How to Start with Large Format Film Camera Landscape Photographing

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Few things elicit as much interest from passers-by as a large-format film camera set up and unfolded, with a cameraperson slouching beneath a dark cloth.

Few remember the times when cameras used to look like this, and most wouldn’t guess that large format photography is not just an obsolete antique, but an important and growing field of contemporary photography.

This article will introduce you to the fundamentals of large-format photography. It will serve as a guide, but also an inspiration for you to get started.

What is large format?

Film photography offers a variety of formats or sizes. The 35mm wide format is the most common.

large format photography
Photo credit: Andreas Oberg

With large format film, we step up the size considerably starting at 4×5 inches, with 5×7 and 8×10 being other popular formats. The larger the size of the film, the Higher the resolutionThe more detailed and richer in tonal range the image.

A large format camera’s core design is made up of a front-standard with a lens attached and a rear-standard with a groundglass connected by foldable bellows. This construction is very flexible and versatile.

large format film camera

The front and rear standards are independent and can be moved in different ways. This gives the photographer precise and Creative control over focus, Depth of Field, and the perspective.


To get started with large format photography, you’ll need specialist equipment. Here are some of my top recommendations.

Large format camera

When selecting a large format digital camera, the format is always the first consideration. Most who start with large format photography prefer 4×5 as it is more accessible and affordable. It has all the advantages of large format photography, but is still a relatively lightweight and small camera.

Large format cameras are available in many different designs. All work in a similar manner, but some may be better suited to certain situations. outdoor photography.

large format photography

A foldable field cameras is designed to be easily transported and set up on the field. One can choose to buy a brand new camera, or find an old or vintage one.

There are many new cameras. Intrepid camerasTheir affordable lightweight design makes them an excellent camera for beginners with excellent controls.

I am using ChamonixIt is a beautiful, lightweight camera that has a lot of controls to control the movements. ToyoIts technical precision. New cameras can be bought through the respective online stores and used cameras on eBay or vintage camera shops.

Large format camera lens

The construction of large format lenses is different from that of smaller format lenses. Conventional lensesThe shutter is composed of front and rear detachable elements that are mounted in an external leaf. The shutter speed of the aperture, and shutter releases.

large format film camera photography

The lens is then mounted onto a lens board which secures it to the front of the camera.

The following are some of the ways to get in touch with each other: Focus lengthsFocal lengths for large format lenses don’t match those of smaller formats. A 150 mm lens on a 4×5 format approximately corresponds to a 50 mm lens on a 35 mm camera, and a 150 mm lens on 8×10 corresponds to 24 mm.

For the 4×5 camera and Landscape photographyI use three lenses, a 90 mm wide-angle, a 137 mm medium-wide, and a 210 mm closer lens. For the 8×10 camera, my wide-angle lensThe width of the medium-wide is 210 mm. Close 300 mm.

I have purchased all of my lenses through eBay and vintage camera shops.

large format film camera
Photo credit: Andreas Oberg

The image circle is a large format lens characteristic that many people never consider when using smaller formats. With a fixed camera body, the lens’ image projection must just cover the film or the sensor plane.

The view cameras for large format are not fixed, and the photographer can use a variety of lenses. MovesThis means that the image circle can be moved freely around the projection surface.

For 4×5 cameras, the minimum image circle to just cover the film size is 165 mm, and for 8×10, it is 330 mm. To benefit from any camera movement, you would need to find an image circle that is above these values.

Large format film

Large format film is available in sheets, in light-proof boxes. One can work with it in complete darkness. The film is manually loaded sheet by sheet into the film holders. Each film holder can hold two sheets.

large format camera photography

Like other film formats, you can choose between black-and-white, color negative and color positive film.

I am working on Black and whiteMy favorite stocks for large format photography and film Ilford PhotoDelta100, Ortho, FP4+ and FP4+. Delta100 is an ISO 100 medium-speed film that provides exceptional sharpness and detail.

FP4+ ISO 125 is a great film for All Shooting ConditionsIt has fine grain, medium contrast and is very forgiving when it comes to exposure. High Sharpness.

large format photography

Ortho+ ISO 80 produces sharp negatives and beautiful tones. It is an orthochromatic, or red-sensitive, emulsion.

Ilford, as well as other popular film stocks like Kodak Fuji and Fomapan, can be found both online and in photography stores with a larger selection of film products.

Supporting equipment

A view camera, in its essence, is a simple non electronic construction. But it requires some supporting equipment to make photography possible or even smooth.

A large format camera is required with all but a few hand-held designs. tripod. The tripod will be more durable if your camera is heavier or larger. tripod headShould be.

large format camera
Photo credit: Andreas Oberg

The dark cloth will block out the light and make it difficult to see you. CompositionFocus on the groundglass. A good dark cloth is one that is light-tight, lightweight and large enough to cover your format. I am using Fred Newman dark cloths and Wanderer Photogear.

