Tim Layton Fine Art | Getting Started with large format photography using black-and-white film

Learn Large Format Black and White Photography from Scratch

Tim Sr. with his 8x10 Large Format View CameraTim Sr. with his 8x10 Large Format View CameraSubscribe to my free Darkroom Newsletter and never miss another article or update.

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Learn Large Format Black and White Photography from Scratch video-based course is currently under development at this time.  However, I am publishing the course outline so that you can provide feedback and suggestions.  I created this course to be a complete hands-on guide to learning large format black and white film photography from the ground up.  
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for frequent updates and to my Large Format Newsletter to get notified when the course is ready. 
The final video-based course will be available for less than $100 US dollars you will lifetime access to the current and all future versions. 
Large format is my passion and I will continue to add to and update the course over time.  The course will be hosted in a community type format so that we can all interact with one another.  
I am transparent about the development of the course so photographers can review and comment as I am finalizing the details.  Check back often for updates and be sure to email me your comments and suggestions for any areas that you would like included.  You can also subscribe to my large format newsletter for current details. 

You can also review other courses I am developing on my In-Focus University page. 



09/29/15 - Updates on Course

Course Description

Get ready to dive into the world of large format black and white photography. If you have always wanted to learn large
format at your own pace, then get ready to step into my darkroom with me and I will unravel the mysteries of large format
for you. My goal is to make you feel like we are working side by side together. You can watch the lessons as many times
and as often as you would like.
This course includes (tbd) video lectures spanning over (tbd) hours. *tbd (to be determined)
The course is structured in a linear format and each section builds on the previous.
Learn and Master the Important Concepts in this Comprehensive Course
  • Realize your dreams of being a large format photographer
  • Discover why film is making a huge comeback with top photographers
  • Master the foundations of photography that stand the test of time
  • Learn how to rate, expose and develop your own film and prints in the darkroom
  • Learn and apply the power of large format movements to create world-class images
  • Master Large Format Photography and You Unlock Your Full Creative Potential
The greats before us, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, and many others created world-class images with very
basic large format gear. These iconic images continue to impress us to this day. Every time I visit my local art museum and
view the fine prints of these masters, I am humbled and realize how much potential I have within myself. It is that feeling
that I want you to walk away with from this course.
Downloadable Content: All content with this course is completely downloadable. That way you can take it with you when you are on the road or away from an Internet connection.  Please note that all content included in this course are the sole copyright of Tim Layton Sr. and Tim Layton & Associates, LLC and protected under federal law.  Please enjoy all of the content for your personal use and respect the copyright laws.

What are the requirements?

You should understand the basic concepts of aperture, shutter and film ISO.  Experience with other film formats such as 35mm or 120 medium format would be very helpful, but not mandatory.  If you have a passion and desire to learn how to create beautiful photographs using large format gear, you are in the right place.
What am I going to get from this course?
  • (tbd) lectures and (tbd) hours of course content
  • Create compelling images using the unique advantages of large format photography.
  • Create black and white fine art prints in the darkroom.
  • Understand the most import large format theory and concepts to ensure your long-term success.
  • Setup a large format camera and prepare it for use in the field or studio.
  • Control the focal plane for still life photos in your studio and express your creative vision without limitation.
  • Know how to alter focal perspective and use that to your advantage.
  • Establish your personal exposure index (EI) for your black and white film.
  • Control the development of your black and white negatives for (N) normal, expanded (N+) and contracted (N-) scenes.
  • Use a spot meter for properly establishing exposure in any lighting situation.
  • Use a large format standard lens to create closeup images.
  • Identify and select the proper lens for a large format camera.
  • Perform the full range of large format movements to include: rise, fall, tilt, shift, and swing.
  • Develop black and white film in trays, daylight tanks, and open trays.
  • Create proper proofs to confirm exposure and development are correct.
I provide clear and concise instruction on each technique used throughout the class.  I don’t assume anything on your part.  If you need more help, just review the classroom forum to see if your question has already been asked and answered.  Submit a new question and I am happy to answer.
Section 1 - Course Introduction
  • Intro video and welcome to the course

Section X - Getting Help

  • PDF document on how to get help for technical issues related to course content.  
Section X - Building a Strong Foundation
Types of Cameras
  • Discuss and illustrate the two basic types of view cameras - monorail and field camera

Basic Terms

  • Camera Parts (rear std, bellows, front standard, ground glass, lens board)
  • Standard Lens - How to determine standard lens for each format
  • Image circle explained 
  • Shutters - Copal 1, 2, 3 - 35 mount, 42 mount, 65 mount
  • Inches vs. millimeters for lenses
  • Scheimflug principle explained 
  • Formats - 4x5, 8x10, 11x14, whole plate, half plate, quarter plate
  • Fresnel Lens - explain what it is and why you may want it

Inventory of Necessities

  • Camera, lens, lensboard, film holders, cable release, dark cloth, tripod, stopwatch, spanner wrench, +3 readers, focus loupe, measuring ruler, lens shade/cover, and more. 

Lens Selection

  • How to select a lens for your application
  • Review resources available to aid in the process
  • Discuss physical size of lenses and shutters in regards to your camera
  • Discuss resources for gear
Section X - Sage Advice
Pearls of Wisdom
  • What to look for when considering a large format camera.
  • Start slow and minimize variables, master one concept at a time (pick one film, one developer, one paper and get to know it inside and out)
  • Start off with two lenses - based on your style of photography. 
  • Always strive to get it right in the camera. 
Section X - Fundamentals 
Composition Card
  • I use a simple composition card in the field to visualize my scene before I get the camera out.  I will cover this concept in detail in the field.  

