Shallow depth of field focusing advice needed.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by gareth_pillans, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. Hi, sorry if this is the wrong area to post my question, but I thought large format photographers would have the
    most experience and expertise around ground glass focusing and shallow depth of field, on a view camera.

    ... So I've recently bought a Graflex Century Graphic, with a 6x9 back(I didn't go 5x4 or larger, because I like
    scanning film and using photoshop and don't have the funds to buy a larger scanner or upgrade my ramm, my
    pc already struggles with 6x9 colour film). It has a ysarex rodenstock 105mm 4.5 lens. When testing the camera
    out (I had to make a custom ground glass, I was testing that the film surface matched up on the 6x9 back and
    ground glass) I shot a roll of Ilford delta 100 of some static objects and finished off photographing my dog, so I
    didn't have 8 frames of boringness, when a few images, focused at different ranges, would tell me what I
    needed to know. Anyways, I got a beautiful shallow depth of field image of her, which the focus luckily landed on
    her eyes, and about 4 slightly out of focus images, which focused slightly in front and behind her eyes. This was
    due to the time between focusing and switching out ground glass and film back, she was sitting and swaying.
    The images of the static objects confirmed the focus is spot on, so this isn't an issue.

    My question is... Is there any techniques large format photographers use, to take shallow depth of field portraits
    with a view camera? I would like to photograph people with the camera, from about 4ft at f4.5, so focus will need
    to be spot on. Is it as simple as asking your subject to stay as still as possible and being as efficient as possible
    when switch ground class and film back out or will I need to close down the aperture? I plan to get an rb67
    soon, so portraiture will be past onto that system, but I would still like to learn all the ins and outs of my graflex.

    Thanks, Gareth.

    P.S. I tried searching shallow depth of field portrait focusing with a ground glass, but I was getting search results
    about portrait orientation and shallow depth of field. I'm sorry if there is already a thread about this. I would
    appreciate a link, if there is.
  2. Since your camera has a rangefinder why not use it?
  3. Sorry, I forgot to mention that. It's nowhere accurate, I did adjust it, but there's another issue with it, where it will sometimes focus on an object at say 4ft and it will say 4ft on the zone focus, but the next time it'll focus on an item at 4ft and the zone focus will say something like 10ft. I also though you shouldn't close focus with an older rangefinder, due to a lack precision?

  4. Gareth, the RF's close focusing limit is roughly three and a half feet. If Charles Monday doesn't pop up here to offer suggestions about making the RF work better for you, ask your question on
    When I was a small child portrait photographers in the US still used studio cameras. Large format cameras on studio stands. They just asked us to be still. Shoot from a tripod and ask your subject to be still. Focus on the ground glass and be careful when you swap focusing panel and roll holder, stop the lens down, ...
    If you can get the RF to work consistently, set the camera up on a tripod with roll holder in place, shutter cocked and at shooting aperture, focus with the RF, ... Use the wire frame finder to compose and make sure you set it for more-or-less the focused distance.
  5. Thanks, I had a look at the rangefinder and it seems like the lever which comes out of the rangefinder and rests on the focusing track was a little misshapen, so at times it rested on the adjustment screw and other times it caught the side of the bracket, where the screw sits. It seems pretty accurate now. I have some film on the way, so I think I will just need to do some trial and error and see just how accurate I can be. Though the film back adds like 3cm to the back of the camera, so I will need to press my face right up to it.

    Thanks, Gareth.
  6. I only have a Linhof. I think using the rangemeter is a good idea. Why worry about precuission? - The base seems much bigger than a Leica's. You could also try to use something like a Kalart focuspot. My rangemeter needa CLA it did not snap back to infinity out in the (moderate) cold, worked only indoors.
  7. I was one of those studio photographers shooting everything from young kids to adults with a view camera on a tripod. There were some tricks to get the kids to not move.
    First, once focused and composed you place your head alongside the front standard and carefully watch the subject and shoot at the right time.
    Then, with small kids, you do something to make them stop and look where you want them to.
    It might be a squeak toy that you hold at a position where you want them to look and then squeek it.
    Or it might be a piece of rolled up, sticky side out, scotch tape that you put in their hands, or even a penny. The trick was to first hold both their hands and put the tape or coin in them and then hold their hands together and closed. Let go and step quickly back. They will then hold still and look at their hands for a few seconds letting you catch the shot and the expression.
    Not every shot worked out, but a very high perceentage did.
  8. Back in the old days photographers would use a string attached to the front of the camera with colored marks on it. You have the subject hold the string to her chin or nose while you focus. You then stand to the side of the camera and hold the string to the subject's chin or nose to get the subject in the right place. When ready to take the exposure, drop the string and press the cable release.
  9. Allen,
    I cheated, I used some marks on the floor where the posing stool or bench was placed. Then watched the subjects head position relative to the base of the stool.

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