Large format photography is among the oldest types of photography. Indeed, early in the days of photography, it was perfectly normal to make large format images from negatives we now consider to be large format. Large format photography consists of photography from negatives equal to or larger than 4 inches by 5 inches (4×5 inches or 102×127 mm) in size. Once was quite common, but as photographic technology advanced, smaller, more compact cameras became the norm even for professionals. Still, this type of photography is still practiced to this day, and remains quite useful, even with digital photography and enlarger technologies that have since become common place in the past two decades.
Most, if not all, of these cameras are view cameras, known as “standards”, intended to give the photographer an apparent depth to their two dimensional image and better manipulate how the camera portrays the perspective of their image. Close up photographers, as well as architectural and landscape photographers, have found these capacities quite useful. Subjects that are up close or far away both benefit from the ability of the camera to be tilted out of parallel in various directions. This is based on a principle of photography known as Scheimpflug principle. The shifting and tilting of the camera is essential for solving problems known as depth of field problems, as well as changing the perspective of the field and the addition of certain special effects. Fixed plane, fixed lens cameras can not accomplish these feats.
The use of these cameras is slower and requires more thought than other types of photography. Loading the film requires a dark space be used, oftentimes being a black sheet known as a changing bag (seen popularly in films displaying old time cameras where the photographer is covered by a black sheet attached to the camera) or inside of darkrooms. Given the typical weight of these cameras, tripods are also often used, though some models can be used in the hands of photographers.
Large format photography is also quite possible with digital cameras, with certain modifications to the camera’s systems and programming. The functions behind large format digital photography are somewhat different than typical medium format photography, but uses much the same style as a film camera using a similar format. The resolution of these cameras, be they film or digital, is among the highest available with modern technology, making them popular for a number of applications.