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Thread: Large Format Portraits

  1. #1

    Large Format Portraits

    I am doing large format portraiture and I realize my pictures aren't very good. I know what large format is good for. However my posed environmental pictures of people are 4x5 snapshots. I know most of the LF portrait history. I just ne ed your thoughts on how you improved your work(formally and conceptually). I wo rk at it enough but I just need opinions.

  2. #2
    Kevin Kolosky
    Join Date
    Jun 1999

    Large Format Portraits

    it would be very helpful to see what you have done in order to provide opinions on it. who knows, maybe your opinion of your own work might be wrong!!!! Kevin

  3. #3

    Large Format Portraits

    I've been doing the same thing for a little over a year now with some good results. My idea was to start by emulating, in some sort of acceptably contemporary terms, the best of the portrait work of the great era of large format portrait photography, i.e., from 1850s (to include Nadar) through the 1920s (to include Stieglitz series of O'Keefe). So, first of all, I got an Imagon lens (as noted in a recent thread, the Kodak Portrait and the Wollensak Verito are also excellent choices -- I have a lot of info on the old portrait lenses if you want me to send it separately). I stay with straightforward sitting (see Nadar). Usually, and in accordance with a suggestion of Ansel Adams (of all people), I urge the sitter in one way or another simply to compose -- relax -- their faces to the greatest degree possible (close your eyes; relax your jaw; now relax your mouth; now relax your brow; etc.; now open your eyes...). I have them look at the lens. I sit people in my little "studio" w/ plain backgrounds (from jet black to bright white) and try to keep the lighting simple. There are a million other things, but maybe this will give you an idea of what one other newcomer has been doing. As I say, I've gotten some good results -- also a lot of junk, the usual culprit being botched lighting.... -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)

  4. #4
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    Large Format Portraits

    hi david - i really can't comment on your work since i haven't seen it ... but i can give you a few suggestions ... like jeff b. i too try to study and learn from portraits from the 1850s - 1920s. scour "junk stores" and other places for portrait photographs and eventually you will get a collection that you can refer to and use as "studies". it is really pretty helpful, and you can pick up some images for about $1 each. good luck! john
    enjoy your coffee

  5. #5

    Large Format Portraits

    Dear David

    Sinar has a series of four books under Creative Large Format and their People Photography book might be of help. Regardless of which camera you use to shoot the images, this gives some tips and examples that are most interesting.

    I, too, am trying to make all of my photos look to be more than merely snapshots. One of the things I am trying is to have the face in focus and through tilts and swings and depth of field, have other portions of the photo in lesser focus. Also, I find that sometimes going to a Polaroid transfer gives me the 'artistic' view I seek.

    Good shooting and best of luck


    John Bailey

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 1998

    Large Format Portraits

    Look at Arnold Newmans's body of work. If possible take aworkshop from him. I think he is doing a weekend workshop with the Palm beach Workshops in Florida sometime this coming spring.

  7. #7

    Large Format Portraits

    I do LF (4x5) portraiture on occasion. I've been exceedingly happy with the results, both technicaly and artistically. LF and people just seem to be a match made in heaven, at least to me.

    Because of nature of the view camera, I set up to include more scene than I need, and plan on cropping while printing. I prefocus & lock down based on a fixed location for the person. Stop down reasonably so depth of field handles any minor subject movement. When shooting, I just concentrate on seeing with my eyes and don't try to do any touch up on the ground glass, since that takes too much time.

    For indoor shots, a little extended development helps (N+1), while outdoors in soft light, Normal development seems the best.

    You say your pictures aren't very good--in what ways are you unhappy with the results?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Large Format Portraits

    Lighting and posing for portraits are elaborate, distinct, and complicated skills within the craft of photography. I have attended long workshops on lighting and posing where the photographic process is rarely mentioned. Outdoor portraits that don't look like anyone's snaps are especially difficult because you have less control of the lighting than in the studio. Lighting and posing techniques are best learned from skilled instructors who will show you how they blend with one another to make a portrait with impact. The Professional Photographers of America used to offer regular workshops in portraiture around the county and I believe Shutterbug has monthly listings for workshops. Monte Zucker, a regular writer for Shutterbug, is about as good as they come if he still gives instruction.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 2000

    Large Format Portraits

    Hi David, are you doing B&W or color? And are you using studio or natural lighting? By snapshot, do you mean hand held? Best, David

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Redondo Beach

    Large Format Portraits

    The best thing about you is that you're trying and you obviously care about the thing you are doing, regardless of how things now are turning out. I don't know if my suggestions are an option for you timewise but here are a few thoughts.

    If you've hit a 'brick wall', one option might be for you to distance yourself some from what're doing. Put the cameras down for awhile, recharge your batteries, go to the park, the beach, watch some kids play, look at life with having to 'come up with the shot'. Take some time off, which sometimes works when nothing else does.

    You seem to have the capacity to be brutally honest about your work which is a strength, but why not just put those pictures away for a while, and take some time to clear your head.

    Take in some workshops, read some Artbooks, watch some movies, take 'em all in and then take a while off to let it all 'soak in'.

    Somethings not working with you going down the road you're going, it's time for you to take some time to rethink some things and then decide whether you want to continue down this road, or take another one.

    The day might come along when you'll be plodding along shooting whatever you're shooting and a light will go on in your head and you'll have an awakening and your work will show it.
    Jonathan Brewer

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