This is what I use to do when working for a commercial lab.
First, get a good mid tone B&W film 4x5 or 8x10. I used Ilford FP4.
Second, do some contact exposure tests to get the best range. I used a Stouffer step scale. You can also do projected tests but I never found much differance in time and f stop. I believed I was projecting F16 @ 10 or 15 seconds. More likely less. 8 seconds. Third, process the film and compare what exposure gives you the best range. I used Kodak D76. Again, nothing wild normal development. You don't want to blow out high lights.
I got some pretty good results.
Later, you can experiment to you hearts content.