IT has been the aim of all photographers to bring about pictorial quality in their work through the agency of lighting.
We have learned in our analysis of the pictures in this book that the true sphere of lighting is the modelling of form, that, however effective lighting may be made, it alone does not bring the representation beyond the imitation of nature. Considering lighting as understood by the profession, we find that many systems have been invented, advertised, and practised without bringing a clarified view of the subject to the worker or satisfying him as to the results of his efforts.
Some of these systems have rested upon minute directions as to studio fixtures, the angle of sky-light, the exact placing of the sitter, and the relative position of the camera.
It may be seen that such systems would tend to make all photographs alike, — an end which if attained must bring portrait-photography into disfavor because of the weariness of repetition. Individuality in man has been too great a force to be submerged by any prescribed rules, and each photographer has found a way of lighting that fits his conception of a portrait. This he should continue to use undisturbed, while pursuing the art now opened to him.
It may be said that lighting must yield the third dimension.
The human figure gives the same impression of roundness out of doors as in doors, in a room with many windows as in the atelier of but one light.
Modern schools of painting are experimenting in all kinds of light, and photographers will invigorate their art by doing the same, but there is a practical side to photographic portraiture that limits our analysis to what the north light single window will give.
We may investigate frontal, side, and marginal lighting as being of special service. (See Figures 126, 127, 128.) In Fig. 126 the light strikes the object in front from above; in 127 it is on the side, and in 128 the margin is illuminated. All three drawings have the gradation explained in the previous chapter and they seem round. Fig. 125 is a white geometric oblong that presents no "body." If we were to introduce tint repetition, as in Fig. 129, the result would be not plastic, but flat; nor does the use of a more vigorous tint help us to obtain the round. (See Fig. 130.)
Frontal lighting is obtained by throwing the light centrally on an object and grading the tones from the highest light softly to the edges.
Side lighting gives us the highest light on one side, a soft graded tone extending to the near frame edge, and an ever increasing depth of tone toward the other border, modified on the contour by a reflex light.
Marginal lighting throws its high light on the edge, and next to this is the strongest dark, from which a diminuendo of tone reaches to the other side.
When a plaster cast is placed under the light corresponding to the foregoing examples, we have the effective modelling shown in Figs. 131, 132, 133.
The frontal lighting of Fig. 131 is always a temptation to great portrait painters, inviting a subtle technique in the rendering of the hardly seen yet thoroughly felt gradations that it presents.
Photographers, in essaying the same problem, usually tend to flatness or thinness of effect. When well done, every part of the head will have gradation of tone; the highest light will be where the light strikes the nearest plane.
This high light is most effective on the breadth of the forehead with its slowly curving surface. It will differ from the light on the nose, where the bone and cartilage reflect it sharp and keen.
In Fig. 132 the lighting principle is the same as in
Fig. 127. Photographers will profit by repeatedly examining these drawings, as the eye will read and the memory retain many laws clearly shown in them. We discover that nearest the highest lights in abrupt forms we usually have the deepest darks; the shadow thrown by the nose is deeper than the one on the side of the cheek.
The crescendo of shading in Fig. 133 is an interesting study, as is also the great contrast of tones on the edge.
Comparing it with Fig. 134, we find the former pictorially sound, and the latter decorative. Several factors enter to make Fig. 134 representative of photographers' failures in lighting.
In the diagram of flat tones, page 193, in the chapter on Light and Shade, the spaces marked 1 and 2 have the same degree of dark, a condition found in Fig. 134, the shadow on the nose being the same in degree as a section of the background. Again, in the diagram the spaces 3-4 have the same degree of white, and in the drawing of the plaster cast the forehead and a section of the background have equal whiteness.
These tones fall into one another and cause the planes to be on a level. The black on the nose is as far back as the black in the background; or reversed, the black background comes forward to a level with the shadow of the nose. The same can be said of the whites just examined.
Photographers are given to these errors, especially in their half-tones where repetition is frequent.
One other consideration is of importance in modelling. The outline of the head in Fig. 134 has the marginal sharpness so destructive to pictorial effect in photography. The mechanical sameness of its strength weakens the shading and destroys the sense of " body."
A wholesome lesson is learned by the analysis of the outline in Fig. 133. We find it continuously changing from the soft to the firm, from the sharp back to the soft, the delicate, the interrupted. This kind of a line models form quite as much as does gradation in tone.
It can be said of the outline in Fig. 134 that the sensitive forms of the head are bounded by it but not described.
Applying the lesson to an example, we discover that the flat background in Fig. 50 flattens the lighting in the face and lessens the "body" sense of all the forms, while the background in Fig. 51, having depth, adds to the lighting obtained on the figure.
The same is true of the photo-prints, when we set side by side the plain and the pictorially developed pictures. Photographers often obtain effects in lighting that are not acceptable to their patrons, as for instance Fig. 135. Here the flesh tones have lost their luminous quality and seem spotty. The problem presented is not a discouraging one to art. Composition will rectify the faults. Notice how in Fig. 136 the balance of darks, half-tones and lights effect a pleasing portrait, full of life and interest and without objectionable overshading of the flesh forms.
The trimming of print 137 was the outcome of the photographer's decision that the lighting was not strong enough for the background and the draperies. Yet this same lighting can be made to hold against a large area. The real trouble seems to lie in the circumstance that the picture, attempting an action, is without movement; further, that the arm and hand have become too obtrusive for the good effect of the face. By throwing the emphasis where it belongs we have produced action, and the proper tempo. In Fig. 138 an unusual and satisfactory pictorial rendering is the outcome.
The lighting need not give anxiety to the experienced photographer, but composition should be the object of his earnest search.