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View Full Version : How important are movements if doing mostly portraiture?



jonbrisbincreative
22-Oct-2014, 15:43
I've been researching a move back to film after years in digital. I'm weary of the continuing MP wars. Since the new Sony MF sensor is spurring that on for the foreseeable future, I'm trying to find a reasonable 4x5 LF camera I can use to do some experimentation in fine art (a la Paul Strand and Alfred Steiglitz) and to expand the portraiture work I already do. The fine art stuff will be for much later in my life when I have time to pursue that. The portraiture I do as part of my photography business currently.

I'm curious about how important the standard movements are for portraiture? I find plenty of Wista 45Ds for sale on eBay but no reasonably-priced Chamonixs or Shen Haos, which I understand offer greater flexibility over the Wista. If I can even find a used Chamonix is the lack of an enclosing "box" and greater movements worth the expense considering I have almost no idea what I'm doing in LF?

I already have a Mamiya RB67 and am planning on moving away from sending my film out to doing some Diafine 2-stage development with that and the 4x5.

Mark Sawyer
22-Oct-2014, 15:51
Strand and Stieglitz (and Weston and Lange) did quite a bit of their 4x5 (in Strand's case 5x7) portraiture using Graflex SLR's, which offer no movements.

When using 8x10 with shallow depth of field, movements become much more important.

Ari
22-Oct-2014, 15:59
For portraits, I like a camera to have front tilt and front swing; those take care of most situations.
The Wista will have all the movements you are likely to need for portraiture, and a 45D comes pretty cheap.
They are also very sturdy rugged cameras with an extensive line of inexpensive accessories.

As Mark hinted at, on 4x5 movements are less important than on larger formats, especially when shooting portraits.

jbenedict
22-Oct-2014, 16:01
Might be easier in some situations to just adjust the rise or shift to tune the composition rather than have the subject move.

Drew Wiley
22-Oct-2014, 16:28
Just depends on what else you might wish to do with the same camera in the future, if you're already going to spend some money to begin with. Think of it as an
investment. But simply by definition, just about any view camera on the market, new or old, will have more than enough movements for general portrait work.
There are a few large format box camera models out there, or designs made specifically for wide-angle architectural shooting with rise only; but in general, almost everything legitimately termed a view camera will have some kind of tilt and rise. I'd be more concerned with what range of focal length lenses a given model will
accept. Portraits tend to be taken with slightly longer than "normal" focal lengths - in the case of 4x5, typically from 210 mm to maybe 300mm. You also might want to be concerned with rigidity at these kinds of bellows extension. Some designs are sturdier than others in this respect. But no need to overthink it. There
are plenty of good options out there.

jonbrisbincreative
22-Oct-2014, 16:59
Thanks for the info!

From my research it seems the Shen Haos have the desirable detents to make setup quick which will fit better with what I'm wanting to do, while the Chamonix seem to be more flexible in movements but lack a protective shell to fold them into.

At this point I feel like a Wista 45D can be had cheaply and will suit my needs but if I could find a Shen Hao at a competitive price, it would probably serve me better in the long run, assuming I do stick with the format over time.

Maris Rusis
22-Oct-2014, 17:03
When the portrait sitters face is turned with respect to the film plane I always use camera movements. First swing is used to get the catch lights in both eyes simultaneously sharp. Then tilt is used to get the middle of the top lip sharp as well. These three points, the catch lights and the lip, are what a viewer's eye scans continuously when being respectfully attentive to a face. I reckon, even with ultra shallow depth of field on a 8x10 (say) camera, the face will read "right" if these three points are sharp.

Ken Lee
22-Oct-2014, 17:09
http://www.kenleegallery.com/images/forum/FrontDrop.jpg

There are many different kinds of portraits, and different equipment can be helpful for different situations. We can get by with very limited gear if we need to, but having choices makes things possible. Sometimes they're dramatic, sometimes they need to be pointed out.

