Large format photography is both simple and complex. Simple, because it is simply a form of photography that uses large format cameras to capture images.

This means that larger film sizes are used, which allows for greater detail and clarity in the resulting prints.

As a result, large format photography is often used as an art form, but it can also be used in other fields like product photography, architecture photography, and advertising.

What Is large format film photography

What Is large format film photography?

Large format film photography is photography that uses sheet film. Sheet film is any photographic film that comes in rolls or in sheets (as opposed to 35mm, 70mm, 110mm, or other small film formats).

Large format is a general category that includes all sheet film sizes from 4″x5″ up to 20″x24″. The term “large format” does not specify an exact size.

Large format film photography involves using specialized cameras and film formats which are larger than most standard photo equipment. Large Format Film Photography is also known as Large Format Film, LF Photography or Large Camera Photography.

The earliest cameras were large format and there’s no reason to believe that more is always better. Larger formats are generally more forgiving in terms of depth of field, focusing, and other aspects of technique.

But when you want absolute sharpness or need to make big enlargements from small negatives, larger format is definitely better.



Large format film photography is a term used to describe the use of large cameras and lenses that are capable of making very high quality images. This style of photography uses sheet film, which is any photographic film that comes in rolls or sheets (as opposed to 35 mm, 70 mm, 110 mm, or other small film formats).

Large format is a general category that includes all sheet film sizes from 4 inches x5 inches up to 20 inches x24 inches. The term “large format” does not specify an exact size.

Large format film photography involves using specialized cameras and film formats which are larger than most standard photo equipment. Large format film photography is also known as large format film, LF photography, or large camera photography.

The earliest cameras were large format, and there’s no reason to believe that more is always better. However, larger formats are generally more forgiving in terms of depth of field, focusing, and other technical aspects. They are also the better choice when you want absolute sharpness or need to make big enlargements from small negatives.

The key elements that define “large format” include:

  1. a camera that uses film measuring at least 4 inches by 5 inches (10 cm x 13 cm);
  2. the use of a lens mounted on a shutter capable of being moved, focused, and stopped down to a specific aperture;
  3. and a camera designed to make contact prints from negatives at the same size as the film.

The combination of these three elements provides photographers with two primary benefits: 

  1. extremely sharp images with a large depth of field;
  2. the ability to control perspective through the use of movements such as tilts, swings, and shifts.

Large format cameras are complex in the sense that they require lenses with extremely long focal lengths and precision engineering to produce quality results.

These are capable of producing negatives or transparencies of at least 4 inches ×5 inches (10 cm x 12 cm) in size. In comparison, most 35mm cameras only produce negatives or transparencies that measure 24 mm x 36 mm.

When you enlarge a film image captured by a 35 mm camera by a factor of four, you end up with an image that only has one quarter of the detail in an image captured by a large format camera.


Large Format Camera Characteristics

Large format cameras are large, heavy, and expensive, but they are the best choice if you want to produce the highest quality prints.

There are two main types of large format cameras: field and studio cameras. Tubular field cameras are the most popular large format camera.

They can be used for either landscape or portrait photography thanks to their rotating back. There are also several options in sizes and costs, with prices ranging from inexpensive to extremely expensive, depending on the camera’s size and quality.

The movements that a field camera is capable of allow for extreme versatility, but require more time to use than studio models. Field cameras are also easier on the budget than studio cameras, but lack some of studio camera features.

Studio cameras have a fixed front lens and is known as a monorail camera, which means you cannot move it up or down during exposure (unless you shift your film plane). This makes focusing more critical, but it also means that you can make sharper images with less distortion when using longer focal length lenses.

The other type of studio camera is a tilt camera, which allows you to tilt your front lens up or down during exposure as well as rotate your film plane around an axis at the same time.

Disadvantages of Film Cameras

In the world of photography, there has always been a debate on the best camera to use. For most photographers, they go straight to the digital camera without even considering film cameras.

The main reason for this is that you can immediately see what you captured with digital cameras thanks to the viewfinder; whereas with film cameras, you have to wait for the film to be developed in a lab before you know how well your shot turned out.

Waiting days or weeks for photos to be developed makes film camera photography a difficult choice for people who shoots frequently. 


The Benefits of Large Format

Large format is a style of film photography which produces a large negative, which enables the photographer to capture high-quality enlargements.