Spot Meter

  • Explain and show the difference between incident vs reflected meters  (spot meter and an ambient meter) - discuss and demonstrate practical use cases
  • Discuss strategies for metering different types of scenes
  • Metering techniques for black and white film explained in detail

Camera Movements

  • How to focus by extending and compressing bellows
  • Explain and illustrate rise, fall, shift, tilt, swing on front and back standards
  • Asymmetrical vs. base tilts vs. axis tilts

Film Holders

  • Show how to load 4x5 and 8x10 film holders
  • Discuss cleaning techniques for holders
  • Discuss storage strategies for both short-term and long-term use of film

Light Tent and Safelights

  • You will need a light safe area to load your film holders.  Most use a light tent or changing bag.  With large format, a tent is a good investment.  All of this and more discussed and illustrated.  

Depth of Field (DOF)

  • Discuss why DOF for large format is different than what you may be used to if you are coming from smaller roll film cameras.
  • How to use movements with large format to overcome traditional DOF challenges via non large-format cameras. 

Section X - Testing Your Film For Your Personal EI (Exposure Index)

Film Information & Testing
  • Film selection - my input on several types of black and white films.
  • Choose one film and one developer to start with and find out what you love and dislike about it.  We will be using and testing T-Max 100 in this course. 
  • The beauty of minimizing variables

Reciprocity Failure

  • Learn how to read the manufacturer technical data sheet as a starting place
  • Provide T-Max 100 data sheet as a PDF and discuss in detail  

Development Methods

  • Illustrate development methods for daylight tanks, trays, Jobo
  • Why I have shifted towards Jobo processing for everything 

Materials Needed for Testing

  • Discuss and inventory the materials needed to perform the testing
  • Order the Stouffer Transmission Step Wedge (if needed)
  • Review enlarger setup, b&w paper, chemicals, misc. supplies
  • Discuss film, developer, and development choice

Exposing the Step Wedge

  • Discuss and illustrate the step-by-step process of properly exposing the Stouffer step wedge
  • Review EI determination process

Developing Step Wedge Negative

  • Review the details for negative step wedge development 
  • Develop the first sheet of film with a blank sheet

Test for Proper Proof Time

  • Using the blank sheet of film that was developed, walk through the process of determining the proper proof time for your film, developer and paper.

Determine Personal EI (Exposure Index)

  • Walk through the process of evaluating the EI proper proof to confirm or adjust for proper rating of your film
  • Discuss the variables used to adjust the EI rating if needed

Test for N Development

  • Discuss the starting point for choosing a normal (N) development time
  • Review and define a normal contrast scene
  • Discuss and illustrate the variables on the step wedge to ID and confirm your N development time
  • Discuss and illustrate how to make adjustments to determine normal (N) development

Test for Expanded (N+) Development

  • Discuss the starting point for choosing an expanded (N+) development time
  • Review and define an expanded contrast scene
  • Discuss and illustrate the variables on the step wedge to ID and confirm your N+ development times
  • Discuss and illustrate how to make adjustments to determine normal (N+) development

Test for Contracted (N-) Development

  • Discuss the starting point for choosing a contracted (N-) development time
  • Review and define a contracted contrast scene
  • Discuss and illustrate the variables on the step wedge to ID and confirm your N- development times
  • Discuss and illustrate how to make adjustments to determine normal (N-) development times

Field Testing

  • Bring everything together and head out and create exposures in your environment 
  • Head out into the field and put the zone system to use when creating real-world exposures
  • Come back to the darkroom and develop your negatives
  • Make proper proofs and confirm your results or make adjustments

Section X - Filters

  • Choosing filters for black and white photography - Yellow, Green, Orange, Red Filters
  • Additional types of filters - ND, ND Grad

Section X - Optical Principles

  • Angle of view
  • Angle of coverage
  • Depth of field
  • Circle of confusion
  • Diffraction

Section X - Closeup Photography

  • Magnification - how to use your standard lens 
  • Exposure Compensation (bellows factor)
  • Other tools such as a Diopter

Section X - Scanning Negatives & Prints for Online

  • Discuss strategies for scanning b/w film negatives
  • Show the process for scanning b/w negative film and creating a .TIFF file for editing
  • Wet mount scanning of negatives
  • Scanning prints

Section X - Printing in the Darkroom

  • Introduction to discuss that output is our final step in the journey and why we do everything else 
  • Show the process of how to create an enlargement from a real negative step by step in the darkroom 
  • Show the process for creating a contact print step by step with a regular light bulb and with an enlarger

Section X - Working In the Field

  • Discuss mobility with large format
  • Backpack review
  • Film holder cases
  • Empty boxes
  • Mobile processing in Jobo
  • Getting your large format gear to location

Section X - Using LF Movements in Real Life

  • Case Study - Landscape - foreground to background sharp - front tilt or back tilt
  • Case Study - Nature - Isolate flower - will depend on scene
  • Case Study - Landscape - change spatial relationships between foreground and background - front and back tilt combinations
  • Case Study - Looming technique with small object in foreground - back tilt, front fall
  • Case Study - Looming - railroad tracks - back tilt
  • Case Study - Selective focus - pencil in studio - back swing, front tilt
  • Case Study - Box in studio - sharp wide open - tilt and swing
  • Case Study - Alphabet blocks in studio to show swing movements and perspective changes

Section X - The Non-Technical Benefits of Large Format Photography

  • I share my views and perspective on how large format photography is a creative benefit in my work.  

Section X - Facebook Group for this course

  • I have created a private Facebook group for students of this course so that we can share our photos with one another. 

Section X - Beyond B&W Film

  • Discuss other mediums other than black and white film to include paper negatives, x-ray film, direct positive paper and ortho films.

Section X - Additional Resources 

  • A discussion of books, blogs, online communities in addition to historic and contemporary large format photographers.
Section - Final Course Summary
  • Course Summary 
  • What’s Next?