Monday, September 8, 2008

Practicus In The Studio: Home Portraiture.

Work which conies frequently to some photographers and only at long intervals to others are that of taking portraits at the sitter's own homo. Some firms specialize in it to the extent of sending operators long distances, poaching upon the territory of the local man. There is no more remunerative class of work than this if properly managed, and if the prints are of good quality, yet many photographers fight shy of it, and these, it is to be feared, are generally those who bungle the job. With regard to terms, these are largely governed by local conditions and the prices obtained at any particular studio, so that I will do no more than suggest that no additional fee be charged for "going out." One does not make a charge for going out. to take a house, a horse, or a dog, and there its therefore no justification for making a charge if the model happens to 'be a human being. I recommend, however, that an order for a decent amount be secured, say, at least for a dozen of the highest class of cabinets, as a condition of the special visit. The fact that no additional charge is made will often induce a delicate or infirm person to be taken at once, instead of postponing the matter on account of the weather or other cause, with the possible result of the order being lost through death or the action of a more enterprising artist. It is an excellent thing, from point of view, to secure the entree to as many good possible, for, with a little tact, it is easy to obtain views of the home interior and exterior, and often horses, dogs, and other domestic pets.
To make home portraiture easy and successful the outfit should be carefully chosen. The old way was to pat the studio remora and stand in a cab and to trust to finding a dark-room in which to fill in the plates. This is not a fancy picture Years ago I did it many times for a first-class firm, and I believe many do it still The latest idea is to use a reflex camera which has its advantages but, on the whole, I prefer a stand camera, which is not only more- adaptable as regards rise, swings, and the use of different lenses, but impresses the sitters with the idea that the work is being done properly and that they are not being "mapped" with a port able camera, tike Cousin Jim uses. Personally, I prefer a parallel -bellows camera for whole-plates, fitted with a 12-inch / 5 6 lens. I also carry a Dallmeyer 2B portrait lens, which is useful for children or in very badly lighted rooms. The shutters Packard Ideal or a Gaerry doable flap is fined inside the camera. Usually six slides are carried, filled with such sued plates at the order calls for. It is, how- a good plan to have a couple of whole-plates in one of the slides, in case there is not sufficient room to get in the desired amount of too figure, although the order may be for cabinets only. The 2B, however, will give a three-quarter figure in a small room. The stand is an ordinary three-fold tripod, but rather heavy and provided with the folding wooden base so often described. This latter is a very useful addition, as not only are the feelings of the housewife relieved when she was that it is not proposed to stick spikes into her rugs and pets but it permits of the camera being moved by sliding, instead of lifting, that saving much time and labour.
Sometimes it is desirable to carry a small background, beet a double-sided one of light and very dark grey, about 5 ft by 4 ft upon two light rollers; it does not weigh much and is easily carried. A piece of calico to serve as a reflector is also useful, but if more impediments are not objected to, one of the Kodak portable reflectors may be substituted with advantage.
Now we come to the moat important part of the business the placing and lighting of the sitter. In rooms which are lighted by only one window the choice of position is limited, unless the window is unusually large and high. With small windows it is necessary to place the titter close to the windows to ensure the light falling at the proper angle, which should be as nearly as possible the orthodox forty-five degrees. It is surprising now nearly studio lighting may be approximated to it this be done. One important preliminary is to cover the lower part of the light with opaque material, and if the out side light to vary strong, the upper part should be covered with a translucent fabric, nainsook for choice. Bolter muslin is sometimes used, bat it to too open in texture for direct sun-light. In practice I find it convenient to sew the two pieces a stuff together, the upper half being a piece of nainsook about 4 ft wide and 5 ft. to 6 ft. long, and the lower black or dark green sateen, the same width, and about 4 ft long ; this allows for windows which go down to the floor. This curtain is sassily fixed in position with three or four push pins, any surplus length at the top being closely folded or rolled and pinned through. In a dull light the white half may be folded down behind the dark part and the clear glass used.
As the conditions do not vary greatly in this class of work, the inexperienced photographer will do well to make a few exposures in an ordinary room at home and note upon the prints the positions in which the camera and sitter were placed the different effete; some will probably be good and more probably some will be bad, and. by selecting the more successful ones, he will find oat the best way of working. For ordinary three-quarter lighting the sitter most be placed about 2 ft. back from the edge of the window and about 3 ft. into the room. This distance will vary with the height of the window; if the room be very lofty; the sitter may come further in and still be well lighted. Only in very lofty rooms should fall lengths be attempted, otherwise the angle at which the light strikes the head is too small and the shadows of the features are flattened and the eyes filled with light. In some large houses, where the windows are 12 to 14 ft. in height, studio effects are easily got. For plain lighting the camera should be kept as near to the window side of the room as possible, but for other effects it may be placed in many other positions. The so-called Rembrandt lighting is easily got in an ordinary room, more easily than in most studios. In this style the wall at one-aide of the (window carries the background. Here the dark grey pound will be very useful; the sitter looks straight across the light, which should give a broad line of light down the profile. By turning the head, a little light may be allowed to fall on the cheek-bone, but this is a matter of taste. The shadow aide of the face which is turned to the lens should be lighted up by the reflector, which must be near the camera; in fact, it is sometimes an advantage to cut a hole in the reflector for the lens to look through.
There are great possibilities in the use of an ordinary looking-glass, especially in small rooms, and when photographing invalids in bad, as by its aid the sitter may turn his face towards the window and still present the- lighted side of it to the camera. In the very difficult case of a sitter in bed in a small room, the mirror may be so placed as to enable the photographer to work through the doorway. It should be remembered, as far as the working distance is concerned, that this is made up of the distance from sitter to mirror, plus the distance from lens to mirror, so that in a room where it to only possible to get 3 ft. between lens and sitter by the use of the mirror, the working distance may be doable or more. It must not be forgotten that negatives so taken are laterally inverted that is to say, that if printed in the ordinary way the hair will be parted on the wrong aide; in fart, the image will be as seen in the mirror. To overcome this the prints may be made in single transfer carbon in Kodak transfer type bromide paper, or they may be printed in the enlarger with the glass side to the lens, or if portrait films be used, simply by printing from the back Some objections to the use of the mirror may be raised upon the ground that there is the possibility of getting doable outline of the image, and this, of course would occur if the mirror and lens axis were at an angle of say, 45 deg. with each other; but when the lens and mirror are at right angles to each other there to no danger of this defect appearing.
The scope of home portraiture may be greatly extended by the use of artificial light, and I look forward to the time when the nitrogen filled or half-watt lamps will hare entirely displaced the ordinary vacuum ( f) type. We shall then be able to work where we like in the room and get fireside and card table groups as easily as in the studio. Meanwhile we must rely upon magnesium, either in the form of the flash, or, as 1 prefer to use it for this class of work, in ribbon. Two feet of ribbon cut into four lengths and twisted into a torch give a light equal to an arc-lamp, and, if burned behind a diffuser leave nothing to be desired in the way of lighting. There is no explosion, as with the mixed powders; no snowstorm, as when the pure metal powder is used; the flame is small, and there is no risk to draperies, the only precaution necessary being the provision of an old tea, tray or mat to catch any burning ash which may drop from the torch. I always carry a roll of magnesium ribbon in my camera case with a bit of sandpaper to brighten it with and a wooden clip to hold it while burning. Do not try to light oxidised ribbon; it is a slow job; brighten it with the sandpaper and then it light- quickly and burns evenly.

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