The Most Talented Large Format Photographers Working Today


Large format photographers are still out here, and they are capturing incredible images. Let’s take a look at 5 of the modern greats in Large Format Photography.

It’s 2022, and Instagram is slowly dying; in a world of Reels and TikTok, it’s easy to see why still photography has lost some of its reverence. But, the simple fact is that photography will always be a highly respected art form. With each new publishing platform, we have more and more opportunities to see people’s work. This is vital to keep in mind for all photographers, including large format photographers.

Large format film cameras offer photography in its simplest form. Ironically enough, it’s also possibly the most complicated way to take a photo in today’s age of modern camera technology. Understanding the how is simple—it’s light hitting a lens, reflected onto film inside a box. It’s everything else involved that makes the method of working so difficult.

It takes many, many clicks of the shutter before we’re able to perfect the art of large format. Not only that, its expensive. Like really expensive.

The price of film has shot up recently and doesn’t seem to be dropping anytime soon. While this might seem negative, it forces large format photographers to be even more careful with the moments and subjects they want to capture. It really needs to count. It should really mean something to them.

So, let’s take a look at some of the best large format photographers working today and what type of work they’re producing.

What is Large Format Photography?

Flat line drawing of a large format camera
Image via Nattanon Tavonthammarit.

Before we talk about some of the modern masters of the craft, let’s briefly go over what large format photography is and how it distinguishes itself from other formats in photography. First, a large format camera is a camera with a frame that is 4×5 inches or greater, so think 5×7 or 8×10.

This unit of measure is also how big the negatives are. It has a front standard and a rear standard that you can control focus with by moving the front standard forward or backward. The photo included above is what they look like, generally.

You control the exposure with the detachable lens that you secure at the front of the camera. The lens sets the aperture, and shutter speed. The film sits in a holder with a dark slide that you place at the rear of the camera fastened to the back standard. You remove the dark slide, take the photo, then slide the dark slide back into the holder.

Taking one photo takes a considerable amount of time given the camera setup and the time it takes composing your image. I actually made a video on this a few years ago that you can watch here.

In the video below you can see a bit more of what it means to be a large format photographer. The gear you will need. The images you can expect to capture. It was created to document one of my first times shooting on this new format and it was definitely an adventure.

Now let’s talk about some of the best large format photographers.

Bryan Birks

Shooting with a Chamonix 45-n1, Bryan Birks is currently working on his years-in-the-making project “Articles of Virtu” which documents people across America and the vintage cars that take up much of their space. It’s a fascinating look at America’s history with cars and the people that dedicate themselves to restoring and keeping them alive, as well as the idea of the space they inhabit.

His YouTube channel is one of the best photography channels around as he documents his process shooting with a large format camera and the many challenges that arise when working on a photo book. I highly recommend following along as Birks creates for the ongoing project; you’ll learn a lot about photography and what it means to be human.

Follow Bryan here.

Natalie Oberg

I recently wrote about black and white cinematography, debating whether or not the decision to shoot black and white is gimmicky. However, large format photographer Natalie Oberg is a great example of someone shooting in black and white as a way to improve the images. To tell a more direct story. To change our perspective and how we look at nature.

Some of the best landscape photography I’ve seen in a while, Oberg’s style can be described as timeless. She photographs in a variety of formats, including 4×5 and 8×10.

The black and white film company, Ilford, recently published a showcase of Oberg’s work so you can see her process in action. This type of photography is one of my favorites and inspires me to get out and shoot something for myself.

Follow Natalie here.

Bryan Schutmaat

Perhaps one of the most inspiring photographers I’ve come across, Bryan Schutmaat has managed to build up quite the body of work from only a handful of projects.

Shooting with a Chamonix 4×5, Schutmaat’s take on the American west is some of the most visually arresting photos you’ll ever see. A few years ago, Schutmaat photographed a campaign for Timex, documenting many of the most historical landscapes America has to offer.

His current project, Vessels, is a black and white portrait collection of the American Southwest. The project showcases nomadic travelers he encounters mixed with vast landscapes as he works his way through the region.

The ongoing work earned him a prestigious Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. When the project is wrapped, we should have something super special on our hands. I predict that this collection will be one of the next great photo books of our time.

Also, his first monograph titled Grays the Mountain Sends is pretty outstanding. Check it out here.

Follow Bryan here.

Alex Burke

The work of Alex Burke is a great example of what dedication and extreme technical prowess can produce. The Colorado-based photographer’s style can best be described as flawless. 

In addition to his stunning body of landscape work, Burke offers e-books on the subject of large format photography. They cover technical aspects such as how to approach metering and catching the exact right exposure.

More notably however, they also cover the “why.” That more nuanced portion is harder to learn. Alex has found a way to get it into words. It doesn’t matter the type of 4×5 camera you own or what film stock you prefer to shoot with, as long as your heart is in the right place when you’re creating your work.

Burke’s portfolio will immediately stand out due to the crisp, beautiful colors that make up each of his images. It’s obvious that a lot of time and patience goes into his large format photography work. The results are breathtaking.

Not only one of the most skilled large format photographers around, he also makes his own frames for the prints he sells. Some people are just too talented!

Follow Alex here.

Jerry Pena

I recently came across this video when looking up street photographers.

The idea that street photography could be taken with a large format camera had never crossed my mind. The very nature of large format cameras doesn’t exactly lend itself to the fast-paced environment of a city street.

However, if you watch the video, you’ll see just how easy Pena makes it seem. If you ever want some tips on how to talk to strangers or ask them for their portrait, this single video is a masterclass in how easy it can be.

Jerry’s portraits feel iconic. The amount of love and attention to detail that he is able to capture in a brief interaction with a very old technology blow me away.

Follow Jerry here

Cover Image via Ilford Photo.

For more inspirational photography insights check out these posts!


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