I've used both medium and large format to do portraiture - what it boils down to is the willingness of the subject to work with you.
I can literally run with my old and beat up RB but the LF requires an understanding subject (be still, don't vary the distance) and while LF can produce some rather spectacular results, rare is the person that will tolerate it unless you're billing yourself as an "Old Time" photographer.
"Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy."
Oh sure, you can use the same away-from-camera approach with a medium format camera as with a view camera, but how many actually do? Keith's reply is indicative of the rarity of that approach with MF. I maintain that there is a difference in results though I didn't say one was necessarily better than the other. Just different.
Of course, when I go into a portrait session I'm not looking to bang off 10 or 12 or 20 or 24 shots, change compositions, rotate backs, etc. I'm usually after one image. And that also means I'm not "ducking under a dark cloth, changing out a film holder and withdrawing dark slides etc.," continuously. I might have to turn the film holder around or grab another during a session, but those are at hand and the change is very fluid and certainly not a hassle. And I think the subjects are more interested in the LF process and the whole experience more formal, so you get a different response.
As far as metering, once and it is done, especially if the lighting setup doesn't change day to day.
Recompose? Why would you want to do that if you had a specific image in your head? And even if you did recompose, I don't think it any harder to do so with a view camera unless you are jumping around all over the place, and that certainly doesn't align with how I like to work or the type of images I'm after. My approach is usually slow and deliberate and that jibes nicely with a view camera.
The MF lends itself to a less formal and less contemplative mode of working, IMO. That's probably better in some instances and not in others. Faster is not necessarily better. I was just pointing out there was an alternative mode and I was not condemning MF in my original post. If you read the OP you'll find the person stated: Most of my work is digital, but I'd like to slow things down a bit and invest in either a 4x5 or a RZ67. (Emphasis mine.) That sounded to me like a good reason to choose LF.
Scott -- minor correction: Not all smaller roll film cameras have prism finders; some do, some don't. [I know that isn't a surprise to you ] Even my Nikon F-3 can be equipped with a non-prism finder and that's exactly what I did back in the days when I was using it for portaiture. A V-system Hassy can either be equipped with prism finder, or not. Your statement certainly holds true for hand-holding, but not necessarily for tripod-mounted cameras regardless of format. With both of these smaller-format cameras I could set up the composition (leaving some room for subject wiggle and cropping, which is inevitable), then step back from the camera with a cable release and interact with the subject face-to-face.
Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera
I certainly can respect your opinion... but let me point out... I, for one, can shoot MF just as slow, maybe even slower, than LF at times
Originally Posted by smieglitz
Faster certainly is NOT necessarily better!
I do portraits in platinum/palladium. So I could never get use to that small 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 contact print. I shoot full length portraits with a vertical 8x20 camera. Now I know some will say shoot it with a 6x9 and then make a digital negative but I much prefer in-camera negatives. I've been through that stage of using a Nikon with an MD-12 ( or 11..I forget) and just ripping through frames and I can honestly say I have never seen anyones work suffer from slowing down. Get better?...yes, but never worse. If you're after that candid shot then go with the smaller format. But then again if its candid is it still a portrait?
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I just don't get what you're saying, Scott. I "get out from behind" my MF cameras all the time. Adjustments in composition are extremely fast. An MF kit like an RZ/RB/hassie whatever allows you to work with ground glass / WLF or prism or whatever. It's far more flexible and versatile than a system that constrains you to ground glass only. Anyway I do agree that if one has a vision then the need to recompose is less. But for a newcomer to larg(er) format portraiture....
Originally Posted by TheFlyingCamera
I actually do think portraiture is mostly about spontaneity. People's expressions change very quickly, and of course, people do respond differently to different cameras, but ultimately it all comes down to the rapport one establishes with the subject.
The RZ/RB/hassie systems have been workhorses for this kind of work for decades and decades. If they were in any way fundamentally limiting then that would not be the case.
Bottom line for me: regardless of format, the camera must *never* be allowed to emotionally separate the subject from the photographer... not in LF, not in MF, not in any F! If that happens then the photographer has failed at a very fundamental level. What I think I see, in some work, is a tendency for the camera itself to displace the subject. When I view a portrait and the very first thing I see is not some uniquely personal expression, then I have to ask myself, what's the subject really?
Of course it is up to the O.P. to decide what will work best for the desired subject matter. And I certainly would not discourage experimentation. I.e. do not take naybody else's word for it... find your own photography
Last edited by keithwms; 03-27-2009 at 11:54 AM. Click to view previous post history.