Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Buying Equipment

           STARTING a photographic business resembles in many respects setting up housekeeping; that is to say, there is a natural tendency to spend an undue proportion of the sum allotted for the purpose on certain big items and to stint on less showy but more essential details in other words to purchase suite- and decorations for the reception and perhaps the bedrooms, and to neglect the kitchen and scullery. In the photographer's case this has its equivalent in buying a large and elaborate camera outfit, a quantity of furniture and backgrounds, and making shift with inferior appliances in the dark and printing-rooms.
           An experienced chemist once said that when equipping a laboratory it could be assumed that after finding the cost of the principal pieces of apparatus, which the inexperienced imagined represented the bulk of the outlay, an equal amount should be allowed for sundries, which need not be purchased all at once but as required. We recently found confirmation of this judgment in the remark which a beginner in portraiture made in reply to a question as to how the business was progressing. It was to the effect that the takings were quite satisfactory, but that he had not received much benefit, as there was always something else to buy.
           If a little more judgment had been exercised in the first outlay there would have been a surplus available, and the profits of the first few months would not have been swallowed up as quickly as they were made. In our friend’s case success came quickly, and he could live and still get what was needed; bat very often it takes some months before running expenses are covered and anything that can be called a profit made.
           There is always a temptation to go in for a big studio camera. A twelve by ten with lenses to suit is usually the minimum, but the old hand knows that this size is now rarely required for direct portrait work in most studios, an, therefore, economise by getting a good whole-plate outfit and keep something in hand for the outdoor apparatus, which should be of the larger site. Any panel portraits or studio groups can be quite well taken with a good field camera and lens and in other cases large prints ran easily be made by enlarging. We are apt to forget that developing papers are now almost exclusively used, and that if only a moderate size is required there is no need to mention the fact that the prints are not made by contact. This brings us to the question of enlarging apparatus. Wherever it is possible this should be installed from the first, as it will soon save its cost, and it is preferable to select the lantern form instead of a daylight apparatus however, the latter is better than nothing. and even a fixed focus box giving an enlargement of two diameters will be found of treat value, as it enables a cabinet negative to be enlarged to twelve by ten almost as easily as the making of a contact print. As an example of the value and practicability of enlarging we may mention an order for a number of full-sized reproductions of pen-and-ink designs. These were photographed upon half-plates, and enlarged to fifteen by twelve. The difference in the price of the small and large plates made a very substantial increase in the profit on the job, and the customer was not a penny the worse.
           Great economy can be effected by properly equipping the dark-room, especially now that so much bromide work is done. Plenty of sink accommodation should be provided, and if lead be found too costly asphalt sheeting can be used as lining. It should be remembered that bench room can always be obtained by covering a sink with boards, but it is impossible to reverse the process. An efficient lamp with red and yellow filters is needed, and it is a good plan to provide a second one for the general illumination of the room; this will prevent many break-ages. A good printing box taking negatives up to whole-plate is almost a necessity nowadays even in the smallest business, for the little man who has to do every stroke himself must not have to waste time with printing frames. An ample number of dishes for developing, fixing, and washing should be provided, the larger ones being of wood lined with some waterproof material, and the smaller ones of porcelain. Vulcanite and celluloid are best avoided for professional work.
           We may now return to the studio, and consider the question of backgrounds. Where it is possible one end wall should be finished so as to serve as an interior; in addition, we require a very dark and a white ground with continuous floor cloth. When funds permit a piece of bold-patterned tapestry may be added, but scenic backgrounds are not needed except for the cheapest class of work. Chairs and tables should be, as a rule, light and dainty, such as people use every day, and not specially designed for photographic use. A heavy oak chair is a useful accessory when it is necessary to take the mayor or other celebrity.
           In the work-room especial care should be taken to facilitate output. It never should be necessary to clear the apparatus necessary for one operation before another can be started. There should be places for attaching tissue, trimming, and mounting, and these spaces should never be encroached upon.
           Retouching desks should be ample in size and firmly made. Anyone with the least .mechanical ability can make a good desk in an hour or two, always bearing in mind that the desk is made for the use of a human being and not for a negative. It is absurd to talk about quarter-plate and half-plate desks when they are supposed to accommodate a well-grown man or woman.
           It is necessary to decide what to buy before entering the dealer's portals, or it is likely that a lot of unnecessary stuff will be obtained. The purchaser should know better than the salesman what he requires. and it is only natural for the latter to try and shift such goods as are rather slow in selling. We shall not harm the dealer by this advice; his bill will come to the same, but if the tyro makes his own choice he should get what he really needs.

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