how much exposure, is too much ?

how much exposure with negative film, is too much.

should you over expose your negatives?  should they be thin or dense?

when i first began developing my own film, i never would leave the developer on the film for the last few seconds of development.  for example, if it was to be processed for 8 mins 30 seconds, i would invert / agitate at 8 mins and get rid of the developer after that.  my film was usually thin, but not too thin to print with a #3 graded paper, or a contrast filter under my enlarger head.  i would always make sure in a portrait that the whites of the eyes were white and everything else fell into place.  if it was a different scene, i would make sure there was a black and a white in the image and everything seemed OK after that.  i never photographed where the light struck things, never looked for excessive shadows or brightness, i just made exposures.

it wasn’t until years later that i was told that my negatives were terrible, that i  began to process my film fully, and eventually go overboard the other way.  rather than thin film i began to process my rolls and sheets in a paper developer to get what used to be called a “snappy negative” or a “crisp negative”.  when told i should use developers like xtol ( which i have used off and on ) i decided it was hard for me to get the contrast i wanted so i stopped using it.  i eventually started using coffee developers ( caffenol ) but the negatives were a bit thin and reminded me of xtol film, so i started to put ansco130 in there to boost the contrast.  ( haven’t stopped )  when i was visiting family overseas in france i processed a bunch of film in my father in law’s basement with him.  it was a moonlit night, the area we processed in was not completely dark …   i used washing soda and vitamin c sourced at a pharmacy and “el gringo” coffee sourced at a grocery store.  the developer was black and i shuffle developed it for 15-20mins, and the film was hung up to dry.

the next day when we returned the film was so dense you couldn’t see through it.  not even with a light bulb behind it …  when we returned to the states i contact printed the negatives not with an enlarger bulb or room light, but a 300 watt light bulb on RC paper.  the same set-up i use to print on silver chloride papers.  the prints came out more beautiful than i could have guessed.

so to answer my question …

there isn’t any such thing as too much exposure.  as long as you can project light through the negative you won’t have any problems.