Here's a portrait made on 8x10 with some drop of the front standard. The subjects are looking straight ahead, and so is the camera.

Randy Moe
22-Oct-2014, 17:11
When the portrait sitters face is turned with respect to the film plane I always use camera movements. First swing is used to get the catch lights in both eyes simultaneously sharp. Then tilt is used to get the middle of the top lip sharp as well. These three points, the catch lights and the lip, are what a viewer's eye scans continuously when being respectfully attentive to a face. I reckon, even with ultra shallow depth of field on a 8x10 (say) camera, the face will read "right" if these three points are sharp.

That's the best advice I have seen in a while.

Eyes, i knew, but the lip tip is a real good one and I was going elsewhere.

:)

Alan Gales
22-Oct-2014, 17:12
A cheap used monorail is great for portraiture in a studio setting. You won't need all the movements but you can get a strong front standard and larger lens boards if you want to shoot lenses that are heavy or in large shutters.

I had a Tachihara with 13" of bellows draw and wanted to shoot a 300mm (12") lens in a Copal 3 so I bought a monorail as a companion to my Tachi.

Harold_4074
22-Oct-2014, 17:19
If you get into soft focus lenses (Imagon, Kodak Portrait, etc.) you will want enough front movement to allow focusing on the eyes through the center of the lens, and then shifting to compose a headshot. Otherwise, the sharpest area will not be the eyes, but more likely somewhere at or below the subjects neckline.

Randy Moe
22-Oct-2014, 17:23
If you get into soft focus lenses (Imagon, Kodak Portrait, etc.) you will want enough front movement to allow focusing on the eyes through the center of the lens, and then shifting to compose a headshot. Otherwise, the sharpest area will not be the eyes, but more likely somewhere at or below the subjects neckline.

Mmm, seems obvious now that you say that, but once again, I never heard of that. Perhaps that is exactly my problem with SF.

Thanks and keep these tips coming.

Harold_4074
22-Oct-2014, 17:36
It will seem even more obvious the first time you photograph a young lady, focusing for the best definition on the eye highlights, only to have the resulting photography render superbly the fabric covering her bosom...

Definition falls off radially from the lens axis, but the field isn't flat, so the on-axis, near-center zone is the important thing to "place" in the composition. The same goes for still lifes, but obviously becomes less important as lens-to-subject distance increases.

Randy Moe
22-Oct-2014, 17:47
It will seem even more obvious the first time you photograph a young lady, focusing for the best definition on the eye highlights, only to have the resulting photography render superbly the fabric covering her bosom...

Definition falls off radially from the lens axis, but the field isn't flat, so the on-axis, near-center zone is the important thing to "place" in the composition. The same goes for still lifes, but obviously becomes less important as lens-to-subject distance increases.

Well I have done that, the big white hat was perfectly in focus. I thought I missed or she moved. She was so pretty I almost cried. From missing the shot. I have been thinking of a head brace, but I guess I am simply doing it wrong.

Mark Sawyer
22-Oct-2014, 18:01
If you get into soft focus lenses (Imagon, Kodak Portrait, etc.) you will want enough front movement to allow focusing on the eyes through the center of the lens, and then shifting to compose a headshot. Otherwise, the sharpest area will not be the eyes, but more likely somewhere at or below the subjects neckline.

Also very true with Petzvals, owing to their curved field and sharper center. Doubly so if you're using a shorter-than-traditional Petzval to get those durned swirlies...

Randy Moe
22-Oct-2014, 18:06
I promise, no swirlies!

Harold_4074
22-Oct-2014, 18:12
Not to drift too far from the original question, but if the hat was sharp after you focused on the eyes, the subject probably "drifted" while you were having all that fun with the filmholder. There is lore to the effect that a soft-focus lens "has all of its depth of field on the far side of the focus point". This may or may not be true, but I have yet to see sharp ears when I expected sharp eyes unless the subject had moved. And in those cases, anything closer to the lens than the eyes was really out of focus.

richardman
22-Oct-2014, 19:29
If you get into soft focus lenses (Imagon, Kodak Portrait, etc.) you will want enough front movement to allow focusing on the eyes through the center of the lens, and then shifting to compose a headshot. Otherwise, the sharpest area will not be the eyes, but more likely somewhere at or below the subjects neckline.

