Is LF just for pros? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I intend to try my hand at LF photography. I've read Steve Simmons' book and I'm now considering buying a used field camera.

Originally, I planned to build a Bender from kit, but I get the impression a view camera would be more suitable for landscape photography, plus other committments prevent me from spending the necessary time required to do a kit justice.

One of the thoughts that came to mind, while reading Steve's excellent book, was I wonder how many LF photographers do it just for fun, rather than as a living. Are you a pro, or an amateur?

Also, I'd be interested in learning the whereabouts of any dealers, in the UK, who sell used LF equipment. Are there any that you can recommend?


-- Ron Hughes (, November 30, 1998


I think it was Imogene Cunningham who said something to the effect...MASSIVE PARAPHRASE HERE I consider myself an amatuer. But then remember that amatuer is French for lover. END MASSIVE PARAPHRASE. She also said, when asked what her favorite picture was, "The one I'm going to take tomorrow." Frederick Evans was an amatuer, I believe he owned a book store, until he retired to pursue photography full time.

Ideally you should be able to do both, shoot large format for fun and profit. It just seems like the profit part gets in the way of the fun sometimes. Although profit can be fun too, let's you buy the new lens or go on another celebrity workshop. For myself, I have tried to make it a paying vocation as well as a fulfilling avocation. I have concluded that I have not the personality for the former. I'm a professional amatuer.

-- Sean yates (, November 30, 1998.

I suspect that most LF photography is done for professional reasons.

I also suspect that most of the readers of this forum who do LF photography are amateurs. This includes me.

I do it for fun. My favorite subjects are portraits, but I occasionally dabble in still life or landscape. I don't even make giant enlargements - 11x14 with a little cropping from the neg is the largest I've ever printed. I enjoy the way prints - even smaller prints - from well made LF negs look, and I enjoy the pace of working with the big primitive camera.

-- mike rosenlof (, November 30, 1998.

Teamwork in London ( is good for 2nd- hand LF.

I agree this is probably an amateur forum: we do it for love, not money.

-- Alan Gibson (, November 30, 1998.

I am a professional, but outside of architectural work and occaisional still life work, I mostly use the big cameras because I like the way the images look. So consider me a professional amateur.

LF probably scares a lot of photography lovers because of the seeming complexity and expense of the gear, but a nice set up, say a Canham DLC, 90mm, 180mm, and a 300mm lenses, backs, polaroid, spot or incident meter, darkcloth, loupe, decent tripod & head cost less and weight little more than a similar Hassleblad or Mamiya outfit. and it takes some patience to learn. I find the process of making LF photos almost meditative as it makes me really examine what I am doing, both before setting up and as I view that backwards upside down image. It really makes me a more conscious (awakened to the world) photographer.

-- Ellis (, November 30, 1998.


All the UK large format dealers advertise in the following mags:-

Professional Photographer British Journal of Photography (The BJP) weekly Amateur Photographer

I've dealt with most of them including

Bob Rigby Photographic (Macclesfield, Cheshire) Arca-Swiss distributors Mr CAD, Croydon, Surrey (koads of S/H equipment) KP, Cambridge (limited S/H selection) Robert White, Poole, Dorset - fairly goods selection, can supply most makes brand new Teamwork, London (as above) Linhof & Studio, London - the name says it The Studio Workshop, London & Manchester - Sinar distributor Dales Photographic - Leeds Warner's - Wolverhampton

Apologies to those I've missed.

I've had some poor service with a few of the above dealers - I could eMAIL you off-line if you want more info.

Let me know if you need telephone numbers or web site addresses.

As Ellis says, large format is much more relaxing than 35mm. I can remember every LF picture I've taken - the weather, smells and conversations with curious passers-by. I don't enjoy 35mm photography any more, although there are obviously situations and subjects for which LF is a non-starter. I look upon it as a hobby, and if I get good enough in the future to sell any work, that'll be a bonus.

-- David Nash (, November 30, 1998.

Photography for me is strictly for fun, I have never received a dime for my work and don't care. My foray into LF photography evolved from my 35mm work which started with my interest in railroads. Documenting rolling stock and railroad structures with my Nikon left me disappointed with the photos I could create of bridges, depots and other structures. The 4x5 view camera seemed like the answer. It sometimes does feel like I'm in the wrong place, though. My wife drops her film at the mini-quick lab. I have to drive across town to the pro lab and wait in line behind the pros talking about the next assignment and have them ask me how I set rates on a job. As an amateur you do feel out of place in the LF world.

-- Dave Schneider (, November 30, 1998.

If you are crazy enough to carry it you should be shooting with it. :)

-- al (, November 30, 1998.

regardless to whether you do dis for love or money, if you like L.F. photography you have a certain need for perfection and after all why should you do it the simple way when you can do it the difficult way? It is heavy and clumsy but who cares? It is not particularly expensive but you can make it cheap or expensive as you please. I do it both for fun and money and that's the only real difference in being a photographer as opposed to working in some office or other. If you can have fun with your work and at the same time make a little or a lot of money, why not? However it professional photographers don't necessarily take better pictures than amateurs. Like in everything else you have good ones and bad ones. Do it and enjoy it, it is the only way! Have lots of fun for years to come! Andrea Milano

-- andrea milano (, December 01, 1998.

Large format photography is a very enjoyable past time just as any type of hobby. And yes there are a lot of pros who use this format. LF can be intimidating and expensive. But it can be a whole lotta fun also. And it can be relatively inexpensive too. Graphics and Pressmens can be had for a few hundred dollars including a lens. Do you need a bunch of lenses? Not neccasarely. A 135mm or 150mm lens is all you really need to make fine pictures. Depends on what you want. I own two 4x5 systems. One for backpacking and one for traveling. Backpacking is an old Graphic and 2 small lenses. Travelling is done with an expensive view and 3 expensive lenses. I get equally good prints from both systems. Why 2 systems? Flexibility. More movements. Snobbishness. I think that amateurs get more enjoyment from their LF than pros. Pros work with the stuff and we amateurs work with it because we like it. Once your bitten you can't get enough. And you can use LF for street photography. Most prees used Speeds and Crowns untill the early 50's. For those who read this forum and wonder what it would be like to shoot LF, God help you.

-- james (, December 04, 1998.

As far as I am concerned, large format photography is for anyone who wants to "make" photographs, as opposed to "taking" them. A large format camera is about as simple, basic and "classic" an instrument ar you are going to find. You open up the lens and look at your image -- all of it -- big enough to see clearly and compose precisely.

You work with that image until it is exactly the way you want it. At that point, loading a film holder and exposing a sheet of film becomes a convenient way to take that image that you felt and interacted with home with you so you can enjoy that feeling again, and share it with others.

To me it offers the "cleanest" way of making photographs. I don't like some chip designer's interpretation of light and shade to get between my ideas and my vision, and the means to reproduce what I saw and felt that prompted me to stop and make the photograph in the first place.

A Navy Chief Photographers Mate in the photo lab where I was stationed said something that has always stuck in my mind. "If you get paid for it, then you are a professional." Kind of makes you think about it a bit differently.

Do it because you love it. Someone above pointed out that that is what an amateur is. If you can make some money that's great. It lets do more of what you love. But by all means do it.

-- Tony Brent (, December 12, 1998.

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