Just a quick search on the web about landscape photography, and you will immediately see articles, message boards, and other details about large format. However, anyone new to the industry will not really know what this is and how it differs from taking pictures using standard cameras. The truth is that this type of photography does require a different type of camera and other equipment, and it is preferred by many different professionals who take landscapes.
The View Camera
The main thing you would need to even consider taking large format photography is something called a view camera. This is a very different piece of equipment when compared to standard SLR models.
It works with three basic components: a front standard (lens), a rear standard (view), and a focusing mechanism. It can be placed on a monorail or a flatbed so that it can be moved back and forth in the front or rear standards.
This type of device can use a variety of different films, including rolls and sheets, so that you will have more freedom in how you take the pictures. Additionally, it affords more than 10 times the film space that you would get with a standard camera. This is one of the reasons why it is preferred for large format photography.
Additionally, because a view camera has such precise controls, it offers more fine detail and gradients than you would find in even some of the best digital SLR cameras.
Just What Are the Advantages of Large Format
Some of the advantages of taking pictures in this manner have already been mentioned, but there are more things you must consider, including control and aspects.
With a view camera, you will have much more control over every single image you take. That’s because you can independently move the film and lens planes. That means you can create the right distances and angles for the pictures you are getting ready to take. With this type of control over perspective, focus, and framing, you can take a much more precise image than you could if you were using a standard SLR.
Aspects are different with a view camera as well. When you shoot with this type of device, all pictures will be taken in a 4×5 aspect ratio. That means you can print larger sizes, like 11×14, 16×20, and 20×24 without having to crop anything out of the frame. SLR cameras shoot in a 4×6 aspect ratio, so when you print larger sized pictures, then you will have to crop part of the image, and that can change the whole look of the picture you took.
What You Need to Know
If you wish to get started with large format photography, then there are a few things you need to know first. You can’t just get the camera and start taking pictures. It is a slightly more convoluted process than using an SLR camera. To start with, you will definitely need a tripod. Because the settings on the view camera are so fine and detailed, you need to keep it steady during the whole process.
You also need to keep in mind that each picture you take will require a setup process. This is not the camera for taking pictures of movement or animals. The process you will need to take every time you take a picture includes: set up the camera on a tripod, compose the shot and get the right things in focus, meter the image and make sure exposure is set correctly, and finally you will need to load the film and expose the image.
Large format photography can be extremely useful for taking pictures of landscapes. However, not everyone will be suited to using a view camera since it takes a great deal of work and patience.
Michael Greene is a professional landscape photographer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Take a tour of his professional collection of landscape and travel photography from the Pacific Coast to the East Coast at WildMoments.net.