Don't overlook a meniscus lens.
The very first lens designed for for photography was the Wollaston Meniscus (1812).
Read about them here:
If you have enough bellows draw, here's how a 285mm Wollaston works with portraiture:
Die Gedanken sind Frei
240 - live it, love it
I like the 203 optar or kodak 203 ektar for a small shuttered lens. I also have a 210/4.5 tessar (fujinar actually) in a copal-3s shutter which is excellent. The tessar is really overlooked by most newcomers.
If your camera has a shutter (such as a speed graphic), you have many more choices. My favorite right now is a 210/4.5 trioplan (triplet) barrel lens.
I've got the 190mm wollaston Reinhold builds, but have only done a couple people photos with it, not enough to have figured out that aspect enough to write about. After a large volume of film, I'm getting good with it's use outdoors though. Any traditional soft focus, you are going to need to use a lot of film learning to be good with it; results are not straightforward, but can be rewarding.
You will find a nice variety of results browsing the monthly portrait threads on here.
Thank you very much for all your suggestions. I am still very new to LF and learning about all the different lenses and lens designs is somewhat overwhelming in the beginning. I think I got a good understanding of what to look for now. Thanks again for all your help and patience with my somewhat stupid questions.
From the standpoint of perspective using 1 or 2 persons in the photograph, 250mm (10") to 300mm (12") is excellent. If you just happen to have a 12" or 14" Commercial Ektar you will like them heaps (as my friends in TN used to say).
If you like portrait soft focus, one of my all time favorites was the Kodak Portrait lens or my second choice was the 250 Fujinon SFS.
210mm would be fine. There are lots of excellent used ones around at fair prices. Maybe 240 mm' the G Clarons are relatively inexpensive and in a small shutter, or maybe go with the old 240 Schneider convertible in the Copal "2" shutter which is very affordable and not nearly as huge on a 4X5 as the Copal "3" shuttered ones.
What size is your lens board and how much bellows do you have? Without that, only general recommendations can be made. I'd look for 240mm to 300mm. You won't get a 300mm f:4.5 lens on a small board. 240mm f:4.5 probably.
I think your options can be divided into two kinds of portrait lenses, soft focus and everything else.
If you have a small lens board and want something in shutter, the soft focus lens options are not overly plentiful. The most plentiful and usable will be the Rodenstock Imagon and the Fujinon SF lenses. There are some shorter vintage soft focus lenses that rarely appear in a shutter like the Verito.
For "regular" lenses, you have a lot more selection. Here's an off the top of my head list.
Kodak f:6.3 Commercial Ektar - used by Karsh and a lot of others. Look for a 10"-12" for 4x5.
Tessars and their namesakes, B&L Ic (or the f:6.3 IIb), Kodak f:4.5 Ektars, Zeiss Tessar, Schneider Xenars, Nikkor-M, Fujinon-L, etc
Voigtlaender Heliars, up to 24cm/240mm are commonly available in shutter and make good portrait lenses
The Apo Sironar-S, 240mm version currently used by Jock Sturges on 8x10 I believe, but a nice modern lens for people
Goerz Dagor, Paolo Roversi uses a 12" Dagor, as did a local photographer who did fine work with it. Probably undervalued as a people lens, like the Apo Sironar-S
Tele lenses seem to be underrated, I've also seen some nice local work done with a 270mm Rotelar
Any of the triplets would be a potential candidates, but nice ones in shutter don't seem common.
thank you so very much for your very comprehensive and educational reply. I think I learned more about lenses out of your one post than I did trying to google it for the last few weeks. I own a Shen Hao HZX 45A II which I believe has a Wista/Linhoff type of lens board. Currently it has a Nikkor 150mm mounted. As of the bellows they have a draw extension from 50-360mm, so it is to overly much and the lens board is not as big either.
I will try and follow your recommendations and shop around. My budget for this lens would be around $500 so I hope I find something adequate.