Large Format Camera Movements

Large-format camera movements allow you to make images that would not normally be possible with common “fixed cameras”

Why use large-format camera movements?

Large-format camera movements allow you to make images that would not normally be possible with common “fixed cameras” (my term).

An example of the benefits of camera movements is the depth of focus obtained in the photograph below of Lefroy Brook Leaf 01. It was made with a 210mm lens, yet manages to keep the majority of the leaves along the stream in focus over a wide distance.

This was achieved using movements and altering the plane of focus by tilting the back standard. Without movements, you could not achieve the same result just by stopping the lens down. The smallest aperture would not provide a sufficient depth of focus alone with such a long focal length lens.

Long time exposure of stream running over dark rocks with fallen yellow leaves at rocks edges forming patterns, pic 01 of 03
Lefroy Leaf #01 SF21

What are large-format camera movements?

With a regular “fixed” camera, the camera lens and the camera back are always parallel with each other. Likewise, the lens’s plane of focus remains parallel across the film in the camera’s back.

Large-format camera movements include tilting or swinging front and rear standards. They may also involve raising or lowering the lens, and rear shift movements. These camera movements change the relationship between the lens focus plane and the film-back plane.

Using movements need not be complicated. I cover this topic early in my large-format photography workshops, and participants are using these techniques the same afternoon.

To get you started, I have prepared a handy PDF you can download and keep for future reference. For this 29-page booklet, I have prepared many photographic illustrations. Using my landscape images as actual examples, I describe the camera movements I employed and why I did so.

Please support this website by purchasing the booklet for less than a cup of coffee (AUD$5 ).


Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

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  1. Have not finished reading the book, but so far this is excellent material. Having more than a line drawing, as found in other publications, helps one get their mind wrapped around the information being presented.

    A lot of new view camera users will go on about “look at all the movements” but fall silent when questioned about the use of said movements. This booklet is for them.

    I look back on my first view camera, a Linhoff 6X7 which was retired and replace by a Zone VI mahogany 4X5. I carted this thing all over Arizona and surrounding states. Left the hobby for about15 years and have gotten back into it. My “new” camera arrived today…

  2. I really miss mine. It got shipped to Vatican City to be used for some architecture work. Mine was olde enough it was lacquer over brass. I contemplated plating it, though not for long after researching the cost.

    My current camera is a Nagaoka, early model that looks like new. Under 3 pounds (1.17934 Kg for y’all down under) beats the 7 pound if i recall correctly for the Zone VI. I went with this one for the weight. It reviews fairly well when I can find them.

    I have to decide how critical front swing is going to be. Being a machinist I have already looked at how to do the modification…

  3. This booklet is great for the beginner or experienced large-format user. Having it downloaded to my phone is incredibly handy. Especially in those moments of forgetfulness when I’m trying to fine-tune an image.

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