Compensating Development

Film development is a chemical reaction (reduction) that consumes the developer where the reaction occurs. Compensating development is a technique employing a highly diluted developer with minimal agitation, which causes the developer to become exhausted around the highlight areas of an image, which in turn reduces the development reaction rate in the highlight areas.

Image contrast is proportional to the amount of development activity, therefore compensation is a mechanism for reducing image contrast in the highlight areas by stopping development through exhaustion. Once development has paused in the highlights, it may still continue in the shadow areas where less exhaustion has occurred, hence stand development.

A useful side-effect of compensating development is typically an increase in acutance from adjacency effects.

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