    5. Examine these negatives, and see which gives both highlight and shadow densities you seek.

    With two rolls and some work you have tested to see what camera/meter settings and developing duration you need to get what you want. It really is that simple.

    Your camera's shutter accuracy, your meter's accuracy, your metering technique, the developer, developer dilution, developer temperature, agitation, even local water quality - all of these factor into your end results and is a unique set of parameters for your method. Nobody else does it exactly the same way.
    Think about that.

    My philosophy - underexposed, overexposed, underdeveloped, overdeveloped - these are all relative terms. Find the combination of exposure and development that works for you and you have - perfect exposure and perfect development. Nothing else matters.

    - Thomas
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

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  7. #7
    Kevin Kehler's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your comments. My problem is that I really like the PanF+ pulled + Perceptol combination because of the superior fine grain that is achieved but I am have a terrible time with contrast, as in not enough. I am currently working on a series of shot on abandoned farmhouses, so I am indoors with natural light, at 25 ISO, leading to 15-30 second exposure times as a norm. I think I am going to have to follow Thomas' suggestion and determine in a more accurate fashion what it is that will work for my project. I know I could go with a faster film to increase the contrast but I was hoping to do the project all with the same film/developer. That might just be an unrealistic expectation.
    Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.

    Andreas Feininger

  8. #8
    Matthew Gorringe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler View Post
    Thanks everyone for your comments. My problem is that I really like the PanF+ pulled + Perceptol combination because of the superior fine grain that is achieved but I am have a terrible time with contrast, as in not enough. I am currently working on a series of shot on abandoned farmhouses, so I am indoors with natural light, at 25 ISO, leading to 15-30 second exposure times as a norm. I think I am going to have to follow Thomas' suggestion and determine in a more accurate fashion what it is that will work for my project. I know I could go with a faster film to increase the contrast but I was hoping to do the project all with the same film/developer. That might just be an unrealistic expectation.
    PanF+ is not known as a film with very wide exposure or development latitude. That means it can be more difficult to achieve acceptable results by guesswork than with other films. If you want to continue using PanF+ it could be helpful to at least test for your own EI. If you give more exposure and less development you are always reducing contrast.

    If it's the fine grain you like try Delta 100 or TMax 100. Perhaps start with the box speed and recommended development times. If you then want a little more shadow detail reduce the speed. If you want more contrast increase your developing time.
    Matt Gorringe

  9. #9
    gainer's Avatar
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    Overexposure is a less serious error than underexposure. Overdevelopment is a less serious error than than underdevelopment. If you claim not to know this from experience, shame on you for lying to your elder.

    It's pretty obvious that detail that slides off the bottom is gone for ever. At the other end, a print made of an underdeveloped negative on grade 3 or even 4 paper is usually better than a print of the same scene made from an overdeveloped negative on grade 1.

    That rule is so old that it may have been inspired by the use of printing out paper, which loves overdeveloped negatives.

    Part of my photographic education has been learning how much leeway there is in these technicalities. I'm sorry to say that it all boils down to that first paragraph. David Vestal puts it "Expose generously. Don't develop too much. Make mistakes to find out how much is too little exposure and too much development." That's not an exact quote, but it's close enough for government work as we used to say at NACA.
    Gadget Gainer

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by gainer View Post
    Overdevelopment is a less serious error than underdevelopment.

    At the other end, a print made of an underdeveloped negative on
    grade 3 or even 4 paper is usually better than a print of the same
    scene made from an overdeveloped negative on grade 1.
    Mr. Gainer, you contradict. Dan

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