As you say, to start you need suitably dramatic lighting.
Then choose a film that gives you the tonal and grain qualities you desire - essentially the choice is between a more "S" shaped HD curve of a film like FP4+ which gives more contrast in the midrange at the expense of weaker highlight and shadow detail, or a straighter curve like that of Delta 100 that preserves highlights and shadow detail better but at the expense of less midrange punch.
Then, the correct colour/contrast filtering when you take the photograph. This determines which colours will be recorded as light tones, and which will be recorded as darker tones. An orange filter is probably a good place to start for pictures that include sky and clouds, for example.
The exposure should be tailored to obtain good detail and contrast in the areas that you want it in the print. The best way to achieve this is the zone system. There is plenty of material about it online. You will probably want a spot meter for this.
If possible, negative development should also be tailored to expand or reduce the contrast range as required by the exposure range. And/or the correct grade of paper (or filter, for multigrade paper) needs to be chosen to get the required local contrast (not global contrast).
Then dodging and burning should be used to bring the global contrast into a range that can be reproduced on the paper in order to achieve your visualisation of the image.
All of this is important. However the most basic mistake that I made when I started printing was to use too soft a grade of paper in order to accommodate the entire tonal range of the negative in a straight print. In all but the least demanding lighting, this results in a muddy, flat print. By dodging and burning appropriately you can manage your global contrast, as well as the visual impact of the print, while printing on a harder (higher grade) paper to preserve good local contrast.
Oh, and don't underexpose unless you like grain and muddy shadows, or intend to print the shadows as solid black.
It's a journey. I have a long, long way to go but am enjoying every step.
Last edited by andrew.roos; 12-28-2012 at 11:57 PM. Click to view previous post history.