I have only shot with a 7 1/2" ancient Series II Cooke and the new Cooke 9" PS945, and I don't think this has been the case. I just focus on the eyes, despite it off - center. I do focus using the taking aperture...

jonbrisbincreative
22-Oct-2014, 20:10
When the portrait sitters face is turned with respect to the film plane I always use camera movements. First swing is used to get the catch lights in both eyes simultaneously sharp. Then tilt is used to get the middle of the top lip sharp as well. These three points, the catch lights and the lip, are what a viewer's eye scans continuously when being respectfully attentive to a face. I reckon, even with ultra shallow depth of field on a 8x10 (say) camera, the face will read "right" if these three points are sharp.

Can these movements be achieved with the front standard or are back movements required as well?

Richard Johnson
22-Oct-2014, 20:54
I've done a lot of large format portraiture and it is the rare subject who will be steady enough for long enough for you to do effective tilts and swings to optimize the focus plane. Perhaps if you only shot professional models who understood the need for steadiness, but the general public will (mostly) be too fidgity to rely on this technique.

But it's the internet and all opinions are equal.

Randy Moe
22-Oct-2014, 21:11
:).

Tracy Storer
22-Oct-2014, 21:50
If you want to shoot fast lenses, close-up, wide open, for portraiture, rear tilt and swing will do.

EDIT: your job, as the artist, also includes finding a pose that looks good, that the subject can hold......part of the art.

Randy Moe
22-Oct-2014, 21:55
If you want to shoot fast lenses, close-up, wide open, for portraiture, rear tilt and swing will do.

And I am looking at an 8x10 Century Tailboard right now, which fits that bill. Heavy duty fixed front standard with only rear tilt and swing. The 9" lens board might be handy also.

Seems it was made for just that purpose.

Tracy Storer
22-Oct-2014, 22:06
And I am looking at an 8x10 Century Tailboard right now, which fits that bill. Heavy duty fixed front standard with only rear tilt and swing. The 9" lens board might be handy also.

Seems it was made for just that purpose.

EXACTLY. That's why so many of the portrait cameras, even well into the 20th C had monolithic front standards with no movements, and only swing and tilt on the back. No rise or shift anywhere in sight. "Rise" was accomplished by tilting the camera up slightly via the camera stands tilting platform, "Shift" by pivoting the stand on its casters. The Deardorff 8x10 Portrait camera had an ingenious system of front tilt and swing done with levers and shafts so the moves cold be done from the back while viewing the gg....I do a lot of portrait and figure work with a Deardorff V8 and rear moves are RIGHT THERE while focusing and composing. There are no architectural artifacts that need worrying. My $0.02, YMMV.

Richard Johnson
23-Oct-2014, 06:43
If you want to shoot fast lenses, close-up, wide open, for portraiture, rear tilt and swing will do.

EDIT: your job, as the artist, also includes finding a pose that looks good, that the subject can hold......part of the art.

Embalming them works ~ lots of them look pretty stiff anyway

Bob Salomon
23-Oct-2014, 06:58
If you want to shoot fast lenses, close-up, wide open, for portraiture, rear tilt and swing will do.

EDIT: your job, as the artist, also includes finding a pose that looks good, that the subject can hold......part of the art.

Tracy,

Rear tilts and swings changes the shape of the subject, front ones do not.

Tracy Storer
23-Oct-2014, 09:21
Tracy,

Rear tilts and swings changes the shape of the subject, front ones do not.

Bob, Obviously I know this, but these changes are subtle enough in the context of portraiture as to not matter. (my opinion, bolstered by several decades of cameras by multiple manufacturers built that way) I'm not talking about the kind of extreme movements we were seeing a few years ago to deliberately throw most of the image out of focus, just the slight bit of movement to carry focus in a pleasing way in a portrait.

