Wednesday, May 14, 2008


           The first stop towards managing your sitter is to hare perfect control of your own feelings; no matter what worries or annoyances yon hare to encounter, do not take them into the studio with yon. Man is an imitative animal, and in the great majority of cases unconsciously copies the temperament of those surrounding him in a greater or lees degree, according to his own strength of character. Therefore, it is very necessary that the photographer should cultivate a quiet geniality of manner, adapting his degree of freedom of speech and manner to that of his sitters, taking care to avoid an excess of familiarity with those who bare an idea of their own importance or a patronizing air with those of more modest manners. To pat it briefly, the operator must be "all things men" (and women), and should boar in mind that "As iron sharpeneth iron so is a man's face brightened by the countenance of his friend."
           One person at a time is quite enough to manage, and any friends who accompany the sitter most not be allowed to remain in the studio while the kitting is made. If possible they should be induced to remain in the reception-room, but usually it will not be easy to arrange thin, and one at least will be allowed to enter toe studio. I have always made a rule of having a screened-off corner with comfortable chair, to which I escort the friend as soon as I have welcomed the sitter taking rare that the friend cannot peep out and he seen just as an exposure is being made. There is a goal reason for this; it prevents the friend from criticizing the pose, seen from a totally different position from the camera, id also prevents conversation, which often results in giggling With children, it is, of course, necessary that they should he accompanied by an adult, but only one should be allowed. If a mother and nurse come, try to get the mother to retire behind the screen, as the child will usually behave better with the nurse, who will not try to excite it. A whole family party in the studio usually means a resitting after a lot of valuable time and plates have been wasted. Even if a family group has been taken, the members should be shown out if separate sittings of any of the children are required, and it is sometimes politic to ask permission to make a negative or two of a pretty youngster, even if not ordered. The parents feel flattered by the compliment, and go away feeling that the photographer m really a man of taste.
           We now come to the practical work of making the portrait, some people call it a "picture," and we should endeavour to make it worthy of both designations. To this end it is necessary to make a rapid survey of the sitter's features and figure so as to get the best result possible. It is said that Reynolds always wanted to dine with a person before he painted his portrait, so as to get a true impression of his appearance, but the photographer is not so fortunate, for he has only a minute or two to decide upon his course of action. I will endeavour to indicate a few of the points to be observed. There is not one person in a hundred whose features are even approximately symmetrical, so that it is necessary first to decide which side of the face is to be turned to the light. The nose will often appear quite straight if the head be turned one way, and either aquiline or retrousse if turned the other. As a rule it is advisable to choose the straight side unless other conditions militate, in which case the aid of the retoucher must be sought. With nine people out of ten the left side of the face is the most perfect, so that the studio should be arranged to take negatives with the light falling on the sitter's left hand.
           The eyes are usually uneven in size and sometimes in height; the best result can be obtained by having the larger or higher eye nearest to the camera. In cases of a decided squint the abnormal eye should be turned from the camera and brought well into shade, so that it can be more easily corrected in the retouching. If the profile is fairly good, one or two positions of it should be taken - when the sitter is afflicted in this way.
           If the sitter's neck be short it can be made the most of by lowering the camera considerably, while with a long, scraggy neck the camera should be well raised. The height of the camera has an important effect upon the rendering of the nose. A long nose is shortened and the upper lip well shown with a low camera, while a snub nose and long upper lip is better rendered from a higher position. Tilting the head up or down will give the same effect, but this would interfere with the pose of the head and probably spoil the eyes and forehead. A small, receding forehead should be inclined towards the camera, while the possessor of a massive one may throw the head well back. In both these cases the pose will probably be a natural one to the sitter.
