Setting Up and Using The Camera


Introduction to Large Format Photography


Lesson Info

Setting Up and Using The Camera

Okay, so we've taken a look at all of the camera gear. We've talked about the cameras, the camera options. But how do we actually use all this stuff? How do we actually go about taking the photograph? So that's what we're gonna take a look at next. And we're gonna take kind of a dry run and break it down step by step and then we'll actually see how it gets implemented into the field. The shooting process with a large format camera is, let's just say, it's got a lot of steps. So it's not as easy as I'm just gonna pickup the camera, push the button, everything's ready to go. What I tried to do is break this down into some pretty easy steps for you to follow and as long as you're methodical, as long as you do them kind of roughly in the same way and in the same order, I think you'll find you're just gonna be really successful right out of the gate using a large format camera. One of the first things we need to do is we need to pick a point of view. We need what we're actually gonna photog...

raph. And that is basically where the tripod legs are gonna hit. So as I'm walking around and I'm trying to figure out what I want to photograph, I'm gonna put the tripod legs down. Now, for speed, I've already mounted the camera. Normally, the camera wouldn't be mounted at this point. I'd have to mount the camera separate. But I want to put those tripod legs down. The interesting thing about photographers and tripod legs is once they put them down, they act as if they're now put into the concrete. They're not. I could pick the tripod up and move it again. So I always kind of get the tripod down. And then I'm gonna kind of take a look to see approximately do I have the right position for the tripod, knowing that I can always move it. Because that point of view is really the basic beginning of telling the story I want to tell. One the tripod's in place, I'm gonna mount the camera onto the tripod. And then I'm gonna open the camera up and get the camera set up so that I can basically start the process of getting ready to shoot the camera. Grab this camera. We'll move this guy over here so he has a good view of at least what's happening. Okay. So we're gonna open the camera up, and then once the camera's kind of in its base position, I'm gonna attach the lens board. And then there's usually a little lever that's gonna push down and that's gonna go on ahead and attach the lens so it doesn't fall out. And I usually take the shutter's coil or the cable release that's really long and I kind of just tuck it out of the way. The lens is the really second big decision. Once I've got the camera set up and the tripod set up, that lens determines my angle of view. So how much of that am I gonna include in the scene? Most of us when we're starting out, we have one lens to pick from. That's the angle of view. But with multiple lenses, what you kind of want to start to figure out is how much of my angle of view do I see? How much of that is possible? And then make the decision of do I kind of want a tighter, narrower angle of view, or a wider angle of view? I'm gonna be able to manipulate some things within the angle of view how they're positioned, but for the most part I've got to make that decision up front about the angle of view. The next thing I'm gonna do is, that lens has a certain infinity focal distance. What that means is from the film plane where it's racked out to where an object is in focus at infinity. And that's the base position for the camera, the neutral position. You always want to start off at the neutral position. If the camera is all cattywampus with a bunch of different movements and things aren't in focus, it's really difficult to actually get in there and get things set. So in this case, what you're gonna do is you would get under your dark cloth and you're gonna rack in about the distance to where you're in an infinity focus. This is just an approximation. It just gets you in the ballpark. As you're looking at the ground glass back here, it's gonna show you that oh, things are in focus, and I can kind of see through the lens. Things are pretty close. That's the only spot you need to get to, initially. That's your basic starting spot. After that, we're gonna start considering all the sub-elements, the sub-details of working with a large format camera from a movement standpoint. So when we talk about cameras and movements, the key thing here to remember, that front standard, that piece in the front that the lens is attached to, that's job, the primary job of this front standard is to control focus. Its job is to make sure that as much or as little of the image is coming into focus as we want. The back standard controls the perspective. So how do things converge? How do things diverge? How do horizontal lines move? How do they shift? That's all controlled by the back standard. Now one of the things that happens when people first get started with large format cameras is they come in, they get them set up, and they just start moving stuff. And they'll notice, oh I can move the back standard. It also manipulates the focus. If you're not concerned about controlling perspective, you absolutely could use the back standard to help control focus. But if you're at all controlling perspective, you want to put all of that weight on the front standard as much as possible so that you can use the tilted shifts in the back to deal with those horizontal and vertical converging lines. As each one of these little pieces change, something's gonna change on the ground glass. So you're basically forever working on the ground glass under your hood. If Jana gives me my dark cloth, one of the things that you need to do is, we talk about a 35 millimeter land or in digital land, getting familiar with your camera controls. And people talk about oh, I sit there in front of the TV or whatever and I learn where all the buttons are. Where's the exposure compensation? Where is the aperture change? Which dial does what? What is this button? You kind of need to do that same thing with a large format camera. Because how you're gonna actually do the work is you're gonna be under your dark cloth. So I'm gonna disappear for one second. I'm gonna sort of disappear. I'm under my dark cloth, and then I'm gonna have to make all of my adjustments out here, but I'm not gonna be able to see them, so it's by touch only am I able to figure out what's actually being adjusted out here on the camera. So I really need to learn like oh, these knobs. Okay when those are twisted, that's gonna allow me to tilt. These are gonna adjust the rise and fall. This is how I'm gonna do my swing. I have to get familiar with all of that because when I'm under the dark cloth, if not, I'm doing this. And then I'm back under here. It's extremely difficult to actually get everything in focus the way you want without having the control of those.

Class Description

Explore a new (or rather historic) way of approaching your photography. When you learn to utilize a large format camera like a 4 x 5 you’re forced to slow down, observe and shoot sparingly. Artist and educator Daniel Gregory, will start with the basics like what exactly is a large format camera and why you should use one. He’ll demonstrate the art of using this workflow and give a guide that sets up up for success in the field.

You’ll learn:

  • How to setup and care for the camera
  • Camera movements
  • Metering and exposure techniques
  • How to pick the best shot when in the field
  • How to add studio light to a portrait
  • Color correction techniques using film and gels

Some of the most legendary photographs were shot using large format cameras. In this course, you’ll learn the art and technique that went into capturing those memorable photos so you can start to craft and create imagery on your own.



Daniel is an excellent teacher. His approach of teaching common mistakes and then explaining the proper way to do something is very helpful. The entire film series is excellent. I can't say I have a favorite over any of the others classes in the series. Each class covers great information. I learned photography back when digital didn't exist. Even after shooting film for so many years, I still learned some great tidbits from these classes. I highly recommend this series for anyone considering learning film or getting back into film.