Last summer I took The Large Format Portrait class taught by Joshua Lutz at International Center of Photography in New York. The course is offered every year and serves as a perfect bootcamp-style introduction to everything one wishes to know about large-format view cameras from loading film holders in the complete darkness to shooting weekly assignments with 4×5 cameras provided by the school. Shooting with a large-format camera is fun but also challenging.
NINJA-TURTLE STYLE ALL THE WAY
Large-format camera is large not only in its name, it is actually quite big. Committing to a large-format camera means committing to a backpack and a tripod.
TONS OF PATIENCE
While the instructors teaching the class change and each might have slightly different requirements, the intensity of the course stays the same. Students are expected to produce several portraits per day. The turnaround time of analogue photography is much longer. In addition, the process of setting the camera can take up to several hours in the beginning. It took me six hours to take my very firs large-format photograph. This means you would need a very patient model. I was lucky to have my mother, who is an ardent reader, visiting me for the summer.
DEALING WITH THE ADDICTION
The major challenge yet came when the class was over. I realized my addiction to the process and decided to continue practicing large-format photography. Finding a good large-format camera is not that difficult, there are plenty of great brands to choose from. Finding a camera that will not break your bank is a different story. It is a good idea to exchange your contact information with the instructor and other students. Within a week after the class was over our instructor helped me to get this beautiful Zone VI.
More information and samples of large-format portraits produced by ICP students can be found on the blog of Richard Renaldi , who often teaches the course.
The highlight of my personal large-format experience is this self-portrait I took last year in Moscow.