The negatives are also very wide, allowing the photographer to capture more in a single frame.

The first use of large format cameras was to record architectural details and landscapes. Today, large format cameras are used for table-top photography, product photography, and architecture photography.

There are a few old manual large format cameras still being used today, but most modern photographers use a digital large format camera for the flexibility it offers.

Wide format lenses are often used on large format cameras. These lenses enable the photographer to zoom in and out without having to change lenses, which can help when taking photographs from difficult angles like from above or below.

Wide format lenses can be used with any film format, but they work best with large format because of their wide angle of view.

Professional photographers will often use a large tripod alongside their camera, which helps stabilize the camera while taking photos at longer shutter speeds.

Wide Format Cameras in Photography


The main characteristic of wide format cameras is the size of the film they use: 8×10, 5×7, 4×5, 2¼ x 3¼, and 16×20—which is also known as “pancake” format.

The name “wide format” refers to the fact that these transparent films or plates have a larger surface area than their 35 mm counterparts. This allows for much larger negatives and prints, with greater detail and clarity when compared with standard 35 mm photographic film.

For example, an 8×10 negative has an area 14 times greater than a 35 mm frame (about 2 ¼ inches x 3 ¼ inches) and will produce an image that is about 14 times as large when printed on photographic paper of the same size.

When digital photo lab printers are used to print images from standard 35 mm film, the result is often a noticeable loss of sharpness in the final print.

This is due to a number of factors, including having to enlarge the image significantly more than 200%, using smaller viewing screens on computer monitors and TVs, and increased resolution in the typical viewing software monitor.

Large Format Camera Types

But before you can start to make photos, you need to determine what kind of camera you need.

There are three main types of large format cameras, depending on how they’re used:

Field Cameras

The most common type of large format camera, field cameras are ideal for outdoor use or when you’re moving around.

They’re generally handheld. Field cameras are often made out of wood and have cloth bellows (the flexible material that connects the lens to the body).

Field cameras work well in situations where you don’t want any light to seep into the camera, such as when photographing something underwater or from behind glass.

They also work well with wide angle lenses because it’s easy to focus with a wider-angle lens.

Studio Cameras

These large format cameras are ideal for studio use and are usually used for close-up photography or product shots that require precise focusing.

Studio cameras have a platform on which you place your subject and then bring it into focus.

This makes them perfect for taking pictures of jewelry, artwork, or other objects that can’t move around easily.

Large Format View Cameras

These are the largest and most versatile of the three types.

Large format view cameras work well in both outdoor and indoor settings.


Large Format Camera Lenses

The lenses we use on our large format cameras are the same lenses that were used on 8×10 cameras in the 1800s and early 1900s. That is what makes them so wonderful.

There is a sense of history and tradition about using these lenses. The quality of the glass, their handmade quality, and the craftsmanship that went into making them is something that today’s lens manufacturers can’t match.

If you have a passion for photography, chances are you will end up owning a large format camera at some point in the future, or you already own one but have yet to try it out.

Getting into large format photography can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn’t have to be.

Large format lenses can be found on ebay at great prices, or can be purchased directly from your favorite camera store or mail order outlet like B&H Photo.

The typical lens (not including projection lenses) for a 4×5 camera costs around $200 to $300. These are made by Rodenstock, Schneider, Fujiyama, and Horseman.

There are also lenses made by Beseler and Miyazaki, which are newer-made lenses. While they aren’t as fast as the others, they definitely work well with any 4×5 camera, and are very easy to find.

Subjects for Large Format Photography

What are some good subjects for large format photography?

Generally, the biggest and most interesting subject is your own backyard, but if you want to do something a little bit more adventurous, perhaps even out of state, these are some great things to shoot:



Bridges can be the ultimate challenge in large format photography. The longer the focal length, the more difficult it will be for you to capture it correctly.

A tripod is a must, but sometimes that’s not enough. You’ll need to learn how to use exposure bracketing and sometimes even a cable release or self-timer to get everything just right.


Simply put, buildings look great in large format photography. These can range from skyscrapers to homes and barns.

One thing you’ll want to keep in mind when shooting buildings is lighting. Buildings look very different and have a different feel in photographs based on how the light and shadows fall on them at various times of the day. It’s especially worth photographing and experimenting during the so-called “golden hours” at sunrise and sunset.