You're not wrong, and your clarification may well help some of the neophytes on the forum. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

analoguey
23-Oct-2014, 10:23
@OP

Why 4x5 and not the larger 8x10(or 5x7?) - I have been trying out 4x5, but the larger contract print of 8x10 is inviting -every-time I size down a 8x10 film to 4x5.


(I'm assuming, that if you're going the analogue way, you'll want analogue/darkroom prints too)

Bruce Watson
23-Oct-2014, 10:34
How important are movements if doing mostly portraiture?

Depends on how you like to work.

To get the plane of the face in focus (eyes, lips), it's likely something has to move. Either you and the camera move (think hand held), or you use movements on the camera (think tripod). Either way works. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Maris Rusis
23-Oct-2014, 15:42
Can these movements be achieved with the front standard or are back movements required as well?

Yes, front standard movements are a possible but more difficult alternative. Portraiture really requires a back, not front, focussing camera and my triple extension Tachihara also has back tilts and swings. With all the critical controls close to hand under the focussing cloth I can get the camera movements right quickly before the sitter moves. Back movements cause geometric distortion of the image but the effects in ordinary portraiture are too slight to notice. Well, I've had sitters complain about portraits (you make me look so old, etc, etc,...) but never about distortion.

Maris Rusis
23-Oct-2014, 15:55
I've done a lot of large format portraiture and it is the rare subject who will be steady enough for long enough for you to do effective tilts and swings to optimize the focus plane. Perhaps if you only shot professional models who understood the need for steadiness, but the general public will (mostly) be too fidgity to rely on this technique.

But it's the internet and all opinions are equal.

You are not wrong about the problems of keeping people still. I reckon no one can maintain a standing and unsupported pose longer than 1/4 second without some subject movement. A high back chair with arm rests works pretty well. A head clamp is better but they are a bit scarce.

The general public don't really appreciate what still means. Here's an example:

Me: Now hold very very still while I focus.
Sitter: Ok, I'll do my best.
Me: That's it! I've got focus.
Sitter: Phew, I'm glad that's finished.

Then the sitter gets up and goes for a walk around the studio!

Randy Moe
23-Oct-2014, 16:06
I bet they were old that complained.

That does it, DIY head clamp is coming up.

cowanw
23-Oct-2014, 16:06
It will seem even more obvious the first time you photograph a young lady, focusing for the best definition on the eye highlights, only to have the resulting photography render superbly the fabric covering her bosom...

Definition falls off radially from the lens axis, but the field isn't flat, so the on-axis, near-center zone is the important thing to "place" in the composition. The same goes for still lifes, but obviously becomes less important as lens-to-subject distance increases.
If the definition falls off radially from the lens axis, but the field isn't flat, and you focus on the eye placed in the middle, why doesn't it go off when you move the eye to the non flat and worse definition area away from the centre axis? If the field is not flat, all the more reason to focus on the eye where it is placed in the composition, or do I misunderstand?

richardman
23-Oct-2014, 16:17
When I shot this photo, I did a dry run to explain to them so everyone, especially the boy, would know what to expect. I did, 1, 2, 3 (and always shoot just right before I say 3), and the boy anticipated and did a little shake and pose at "3"! Thank god that was a dry run, otherwise, another $5 down the drain :-) So I explained to him please not to do that. I actually took 3 pics of this set up and the last one really nails his expression.

http://richardmanphoto.com/PICS/20141005-Scanned-518.jpg

Randy Moe
23-Oct-2014, 17:25
The boy is the star!

Well done!

