For convenience, we will suppose we are working from the east end of the light. This will place the subject in the west end of the operating room.
Place the background under the southwest corner of the top light, and the subject far enough in advance of the ground to secure the best "atmospheric" effect, or in other words, far enough forward to throw the ground out of focus, say about three feet. Place the camera about three feet nearer the side light than the subject. We will say the camera should be about five feet from the side light, and the subject about nine. Now pull the west curtain on the side light all the way to the top, and the same curtain on the top light down to the side light. The second curtain on the side light should be within a foot of the top, the third about two feet from the top, and the fourth about three from the top. The second curtain on the top light should be about two-thirds down the light, the third about half, and the fourth hardly as far down as the third.
For a three-quarter view of the subject's face, turn the body facing the camera, and the head away from the side light until the ear on the shadow side of the face is just out of sight. If instructions have been followed, it will be noticed that the highest light on the face is on the left side of the forehead, the next strongest on the nose, the next on the left side of the upper lipr and the next on the chin, and on the shadow side of the face, a delicate halftone will be noticed, which grades back, and is lost in shadow. The attention will also be attracted to the good strong catch lights which appear in the eyes, if the lighting is correctly made, and if these catch lights do not appear in the eyes, it is an assured fact that the light has not been properly made. More will be said of this point under "Notes on Plain Lighting." If it is desirable that a full front view of the subject's face be made, she should be posed the same as for three-quarter view, and the camera moved around in front of the subject until both ears are seen, or until the camera is the same distance from the side light as the subject. For a profile view place the camera the same as for three-quarter view, but turn the subject's head away from the side light until the eye on the shadow side of the face cannot be seen. In all cases the curtains are the same, and the "points" of light on the face will be the same except in the profile view, when the catch lights cannot be secured, owing to the face being turned so far away from the light.
If the "key" of light appears to be too strong, that is, if the high lights appear strong and the shadows look sharp and lacking in detail, the diffusing curtains should be drawn over the light, when it will be seen that the shadows take on more delicacy, and the high lights lose the "chalky" look to them. It may be necessary to use a side reflector on the shadow side of the face, to illuminate the shadow cast by the nose, and the line of shadow on the extreme outer edge of the cheek. Be certain to get detail in the shadows.
We have only used these positions of the subject for the purpose of illustrating the light, so don't think they are the only positions that can be made in this lighting, for, as the barber said when he combed the "hobo's" head, "there are millions in it." There are no end of positions to be made in this lighting. In fact, most of the "fancy" or catchy posing is done in this lighting, as it requires less time, because there is not the danger of the subject moving. Whatever should happen, an operator should not get in a "rut" and go year in and year out making the same positions every day. Cultivate originality, but it matters not what position the subject be placed or posed in, the points of light should be as given above.
This rule for making plain lighting will hold good under almost any style light. In fact we have tried it under almost every style light heard of, and had no trouble getting the effect desired. As to the class of subjects it is best suited to, we use it for very small children, owing to shortness of exposure, and also for aged, and thin-faced people. In taking old people, use strong side light; it shows the character better. For children mostly top light, and for groups top and side light falling from the front. The exposure for this lighting will usually be from one to five seconds, depending, of course, on the size diaphragm used, speed of plate, color of drapery and to some extent the season of the year.