In this chapter, we have learned two very important things about how to produce consistently printable negatives. First, the key to fine printing is controlling the contrast of the negative to compensate for variations in the contrast of the subjects you photograph.

Remember that expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights means choosing an exposure based on the amount of detail you want in the darker or shadow areas of your final print, then increasing your development time above Normal if the subject has less than Normal contrast or decreasing your development time (below Normal Development) if the contrast of the subject is too great.

Secondly, three general approaches to film development make this control possible.

1. Normal Development (N) is the standard development time for your favorite combination of film and developer that will always give you negative contrast equal to the contrast of your subject. Normal Development is the correct development time for subjects with average contrast and is determined by testing. See Chapter 8.

2. Normal Minus Development (N —), or Contraction, is the reduction of your development time (below Normal Development) to compensate for subjects with contrast above Normal.

3. Normal Plus Development (N+), or Expansion, is a longer than Normal Development Time to compensate for low-contrast subjects.

Thus far I have used the terms high, low, and Normal contrast very loosely. It is not difficult to visualize the difference in contrast between a bright, high-contrast situation and a flat, gray scene. To determine which of the above development procedures is appropriate, you need a way to actually measure the contrast of the scenes you wish to photograph. The visual concept that makes this possible is called the Zone.

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