Saturday, May 17, 2008


           The question of re-sittings is one which perennially crops up, although we do not think that photographers have so much to complain of in these days as they had a few years ago. Probably the broader style of treatment which is now general has a good deal to do with it, while more intelligent and less mechanical retouching has also had an effect. Still, they are common enough to be reckoned one of the plagues of professional photography, and we have to consider the best way to deal with them.
           In the first place, the operator will save himself much heartburning if he can bring himself to realize that the sitter does not usually intend to cast any imputation upon his ability. The old hand knows this, but the young artist is apt to take the return of proofs with perhaps rather a pointed remark or two as a sort of blow in the face, and either to contest the matter or to yield with, rather a bad grace. That is quite the wrong thing to do. He should endeavour to see the matter from the sitter's point of view as well as from his own, and to do all that he can to give satisfaction. Personal recommendations are the best possible advertisements for any business, and a dissatisfied client will often be the means of diverting many profitable orders, while the assurance that polite and considerate treatment can always be expected will have the contrary effect. There are few people whose genius is so transcendent that they can afford to be ungracious, not to say rude, so that our advice is to stifle one's feelings and to accept an unpleasant situation with a smile. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and if the photographer can see that an attempt is being made to impose upon him there are good grounds for protecting himself against it.
           It is not wise to mention the subject or to make any conditions as to re-sittings on any price list or even verbally at the time of sitting, as this shows a lack of confidence. If re-sittings are so frequent as to be a serious matter it is a sign that there is something wrong with the work, and a decided attempt should be made to remedy it. In many cases faulty or excessive retouching is to blame, and in others a want of attention to small details in drew or posing. Therefore, in every case it should be ascertained what the fault is before proceeding with the second sitting.
           Various plans have been tried for avoiding loss in this way, but moat of them are open to objection. One is to make a charge if any alteration is made in the dress or style of hairdressing. This appears fair at first sight, but it puts an unpleasant restraint upon the sitter, who may have good reason for complaint, and who can see that certain modifications would help to secure the desired result. Another method is to charge a moderate fee for the sitting and a set of proofs, after which copies may be ordered at a fixed price each. This has its advantages, but as a rule if the proofs are not quite satisfactory the sitter does not return, but tries another studio, so that it is a question of half a guinea sitting fee and no further order or a two or three guinea order with a possibility of a remitting at a cost of two or three plates, with perhaps an additional order at the end. In many studios it is the custom to destroy negatives which are not at once approved of, and if the sitter does not wish thin to be done large a registration fee of, say, half a crown if they are to be kept. Occasionally a sitter will ask for this to be done, in case the second sitting is no more satisfactory than the first. It may be worth while to adopt this plan, but seems to us that the fewer conditions imposed in an intimate business like portraiture the better.
           After all prevention is better than cure, and every step should be taken to avoid the necessity rather than to remedy it when it comes. In the first place, we must remember that the average sitter has no clear idea of the powers of the retoucher, therefore rough proofs should never be submitted unless the negatives are really good and require but little work upon them. It is difficult to explain that this can be altered and that can be altered; the sitter is not so sure about it, and presses for a re-sitting which would not have been asked for if the alterations had been made before proofing. We have noticed that those portraitists who do most of the work themselves are less troubled than the large businesses where it is carried on more or less a factory system.
           Another point is that sufficient choice of poses should be offered to the sitter. One of the most successful businesses has been built up on the principle of submitting six proofs for an average order. Some people have called this taking your re-sittings beforehand, but it is eminently sensible not only as helping to avoid a second trial, but because with so many positions to choose from the original order is in very many cases increased so that on the whole the additional outlay brings in a good profit. At the present price of plates this may not be regarded as advisable, but there is a wide margin between six proofs and the two which are often submitted.
           Whenever it is possible the granting of a re-sitting should be done by the operator and not by the receptionist. The latter may be an excellent business woman tactful obliging but she has rarely the artistic or technical knowledge which are necessary to decide the point. Moreover the sitter enters the studio with less diffidence if the question has been settled wife the person whom she considers is in fault. It should hardly be necessary to say that no proofs with which the photographer himself is not satisfied should be sent oat without remark. In such cases it is well worth offering re-sitting at once. It may not always be accepted, but if it is the sitter comes back in a pleasant mood, which is decidedly helpful. All this is an old story to those who have spent many years in studio work, but we hope that it will go some way to smooth over a disagreeable side of life to those who are still young at it. In every walk of life we are open to criticism, and photographers should be thankful that they are not politicians whose incompetence we see denounced every time we open a newspaper.

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