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