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Large Format Photography

by Al Olson

© 2008  a.c.olson -- Holly Tower 2008
© 2008 a.c.olson -- Holly Tower. Image was created with a 4x5 Super Graphic camera equipped with a P-TOYONON 127mm f/4.7 lens. Film is MACO 820 Infrared exposed at an EI of 1.5 using a Hoya R72 infrared filter.
Click on image to enlarge.
© 2008  a.c.olson -- Summitville No. 3 2008
© 2008 a.c.olson -- Summitville No. 3. Image was created with a 4x5 Linhof Technika IV camera equipped with a Schneider Symmar 150mm f/5.6 lens. Film is MACO 820 Infrared exposed at an EI of 1.5 using a Hoya R72 infrared filter.
Click on image to enlarge.

Large format photography is regaining popularity as digital imaging continues to displace the smaller formats. Larger formats are excellent for recording finer detail, exhibiting less granularity, maintaining smoother tonality. In addition, the lens board and the film back movements provide greater control over sharpness in planes not parallel to the film, greater control of perspective, as well as flexibility in adjusting the positioning of the image. In other words, large format is the choice of the aspiring fine art photographer.

The most common film formats for large format photography are the 4x5" and 8x10". However, there are many practitioners of the ultra large format as well. These cameras use formats as large as 20x24" and include films of standard sizes in between, such as 11x14" and 16x20". In addition, there are custom panoramic cameras with formats of 4x10", 7x17", and 8x20" among other sizes.

Finally, there is now a movement back to the historical film sizes of full plate at 6 1/2 x 8 1/2", half plate at 4 1/4 x 6 1/2", and quarter plate at 3 1/4 x 4 1/4". These were standard sizes when photographers had to coat their own emulsion on glass plates. Many photographers have acquired these antique cameras and are either coating their own glass plates or they have adapted the film holders to use available sheet film.

Many large format practitioners, especially 8x10" and larger, prefer to produce their images as contact prints where the negative is in contact with the printing paper while it is being exposed. This allows the unexposed border of the negative, called the 'rebate', to be exposed as well. This type of printing has become so popular in fine art circles that the digital manipulation software such as Photoshop provides an option for printing a fake rebate.

On the other hand, many photographers use the enlarger to expose the print paper. Because the negative is very large, they can choose not to print the entire negative image but instead they will select an area that has the best composition and greatest interest. This procedure is called 'cropping', and because of the large negative area available, the quality of the print seldom suffers. You will note that I have not retained the 4x5 aspect ratio for many of the images on this page, but instead I have cropped them into formats that are more suitable for the subject matter.

With the convenience of digital processing, some large format photographers have chosen to expose the film and process it in the traditional manner. At this point they will scan the negative or transparency into a digital format to enable them to further process their image on the computer with image processing software such as Photoshop. This allows them to clone out the dust spots (which are an inevitable curse with sheet films), perform digital enhancements, and conveniently create inkjet prints in paper sizes that would be extremely difficult to produce photographically except in an expensive photo lab.

All of the images on this page are copyrighted.
See tooltip on thumbnail for copyright information.
Click on any of the images on this page for a larger view.

All images displayed on this page are available for purchase as prints.
Pricing and ordering information for silver gelatin prints.
Pricing and ordering information for chromogenic color prints.

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The following thumbnails may be enlarged for a better view of the large format image.
Click on thumbnail to see larger view.

© 2007  a.c.olson -- Lily 2007 © 2007  a.c.olson -- Two Daisies 2007 © 2007  a.c.olson -- Posie 2007 © 2007  a.c.olson -- Mums 2007

© 2007  a.c.olson -- Open Piano 2007 © 2007  a.c.olson -- Water Tank 2005 © 2008  a.c.olson -- Summitville No. 2 2008 © 2008  a.c.olson -- Ruined Tower 2008

© 2007  a.c.olson -- Mozart's Clarinet Concerto 2007 © 2008  a.c.olson -- Daffodils 2008 © 2008  a.c.olson -- Twilight 2008 © 2008  a.c.olson -- Navajo Stars 2008


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Al Olson
(970) 731-9801
a.c.olson@CenturyTel.net