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Thread: Is there money in LF portrait work?

  1. #1

    Is there money in LF portrait work?

    After perusing the recent View Camera newsstand copy with the wonderful pictures of wet plate and Tintype's, I was wondering if there was still a viable market for LF portrait work, whether Alt or not. I've read over and over again over the last decade where LF cameras came to the market from studio use being apparently replaced with MF possibly, and eventually with digital recording. It seems now that the use of LF might be so unique that a person could garner a name if good enough with technique. I know that the market so to say is in the dumpster, but I still wonder. Mostly because it looks as if I'll be a partner in a different type business, but where I can set up a backdrop in a rather large unused space.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Atlanta, GA

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    You can always create a market where none exists. The challenge is getting your message to those who are going to sustain your business. It's questionable whether LF itself is a prime motivator, so you may need another, i.e. something that strongly differentiates you from anyone else doing portraiture in your target market and in which customers can see the value.

    Re the current economy, even with 20% real unemployment there is a segment of the market that has money and will spend it if the value is there. Leave the low end to the bottom feeders.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Milford Pa.

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    the short answer No.

    but people are doing maybe sometimes would be a better answer.

    i too thought that WPC would sell. i have been trying to do formal portraits using WPC and have approached wedding photographers in an attempt to add me to there list of offerings. while everyone says it is great no paid work at the same time i have not been overly aggressive pushing this as i am not officially starving and can pay my bills using my automotive training.....

    now i need to get a copy of he VCM.


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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    Thats what Howard Coster said to my dad in 1927.
    Coster made his mark doing carbon print portraits of men only, creating a market by doing it different, as Jim says above.

  5. #5
    Louie Powell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Saratoga Springs, NY

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    This is really a marketing question.

    I suspect that there is a small market for LF portraiture, but that it is very widespread, and as a result, the number of practitioners that the market can support is quite limited. And unfortunately, the market is probably declining. The combination of what I call the "Walmart syndrome" (screw quality - just make it cheaper), the advance of digital technology, and the notion that anyone can now be a portrait photographer is causing the demand for high-quality portraiture to shrink.

    There are some notable example of LF portraitists who appear to be very successful - Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, for example. But also know a guy in the mid-west who had a successful portraiture business based on LF who is seriously struggling.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Washington, D.C.

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    If you're asking whether you can sell LF as a brand--I think the answer is no. It's getting harder to find photgraphers that can recognize LF, let alone the general public. Portrait/Wedding photographers sell themselves and their personal style--not their equipment.

    A friend that runs a gallery asked if I wanted to do alt process portraits at an upcoming arts event associated with some new housing in a local arts district. The woman representing the housing development was excited about bringing in a photographer, but went on to say the price point should be $20-$25/package--you know, like Sears.

    You can open a business and make LF part of your brand, but I don't see it as a big selling point.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    I don't think your choice of a camera or technique is as much a factor as how you relate to your subjects. That said, success is more about marketing and hard work than sheer talent.

    I don't know who the highest paid photographers are, but that Aussie guy who sells panoramic photos in Vegas and Annie Liebowitz come to mind, both of whom work their asses off in spite of their rather mediocre "gifts".

  8. #8
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    I am going to be a bit of a smartass and say yes, there is money in LF portraiture...but with the possibility of it flowing the wrong direction.

    Sorry, but I blame it on a wet bicycle commute this morning and having "Jumping' Jack Flash" playing in the background. I really do not know what I am talking about.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    The practical advantages of digital for portrait work for both the photographer and the customer are so great that I can't imagine a business built solely around the use of a LF camera as such would be much of a selling point. It might even be counterproductive from a price and customer convenience standpoint. But using LF to do something different, e.g. printing with an alt process such as gum, might be feasible if you could market it to the right people. But even then it would be hard because the look of most alt process prints can be replicated in Photoshop, at least well enough that no customer is likely to know the difference between the real thing and the Photoshop version.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  10. #10
    Drew Bedo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Houston Texas

    Re: Is there money in LF portrait work?

    Every working professional photographer that I know in the Houston area is digital. You might post this question on They have a very active professional guild. If there are any active professionals working in large format, that will be a good place to look.
    Drew Bedo

    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

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