Photography Technique

Restoring and Photographing With a Large Format Bokeh Monster

Look at any photography discussion board or Facebook page, and you’ll quickly run into members obsessed with bokeh, or the quality of out-of-focus elements in a photograph. If you are in the bokeh-obsessed stage of photography, then large format wet plate photography is absolutely for you.

In fairness, I wouldn’t actually recommend large format or wet plate techniques to beginners. Large format photography is finicky, expensive, and requires a very high degree of control. Wet plate or wet plate collodion is an early processing technique where you need to photograph and develop your work within 15 minutes, so it requires instant access to a portable darkroom.

Neither of these is for beginners, but Markus Hofstätter makes the work look very accessible. In the video, Markus shows his entire process of purchasing a large format camera as well as what it takes to faithfully restore such a classic camera to a functioning level today. Markus additionally modifies his purchase, which works with film to accept a wet plate. He combines modern 3D printing with old-fashioned elbow grease to arrive at a camera that looks and works superbly!

If you are at a point in your photography where you are looking for an additional challenge, I’d definitely recommend dipping your foot into the film pond. 4×5 is a great place to start if you already have a firm grasp on exposing and composing photographs, and with readily accessible film processing labs, you can outsource some of the film development and scanning until you are ready to assimilate that part of the skill set into your workflow. Of course, if you are a bit more advanced than that, you can always give the wet plate a go — that’s actually something I haven’t tried for myself, yet!

It’s important to always learn and grow. There are always new things to try and learn, no matter if you’ve been photographing for a few days or several decades. What are some new things you’ve tried recently?

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