Large format photography refers to an image format of more that 4×5 inches. There are also larger formats available which are more than 6×6 inches. The main reason to opt for large format photography is due to the high resolution of the image. The 4×5 inch image has a resolution about 16 times higher than a 35mm frame. In the past 4×5 inch camera was the most popular and so was the print format. There were other sizes available like 5×6 and 8×10 inches but those were not as popular. The 4×5 inch cameras were most popular in the 1930-1950s. Some examples of such camera are Crown Graphic, Speed Graphic and Graflex along with many more.
There is also Ultra large format photography which refers to an image format larger than 8×10 inches. Usually the large format images are from special cameras which are horizontal and are specially designed to make prints of large negatives. These images are printed by contact printing in press printing plates. Currently the camera from Polaroid is one of the largest instant cameras in use. The image format of it is 20×24.
Large format cameras are bulky difficult to handle. Mostly all the large format cameras are view cameras. The front and the end portion of the cameras are called standards. This helps the photographer to adjust the perspective and the depth of field. This benefits mainly the close-up photographers and the architectural photographers. The front portion of the camera can be shifted left and right and up/down. This helps to take pictures of architectural images where the scenes are mainly larger than the camera. This also helps to take the pictures of products where the scene is smaller than the camera. It takes some time to get acquainted with the controls of the camera for large format photography.
In large format photography, to operate the camera it requires various skill and operations. Due to this the time of operation and set is often slow and contemplative. Like to load the film, it requires bulky sheet film holders and moreover it also requires a completely dark environment. There are a few pre-packaged films and holder but that also requires specially trained men and good knowledge. An tripod is also used in large format photography. It is mainly used to view the camera and keep the camera steady in a fixed position. This helps the photographer to take pictures easily without having to carry the camera everywhere. There are two types of tripod available. One is the hand held one and the other a fixed one. The hand held ones are more flexible as it can be carried around as desired. These types of cameras are popularly known as technical cameras and have a separate range finders and viewfinders for quick and safe handling of the camera.
In the usage of large format camera, the scene which is to be taken is to be composed on the ground glass of the camera. After that a film holder is used and is fit to the back area of the camera. All this is done before the exposure. There is also another way in which you can use a separate back of Polaroid by using an instant film. This technique is used by some photographers. This method has its advantages. This allows the photographer to preview the composition and the exposure and also the depth of the field before actually taking the image. The drawback of Polaroid film is the exposure risk. This risk is discovered later during the time of development of the film. It cannot be corrected and the only way is to retake the picture. Mostly large format photography is not done by the Polaroid instant films as they are expensive and has a risk of exposure which makes the work tedious.
Types of large format cameras
There are mainly three types of large format cameras. They are:-
- Field cameras.
- Old press cameras
- And monorail cameras.
All the above mentioned cameras have very similar features. All the cameras have fully manual features. They shoot good quality large format images of various formats. They use ground glasses. Both have manual focus adjustments. The field cameras are actually an all in one package. The monorail cameras are fixed together for specific use. These types of large format photography cameras give a very good quality images with high resolution. But you have to compromise on the speed, efficiency and it will pinch your pocket more than the ordinary cameras.
Uses of large photography
Large format photography is very useful though it is very cumbersome and tedious. The print quality of large format images cannot be compared to 35mm frame. Some of the uses are listed below:-
- The image format of 4×5 is very useful in press printing and contact printing. This type of image print is generally used for press cameras.
- Large format prints are available in both film based as well as digital format. This is used for various applications. Some examples are advertising photography, landscape photography and much more. Generally the images are enlarged for greater detail and high magnification.
- Large format photography is also used for historic resources. The image print is usually 4×5 or 8×10.
Pros of large format photography
- It captures minute details and expression of the scene.
- The spontaneity is good.
- Images of very large scene can be taken.
- Also images of small scene can also be taken.
- Various parameters can be defined separately.
- Very good image quality
- Very good build and is sturdy.
- There are manual controls available to suit your tastes.
- There is no parallax error.
- Doff controls and good focus.
Cons of large format photography
- Very bulky.
- Very large in size.
- Difficult to carry around.
- Very expensive.
- The films are also very expensive.
- It takes quite a lot of time to learn the controls and the basic requirement.
- Large format photograph can be tricky if using an instant film.