Large Format


Large format utilises 5″x 4″ individual film slides for the highest level of image reproduction available to the film media.  Due to its high cost and lack of easy role delivery system, large format photography was reserved for high class professionals, large organisations and projects of great importance and significance. Its results however, were second to none and were unsurpassed until very high megapixel, digital photography and some would say, yet still to be surpassed,


For the purpose of this study the following question(s) were addressed:

  1. Can using large format film and photography equipment produce very high quality images?



I am of the assumption that other than the loading, delivery method and development process large format photography should be similar to all film based photography, thus quite simple to implement.



Loading the Slide Film:

  1. Ensure the room is in complete darkness.
  2. Remove the film from light sensitive protective bag.
  3. The notch should be in the top right hand corner.
  4. Pull the dark slide out by around two inches.
  5. Feel for the film guides and fit the film under, emulsion side up.
  6. Ensure the film is inserted fully into the guide.
  7. Usually before going into the dark the dark slides are placed into the holder with the silver strip visible (showing they have not been exposed), then once they have been exposed the dark slide is placed back in the holder with the black strip visible (showing they have been exposed) ready to develop in the dark room.

Using the Camera:

  1. Choose the camera position, approximate orientation and focal length.
  2. Set up and level the tripod and camera.
  3. Attach the lens and open it to full aperture.
  4. Focus roughly using the focussing knob.
  5. Adjust precisely the composition while looking at the ground glass.
  6. Focus precisely with tilts/swings.
  7. Determine the optimal aperture.
  8. Re-adjust slightly the composition (optional but recommended).
  9. Adjust filters and compendium shade (optional but recommended).
  10. Check for vignetting (optional but recommended).
  11. Close the lens, cock the shutter, rap and insert the film holder.
  12. Determine the shutter speed.
  13. Set the aperture and shutter speed.
  14. Remove the dark slide.
  15. Look at the subject.
  16. Fire the shutter with a cable release.
  17. Put the darkslide back in.
  18. Remove the filmholder.
  19. Make a second identical exposure (optional but recommended).


Printing the Slide Film:

  1. Prepare trays in the wet bench with developer, water for stop bath and fixer.
  2. Ensure the room is completely dark.
  3. Remove the film from the holder and place face down in the developer bath for 6 minutes, agitating for 10 seconds every minute.
  4. Place in the stop bath tray and agitate for 30 seconds.
  5. Place the film into the fix bath for 5 minutes, agitating for 10 seconds every minute.



The development involves being in total darkness and differently to roll film, a tray was used to process the slide film in a tray.



By utilising large format film and photography equipment, I have managed to create a high quality image. Its clarity and detail are impressive due to its visible grain. However, due to over-exposure the final image was slightly compromised aesthetically. Overall, I enjoyed using the large format camera and the whole large format film process, so would happily implement its use in my future photography projects. I have also found particular reverence for the large format camera, due to its use in the production of Daguerreotype, I process I also enjoyed very much.



[1] STUFF, (2011). How to Load 4×5 Sheet Film Holders. [Online] Available from:×5-sheet-film-holders.html              [Accessed: 22 March 2016]

[2] LARGE FORMAT PHOTOGRAPHY INFO, (2015). How To Get Started In Large Format Photography. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 08 May 2016]

[3] PICTURE CORRECT, (2016). Large Format Film Camera Photography Tips. [Online] Available from:                                                                                                                      [Accessed: 08 May 2106]

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