The Benefits of Large Format Photography

Large format cameras are simple, powerful imaging devices that are very easy to use. There are many useful controls for the photographer to manipulate, but for many photographers, the idea of using a large format camera can be intimidating. After all, we're used to the automation and programmability of our modern DSLRs, so this idea of manual operation can be daunting. However, large format photography offers many advantages that make it worth considering.

Wide Angle Lenses

Wide angle lenses are a great tool for large format photography. They allow more elements to fit into the frame and can create interesting compositions. They also allow you to shoot handheld, which can give you a cleaner image even when the lighting is poor. It's important to check before you buy, as wide angle lenses are not compatible with all types of cameras.

When using filters with wide angle lenses, there can be unwanted effects due to barrel distortion. This is especially noticeable at the edges of the picture when looking at a subject at an angle that's less than perpendicular to the camera's plane of view. The lines appear to bend.


Tilt-shift large format photography is a method of taking pictures by shifting or tilting the camera's lens. This method creates images with a shallow depth of field and is based on the Scheimpflug principle. If you're interested in learning more about this method, consider purchasing a book on it.

Tilt-shift large format photography allows the photographer to control the depth of field and draw other graphic elements into the image. It's not often practical to use this method alone, so it's usually used together with stopping down. Tilt-shift lenses aren't necessarily the best choice for large-format photography.

Monorail Cameras

Monorail cameras for large format photography can be expensive and bulky. They typically weigh over 15 pounds and need a large case to transport. Unless you plan to travel a lot, it's better to leave the camera in the studio. Before you buy one, research its features and performance. If you're on a budget, you can opt for a used camera.

Monorail cameras often have a ground glass viewfinder and can accommodate just about any lens. They can be fitted with roll film, sheet film, or digital backs and don't require shutters. This allows for long exposures or flash lighting without removing the lens cap. Monorail cameras also have the advantage of using small apertures without diffraction, which is useful for wide angle lenses and close-up work.

Image Quality

Large format photography is one of the most rewarding types of photography because it offers high resolution images with improved tonality and detail compared to traditional 8x10 negatives. It requires a more deliberate and controlled workflow and needs a tripod for best results.

Creative Control

Working with large format cameras gives you more control over depth of field and is ideal for landscapes, architecture, still life, and portraiture. There are plenty of resources online to help you learn how to use large format cameras and experiment with different techniques.

For example, you can use multiple film types when shooting large format images or create different looks within a single shot. You can also use different film types to experiment with different subjects.


If you're interested in taking up large format photography, you'll need to invest in some film holders. These range in price from around $10 to several hundred dollars. A free email newsletter called Film Price Updates is sent every six months and contains the latest price changes.

With traditional small format cameras, the film plane is always parallel to the white film or negative film, but with a large format camera the film plane can be adjusted up to 90 degrees. This allows for extreme depth of field in the scene and each lens becomes a tilt-and-shift lens if you buy lenses with large enough image circles.

A large format camera is a camera with a frame that measures 4x5 inches or larger and in film making, large format generally refers to 65mm and 70mm film photography (or digital equivalents). Landscape photographs must be printed LARGE in order to better convey their big impact and provide an experience much closer to being there in person.

Huge prints and murals require individual sheets of film instead of rolls which must be loaded into holders in the dark. With my large format camera I simply aim directly at the trees and use rise instead - I haven't talked about big dads yet which would include 8x10 (or larger) movies or large size formats...

Eric Zaremski
Eric Zaremski

Incurable pop culture guru. Typical bacon evangelist. Hipster-friendly zombie enthusiast. General travel lover. Hardcore zombie guru.