DrTang
23-Oct-2014, 17:35
Not to drift too far from the original question, but if the hat was sharp after you focused on the eyes, the subject probably "drifted" while you were having all that fun with the filmholder. There is lore to the effect that a soft-focus lens "has all of its depth of field on the far side of the focus point". This may or may not be true, but I have yet to see sharp ears when I expected sharp eyes unless the subject had moved. And in those cases, anything closer to the lens than the eyes was really out of focus.

doesn't this and all the other paper thin DOF replies assume the photographer wants to do that 'look' ?

stop down a couple from wide open and get yourself some DOF - then your sitters can breathe

I'm pretty certain that look was not a choice for early photographers as much as a necessity due to the painfully slow speed of the 'film' at the time
I bet if they could have shot at F8 / 125th - they would have and we would not be shooting wide open today

richardman
23-Oct-2014, 17:55
It's funny, generally speaking:

Non-Photorgapher viewers want:
Digitally sharp photos
HDR
None of that fuzzy-sh*t

Photographers do:
Film noise
Hate HDR
Razor thin DoF, "because", and of course
Bokeh

Randy Moe
23-Oct-2014, 17:58
doesn't this and all the other paper thin DOF replies assume the photographer wants to do that 'look' ?

stop down a couple from wide open and get yourself some DOF - then your sitters can breathe

I'm pretty certain that look was not a choice for early photographers as much as a necessity due to the painfully slow speed of the 'film' at the time
I bet if they could have shot at F8 / 125th - they would have and we would not be shooting wide open today

Are you reading my mind?

Since my loft is DR, studio and computer lab, as I read this stuff I try it out.

Setting up long and sharp right now. Plastica is waiting until I cook dinner.

625 mm Cooke series IV looking at 5/8 view human manikin, looking very sharp. Lens to target 8 feet.

Still wavering on fstop, I haven't metered yet.

Drew Bedo
26-Oct-2014, 17:27
I do only "fine Art" imaging and use both a Zone VI (4x5) and a Kodak 2D (8x10), but a good friend has been a commercial and wedding photographer for 35 years. He has used 35mm and medium format gear without brand loyalty (Mamya, Hasselblasd, Nikon, etc) depending on the job at hand and the capability of the available gear. In the 1990s he switched completly to digital ; shooting everything with 5MP equipment. Now he has something from Nikon with a larger sensor. In the following years about every other working pro switched too . . .or they retired. There must be a reason why the guys who make a living with a camera did that. Someone on this board will explain exactly I am sure.

I love film and my LF cameras. But I don't pay the bills that way. I am not convinced that LF/Film is an economically viable business model for the working professional photographer today.

I could easily be wrong and welcome any remarks to the contrary.

jonbrisbincreative
28-Oct-2014, 17:50
I do only "fine Art" imaging and use both a Zone VI (4x5) and a Kodak 2D (8x10), but a good friend has been a commercial and wedding photographer for 35 years. He has used 35mm and medium format gear without brand loyalty (Mamya, Hasselblasd, Nikon, etc) depending on the job at hand and the capability of the available gear. In the 1990s he switched completly to digital ; shooting everything with 5MP equipment. Now he has something from Nikon with a larger sensor. In the following years about every other working pro switched too . . .or they retired. There must be a reason why the guys who make a living with a camera did that. Someone on this board will explain exactly I am sure.

I love film and my LF cameras. But I don't pay the bills that way. I am not convinced that LF/Film is an economically viable business model for the working professional photographer today.

I could easily be wrong and welcome any remarks to the contrary.

I can't speak for others but my plan from the beginning was not to use LF as a primary means of income but to differentiate myself from others in Fine Art Portraiture. I have almost no desire to do Photography full-time as my only means of income. I use micro 4/3 digital to subsidize any work in film.

jonbrisbincreative
28-Oct-2014, 17:54
@OP

Why 4x5 and not the larger 8x10(or 5x7?) - I have been trying out 4x5, but the larger contract print of 8x10 is inviting -every-time I size down a 8x10 film to 4x5.


(I'm assuming, that if you're going the analogue way, you'll want analogue/darkroom prints too)

I want the portability and economy of the 4x5 camera without the added weight/bulk/expense of 8x10. I plan on scanning all negatives, though, and have no plans at all for doing optical prints.