A loupe works in the same way as a digital zoom to help you focus on the scene. It’s a matter largely of personal taste as to how much magnification is used. I personally prefer x4 magnifying.

You’ll need a shutter release cord for your lenses, and I always bring a spare one, as they can break when you are out in the field.

large format cameras

A light meter is an important piece of the only electronics that you’ll need. I have used a few light meter apps for my phone. It is a good budget solution, but a professional light-meter is essential to get the right results. You can also see our other articles.It’s always right. My light meter comes from Sekonic.

If you want to add a new dimension in your Black-and-white photography, It is a good idea to use filters.These filters are great for creating contrasts and tones. I use color, stopper, and gradient filters from Lee Filters.

On a day out photographing, it is also good to pack rain protection, a small tarp to put your backpack and equipment on, and a notepad or a field book, where you’ll write down your exposure settings for each shot.

how to use a large format camera

If you’ll be out for several days, bringing with you a small film-changing tent is a good idea. A good camera is also a must. BackpackThe camera case is the perfect place to store your camera, lenses film holders and all of the supporting equipment.

My 4×5 camera with all the supporting equipment fits well in a 31L Lowepro photo backpack, however, my 8×10 goes into a 130+30L Karrimor expedition backpack.

Research and planning

Location researchPhoto planning is an essential part of my workflow as a photographer who shoots large format.

A fully packed 8×10 backpack may weigh around 30 kg, and the better I know where I am going and what I want to photograph, the more time and energy I save on actual photography.

large format film camera

Google Maps and photos of the location can give you a good idea of what it looks like and where to focus.

I keep a running list of interesting locations. I also use my phone for previews of photos I’d like to take with my large format camera.

A 4×5 camera is a much more portable option; however, it also benefits from good planning and location research as you’ll have only a few shots to take in a day.

Read more about: Landscape Photography Workflow Improvements: 8 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography Workflow

Working with a large-format camera

The best thing about large format cameras is the number. Creative choicesYou can bring to your photography. It is an amazing technical tool which gives you unmatched control over FocusDepth of field, and perspective.

large format photography

For example, you can photograph trees without vertical perspective distortion by using the front and rear standard cameras. Focus on the same sharpnessOn the ForegroundBackground, make MountainsFocus on the diagonal following the background to make it appear larger. Line of a fence.

With a large format camera, you’ve got tilt, shift, rise, fall, and swing, while some cameras allow asymmetrical movements as well. Learning and utilizing different camera movementsThis is one of most exciting experiences when using a large format digital camera.

After unfolding your camera on a tripod and choosing the lens, you’ll work under the dark cloth Looking for your compositionThe plane of focus will be determined by the camera movement and a loupe.

large format photography

When you are happy with the composition and the focus, you’ll Meter the lightSet the aperture, speed and the leaf shutter.

The film holder goes into a slot behind the ground glass, and you’ll remove the dark slide that protects the film before pressing the shutter release to take your photo. The dark slide will be placed back in the film holder as a protective cover for the now-exposed films.


The exposed negatives are processed in different ways.

large format film photography

It is very satisfying to develop your own negatives at home, for which you’ll need a darkroom space and some equipment. Some places offer community darkrooms and rental darkrooms. This is a great option for those who want to develop their own film while being part of a group.

Sending your film off to a lab for development by highly-skilled technicians is an easy option. You will get it back in a few days.

When your negatives have been developed, you have a few choices to make with how to proceed with them – either a fully analogue or digital hybrid process.

large format film processing

For the fully analog process, you’ll need an enlarger capable of taking large format negatives to be able to make darkroom silver gelatine prints. It is hard to find a large format enlarger these days. One would need to be on the lookout for used equipment.

Intrepid offers a way of converting your 4×5 camera into an enlarger, and it is a great option for trying out darkroom printing at home. A better alternative is to scan the negatives into a computer, and then print them with an inkjet.

large format film photography

Some people enjoy the hand-made prints and pride of craftsmanship that comes with a fully analog process. Digitally scanning negatives may be a better option for others.

Most photo labs scan negatives. Or, you can scan them at home using a flatbed Epson scanner.

Read more about: The Basics of Editing Black & White Wildlife Photographs


Large format photography offers photographers a unique set of benefits and experiences.

Diverse camera movements give you a lot of control over the depth of field and focus, making them a very precise and creative tool.

Your work will remain timeless, but also be unique in today’s world of photography.

It is hard to imagine another type of photography which can provide such an immersive experience. You can see the scene through a groundglass that fills your field of vision. This allows you to get a feel for how your final image will look and feel. 

Ansel Adams, the most celebrated landscape photographer, once said: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”Large format is a great way to bring your vision to life, because it relies so heavily on your own creativity and craftsmanship.

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