           The hands are a constant source of worry, and many photographers now look the difficulty boldly in the face and take bust portraits almost exclusively. If they have to be included in the picture the hands should be made as unobtrusive as possible, and care should be taken not to let them come too far forward, or they will appear larger than they really are. It is usually recommended to use the swing back to bring the hands into focus without stopping down the lens, but this is not a good plan, as it necessarily renders them on a larger scale than the rest of the picture. It is always desirable to use as long focus a lens as possible for sitting figures, so as to minimize distortion of this kind. Of course, some sitters have small hands, and then there is little difficulty in dealing with them. One position is always to be avoided, that of having the fingers interlaced while the hands are lying on the knees. A book or flower may be held so as partly to hide the hands, but this device is rather hackneyed. A long chain or string of beads falling from the neck into the lap often affords an opportunity for a graceful arrangement of the fingers.
           Full-length portraits are now rarely taken unless for the express purpose of displaying the dress or uniform. For these the camera should be raised, so that the lens is about level with the breast of the sitter say, five or six inches below the chin. Care should be taken that the body is well balanced upon the feet, which should not be placed evenly, but one; little before the other; in military terms, the sitter should ''stand at ease" and not at "attention." At the risk of being considered old-fashioned I strongly advocate the judicious use of the head-rest for standing figures, as not only are "moves" reduced to a minimum, but it prevents the sitter from dropping into a slouching position. I prefer not to place the rest behind the head, but behind one shoulder.
           The rest is also very useful when making dancing poses, as it enables a position to be held with one foot in the air. The ironwork should be painted a fairly light grey, so that it is lost in the background and is easy to work out on the negative. If black or dark green, as usually supplied, it is difficult to get rid of.
           Young children present a different set of problems from adult sitters. Their features do not require so much consideration, and the lighting is usually full. The great points are to keep them still and to secure a happy expression. They should not be allowed to curl themselves up with one or both legs drawn up under them, but otherwise they will find their own poses, from which the photographer should make his choice. The great thing is to get the child's confidence as soon as it comes into the studio, and to keep the camera out of evidence as much as possible. To attempt to work with children as one would with adults is to court failure. Many of my best child pictures have bean obtained by focusing upon a cushion or similar article, placed where it is intended the child to be, before it came into the studio at all ; then the plate was inserted t the slide drawn, and the child coaxed into position in an innocent sort of way. Then the exposure was made, using a rather long release tube or cable, and while the child's attention was otherwise occupied the plate changed and the process repeated. A little table at which the child can stand is an excellent accessory, as if a toy be placed upon it in focus the child will usually go to it of its own accord; if spoken to it will usually look up with a pleased expression, and the exposure is instantly made. I generally find that I can get three sharp negatives out of four exposures when working this way. The "little bird" trick is not a bad one; but there should be no deception, the bird should be forthcoming. I have made hundreds of negatives with the help of a cheap toy, consisting of a small metal bird perched on a bulb which contained a water warbler, worked by a rubber tube. The bird flapped his wings and opened his beak while singing. The plan was to tell the child to look for the bird, and to give a note or two on the warbler, and immediately after the exposure to show the bird in action for a few seconds. It was then hidden and the child told that it would come back if he were good. Alas! a little sitter found it when I was not looking, and effectually ended its career. It was probably of Hun origin, and, I hope, cannot be replaced. However, the idea remains, and it might be possible to make a substitute. It is a good plan to keep a few cheap toys so that a child can take one away with it, especially if a resitting may be necessary, as the child will be willing to pay another visit to a place where toys are given away. Big toys, such as Teddy bears, horses, etc., are a nuisance, and the toy should be used to attract the child's attention and not given to it until the exposure is made. Before I learned this I have had a child marches away with it into a dark corner and sit down to play with it, any attempt to entice it out being hopeless. I have said nothing about posing either adults or children, as little useful information can be conveyed by words. By the study of paintings, engravings, and the work of good photographers much can 'be learned and a general idea of what is graceful and artistic obtained, then when the sitter arrives one is not at a loss for a pose. If there is any characteristic mannerism about the sitter it should be preserved; if a man habitually holds his head on one side it is a mistake to put it straight, as it would be to make a man who stoops slightly stand bolt upright.

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