I realize that pegging to the highlights will typically create lots of shadow detail. This choice is simply a matter of picking my priorities. Getting the mid-tones right, especially faces, trumps everything else for me. I'm willing, for the most part, to allow the rest of the scene just to fall where it may. I do though want the rest of the scene to support the main subject and mood expected.
With my priorities defined I can better define and even design the scene to solve some of my problems. This isn't necessarily about studio work either. I can adjust my lighting ratios and scene contrast by the direction and the time of day I choose to shoot.
I used Jose Villa as an example earlier, he uses late afternoon light to backlight his subjects a lot. Part of what this does is to give him very even lighting on his subjects, on the people and the faces he is shooting. He has effectively reduced the contrast across his main subject matter which is then effectively lit as if they would be in an open shade situation.
As far as Jose is concerned, for the subjects that matter, this is a normal contrast shot. For a landscape shooter pointing the camera the same direction as Jose, into a backlit scene poses a very different challenge.
What I'm getting at here is that portrait and product photographers don't necessarily have to adjust film contrast to get what they want. By turning the camera so that it begins to shoot cross lit and or by continuing on to front lit a portrait photographer can control the contrast and lighting across their subject.
Turning the camera may actually prove to be a better systemic fix for my highlight contrast issues than pre flashing the paper. Simply different tools for solving the same problem. I don't always get to pick the perfect angle though so understanding how I can use the curve to my advantage is worth learning.