available light outdoors

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I'm a year into LF now and enyoing it a lot. All the tips and tricks posted by this forum members were an enormous help. A friend visited me this weekend and when he saw something of my B&W stuff, he asked me if I could take some pictures of him and his girlfriend. NO studiowork but outdoor with available light. In color. Thats my problem! I have no experience with color but I like to try it. I,m not going to process the film myself but take it to a profi-lab. I,m only having a starters outfit that is; cambo sc-2;210 mm lens;My questions are: what film to use; can my 210 mm do the job;what other things do I need. all tips and advises are welcome.

-- koning (peter.koning@ncmgroup.com), May 06, 2002


Why use the LF for portraits ? It's somewhat overkill, expensive, and not required unless your friends require huge enlargements.

Do you and your friends a favour and use 35mm with Portra NC 160 or 400 in the shade, or in brighter light with a little fill flash. For the price of five developed sheets you could easily shoot a full roll of Portra, and have room for more poses and misses.

Don't want to discourage you, but sheet film and experimentation can become tiresome and expensive - and 35mm can do the job quite well.

-- Michael Mahoney (mike.mahoney@nf.sympatico.ca), May 06, 2002.

Sure, the 210 will do fine for full lengths, 3/4 but would be for a head and shoulders a 240-360 would give better compression. The 210 is a "slight" tele for 4x5 so it will look good. As far as color, Shoot some of the 400 Portra. It has a great tonal range, grain is small and tight and it will give a good usable shutter speed. Take the care shooting the color as you would your B/W and you will be fine. What I would do... have the couple posing with their back to the sun so you get a rim light around their heads and match the exposure by using a strobe to fill in the face nicely. Works great!

-- Scott Walton (walton@ll.mit.edu), May 06, 2002.

Portra 400 in 4x5 sounds like a reasonable choice. I've never tried it. I think it's too grainy for 35mm use, however (unless you like that sort of thing). I shot several rolls of it (mostly snapshots) and was glad when it was gone...

-- Noshir Patel (nosh@blackpiano.com), May 06, 2002.


If you are going to use the view camera, you might as well use it for its benefits, otherwise it really would just be overkill:

Use a short depth of field. Shoot at 5.6 or whatever your lens is wide open. Put one subject in front of the other or slightly closer than the other if they're side by side, and use tilt or swing to bring the eyes of both in to perfectly sharp focus. Play with the hyperfocal distance so that ONLY their eyes are in focus.

Two great ideals of large format portraiture are Richard Avedon and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Avedon stops down and has the whole subject in very tight, sharp, startling focus. He also usually does whole body pictures. Greenfield-Sanders uses an 11x14 and an extremely short depth of field, and gets eyes in sharp, breathtaking focus. He does 3/4 pictures, mostly. I am sure you can see the work of both on the web.

Large format portraiture is great. Just think of what the camera has to offer that 35mm can't.


-- David G Hall (me@davidghall.com), May 06, 2002.

I use 400NC and a 210 for available light portraits with a 4x5, and like the combination. About the 35mm option...people seem to enjoy working with a view camera. The experience is different, a little like having your portrait painted, an experience they can share with you. You don't have to be behind the camera when you're actually photographing them. It is really a very different experience than having yourself snapped with a 35, althought that certainly has its place. With the large negative, you can easily crop (heresy, I know) a good headshot out of a larger view and still have a comfortable working distance and reasonable perspective with the 210. You can shoot type 52 polaroids (I rate those and the 400NC both at 320) and collaborate with the people to create a portrait together. I also like the backlight with fill very much, but find that it's also easy to do with reflectors. You need either a stand to hold it, or chair or something, or somebody to help to light 'em up, but no question about exactly what the light is going to look like, and you can just meter it with an incident meter. Just a few thoughts...

-- John Sarsgard (sarsgard@yahoo.com), May 06, 2002.

Using your 210 for a couples portrait would be just fine. I'd use a 400 speed film and NOT shoot wide open. I'd be concerned that the subjects will move a bit between the focusing and the actual shooting so I'd want as much depth of field as possible.

I'd also - without doubt! - use fill flash. Outside portraiture without fill flash or a reflector fill will give your subject's raccoon eyes and it doesn't matter if you are using 4x5 or 35 mm. It's very simple to use fill flash with an automatic flash. Just do an ambient meter reading and let's say it's 1/60 @ f11. Set your lens to that setting and select f11 on your flash. If your flash needs to be set at f8 then the lens is now set at 1/125 @ f8.

It occured to me awhile back that I could give my clients a much better product if I was to shoot their hundred person group shot with my 4x5, but it turned out that each print would have cost me a fortune. Prints (at least around here) from 4x5 negs are custom made - even 8x10's - so I couldn't get them a volume discount like I could with 35 mm or medium format. Perhaps this isn't true in your neck of the woods, but you should know this going in. Luckily for me I found this out BEFORE I shot the assignment.

-- David Grandy (dgrandy@grandyphoto.com), May 09, 2002.

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