These are the instructions Thomas gave me. "- Film and film developer: This is where it all happens, where most of your darkroom technique will matter in obtaining a good work print. If you expose too much, you will get very dense negatives and gobs of shadow detail. Unless you compensate for it by developing a little less, you may block up the highlights. If you expose too little, you will not get enough shadow detail, and while you can compensate somewhat by developing longer, you can never rescue lost shadow detail. Developing less time means less contrast, and developing more time means more contrast. These are variables that you use to your advantage to create negatives that print with ease.
1. What I do is that I find a scene of average contrast, and I shoot many exposures of the same scene, but I use different exposure. If I were shooting Foma 200 like you do, I'd start at EI (exposure index) 50, and then shoot additional sheets at EI 100, EI 200, and EI 400. Then I would develop those according to the manufacturer's instructions, or some arbitrary time that doesn't seem out of whack.
2. Print all of the negatives as a simple proof print, using Grade 2 filtration. Four 4x5 negs fit on one 8x10 sheet. Expose and process this proof print enough so that the edge of the negative basically disappears and is completely black. Do the 3 minute developing here.
3. Now evaluate the contact sheet / proof print with your eyes and determine by looking at shadow detail only which exposure you prefer. Do not look at mid-tones or highlights at this point. It is not important yet. Only shadows. Pick one that you feel have ENOUGH shadow detail for you and your aesthetic.
4. Next step is to expose yet another similar scene (or the same one if the light is similar) at your chosen film speed, let's say it's EI 100 for now.
5. Now process one of the sheets. Print the negative (again grade 2 contrast filtration) so that you have still have the maximum black through the film rebate. At this time you evaluate the entire print, from shadows to highlights, and you determine whether you think you have too little or too much contrast. If you have too little, you develop next sheet 25% longer. If you have too much you reduce by 20%.
Repeat step 5 until you have a print with nice shadow details, good highlights, and decent midtone separation. This is how you dial in your film and film developing to fit your paper. Of course, if you switch paper or film you have to go do it all over again, so try to remain constant with the materials you use.
It will NOT help to switch papers in search of a better print. It will NOT help switching film or developers either, to get a better print. The only thing that will get you there is technique, and that's the harsh truth."
Thank you Thomas for your direction!