About Large Format

In photography, “large format” is defined as negatives that are bigger than medium format. (This seems facetious, but bear with me.) Medium format cameras typically use roll-type film that is about 6cm wide (about 2.4 inches), in which one can make multiple separate images without having to replace the film.

Large format negatives are bigger, and the film is typically replaced after each exposure. Because of standardization, this means “large format” starts with negatives that are about 4" x 5" and each negative is a separate sheet of film. The Wikipedia article is pretty good, though typical for Wikipedia, there’s almost too much information…

The advantage to large format is the large “sensor.” The bigger the film (or sensor), the higher the possible resolution in the final image. Also, bigger sensors mean it’s possible to have shallower depth of field, which can help direct the viewer’s attention to the subject. People are drawn visually to the sharpest, most in-focus area of a picture. Plus, when you’re dragging around a camera as big as these, with its few chances to make a good exposure, you try very hard to get it right. One uses large format with intention.

In our class, we are going to be making images that are typical for large format: portrait, landscape, architecture, and macro. Mainly we’re using Toyo Field cameras, with black and white 4x5 film. We will be developing our film, and then finishing either in the darkroom or by scanning and printing digitally.

I’m really looking forward to this class. I kept putting it off, because I really don’t enjoy straight darkroom work. However, any day I get learn a new way of producing images is a good day.

Please don’t remind me that I said this when I’m moaning about things not working a few months from now…