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Film Photography | An Inside Look At Large Format

By Brittany Smith on January 15th 2018

Whether it is a sense of nostalgia at play or a newfound desire to learn other mediums, film is back in a big way. The recent surge in popularity demonstrates that film is anything but antiquated; everything that is old can be new agin.

Both professionals and enthusiasts alike have taken to analog as of late and it isn’t limited to only 35mm and medium format. Large format is also making a comeback and Irene Rudnyk is here to share her first experience with it.

Gear Used

Combo SCII RS monorail 4×5 camera with Caltar-S II 150mm F/5.6 lens
8×10 Eastman view with Fujinon W 250mm F/6.7 lens
Taylor & Hobson Cooke Lens 13.3” F/6.5
Expired Polaroid Film
Quadstar 1000w Continuous Light Kit
Ilford HP5+ 4×5 black and white film
Ilford HP5+ 8×10 black and white film
Ilford Positive paper

The process of shooting film is a lot slower than its digital counterpart and there is a learning curve. A certain level of patience is required and the price tag encourages a more methodical approach.

Two of the biggest advantages of large format photography are the high quality images and abundance of creative control. Many modern tilt-shift lenses and Lensbaby products are trying to achieve the same results produced by the rise/fall and swing/tilt functions of large format cameras.

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An initial light meter reading is taken, as with other film sizes, to establish the exposure and a dark cloth is required to see the view finder and focus the image. The view in the viewfinder is upside down and does require some getting used to. A Polaroid is then captured to double check all settings prior to capturing the final image. Each individual sheet of film is to be loaded separately whereas 35mm and medium format uses rolls of film with multiple exposures.

From there, capturing the image is as simple as inserting the pre-loaded film holder, removing the dark slide, capturing the image, replacing the dark slide and removing the film holder. The film holder is then flipped over as it holds two sheets and the steps are repeated.

Chemistry is being made more available again to develop your own film and the process is similar to medium format and 35mm. Large format does take more time due to the size of the negatives which limits the number of sheets that can be developed at once. Positive paper can also be used in place of film in an effort to cut down on the overall cost.

The film negative can then be scanned and uploaded for post processing as usual. You can also take a picture of the negative, upload it to the Photoshop App and invert it to get an idea of what the final image will look like. There is also the option of sending film off to a lab, if you so desire, and most labs will scan the final images as part of their standard service.

Large format photography is expensive and it is also a lot of fun familiarizing oneself with the medium and establishing a rhythm. Brand new large format systems are available for purchase from manufacturers such as Wista Field and Linhof. A simple eBay search will also yield a ton of used camera gear and film equipment for sale at a fraction of the price. There are multiple film and Polaroid options available which allows for a lot of variety within a single shoot.

The following video is just under 9 minutes and is a great tool for anyone who is just starting to dabble in film and/or is interested in large format photography.  You can also subscribe to Irene’s YouTube Channel.

Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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