Author Options:

Large format cameras Answered

I am thinking about getting into large format photography & I was hoping that I could get some questions answered by other photgraphers on here. 

1: How many of us out here use large format cameras?

2: What is the type of technique that causes the pictures to appear w/ a yellow or brown appearance to it that is used in vintage photo sessions?

3: Can I get some tips on developing w/ an enlarger it has been about 10 years since I've used one so I don't remember anything about that.

Any help w/ this would be greatly appreciated, thank you ahead of time.


The vintage process you asked about is called "Sepia Tones". It's something I've done quite a bit of with Photoshop, but the process can be done with just a camera, using a "sepia filter" lens, or through some chemical processes in the darkroom.

I hope that helps. I'm still learning a lot about photography... (beyond the point and shoot methods).

I didn't know that there were filters & lenses for doing it, but my wife did find out earlier today about the chemicals that make the sepia appearance in the dark room. Thank you for the help though. I will look for those other items as well.

There are numerous filters you can get for a variety of special effects and for color variations. I suppose whats available depends on the camera and what lenses fit.


6 years ago

For whatever reason, I can't reply to specific comments here, so I'll copy the response I received and go from there...

I just couldn't remember how to do the enlarging 'cause it has been a long time since I had done it in such a long time. The basic thing that I'm looking for some basic how to's to refresh my memory is all.

One of the nice things about B&W printing is that it's really difficult to screw it up. Just buy the chemistry and go for it!

But I'll add some random thoughts from the old days:

-- A few nice things to have (but you don't need): paper safe, enlarger focusing aid (scope), and good darkroom timer.

-- Make some "dodging wands" from wire hangers and electrician's tape. My old teacher use thin welding rods because they were always "shaky" by design.

-- I never used "stop bath" in printing, (just water) although it can extend the life of your fix.

-- Focus the enlarger with the lens aperture wide open, then stop it down around halfway (F8 or so) to make the print. A lens is generally sharpest in the mid aperture range (yes, stopping down all the way will give you the max depth-of-field, but that's not the same thing as "sharpness"). A dense or a thin negative might require a different approach.

-- Go with the "test strip" thing to start with (another reason to have a good darkroom timer). Once you do a lot of enlarging, you can begin to ballpark the printing exposure by eye.

-- It used to be standard practice to use Kodak "Rapid Fix" for both film and paper--just dilute the fix 1:1 with paper (and discard after use). But some people prefer a "non hardening fix." A fix that works fast and hardens the negative isn't so essential with large format as it is with 35mm.

-- When I setup my home darkroom, I went down to the local pharmacy and asked if they had any large brown-glass bottles destined for the trash. They gave twelve 1-gallon brown-glass jugs for free!

Because of all the paranoia today about "home chemists," meth labs, etc., I doubt that could happen now.

-- I used Dektol for a paper developer. If memory serves, it's 1:1 dilution for papers.

Fun fact--if you dilute Dektol like 1:7, you can use it to develop lithographic films (like Kodalith), as continuous-tone negatives! That's one easy way to make a large negative--you can even start with a positive (a color slide) and go directly to a negative in one step. Kodalith isn't panchromatic of course, so the negatives will have "wrong" luminance with reds in the slides...but the first large format films weren't panchromatic either.

One more thing (and funny--I can reply to my own msg ;-) --

It's easy to "tray develop" sheet film--I never used a big tank for sheet film. Just shuffle the sheets like cards during the process.

Take care with it though--the corners of the film are sharp enough to scratch the emulsion when the film is wet.

Apparently our original comments were 'featured', and when they are, they automatically stay at the top of the page (but they also become impossible to reply to)...

Right, I've seen that a couple of times before...although it seemed to apply  to almost all the comments (??).

But it's all better now...

I see that now. Either one of the staff members I asked, or the OP must have removed the features. ;-)


6 years ago

-- I don't use large format anymore, but at one time did a fair amount of 4x5 work. I sold the camera to buy medium format gear, since that was more practical. Somewhere I still have an old Ansco 8x10 camera, but it's packed away.

-- Sepia tone is indeed one process. I assume (hope) that companies like Kodak still set the toner chemistry.

But there are dozens of "traditional" chemical toning processes. Pick up a copy of "Photographic Facts and Formulas" (Wall, Carroll)--it's been continually updated since 1924. If you're serious about it, you can mix your own (although it might be harder to buy the chemicals today than when I was in college).

There are loads of "non silver" printing processes, too. Many of those are exclusively for contact printing, though. So unless you have a 5x7 or larger camera, you'd have to enlarge your negative (which isn't as difficult as it sounds).

But that sort of defeats the reason of using a large format, yes? If you enlarge the neg, you can do that for any format...

-- If you're using a format larger than 4x5, it's not easy to find an enlarger big enough. I still have an Omega D2 enlarger in my basement, though it's been about 10 yrs since it's been fired up. I'm pretty sure that condenser enlargers for negs bigger than 4x5 are rare (it would require huge chunks of glass for 8x10), so you'd be limited to diffusion enlargers. But an 8x10 neg makes a decently large contact print, after all, so an enlarger might not be necessary.

But I'd imagine if there are any large format enlargers left out there (there must be) they'd be very inexpensive to purchase...

Any specific questions about enlarging? It's a broad topic.

I just couldn't remember how to do the enlarging 'cause it has been a long time since I had done it in such a long time. The basic thing that I'm looking for some basic how to's to refresh my memory is all.