This is doubtless a subject that almost every operator will be interested in, and there is no question but that our draperies give us no little trouble, and especially the white. It seems to be the tendency to have all light drapery illuminated too strongly, while it is frequently the case that the dark draperies are thrown in such strong shadow that all the detail does not get out before the high lights are so far over-developed that we have what we would at first flush call a strongly lighted negative. In this paper we propose to deal with only two kinds, or two shades of drapery, and will leave it for the reader to modify the treatment of the intermediate shades. This can, of course, be done by a little thought and judgment. Further,, we propose to give our method for lighting these draperies under what we will term a narrow light. It is a much easier thing to control the lighting of drapery under a fair-sized light than it is under one where you are cramped for light. The light we will consider will be anything up to say nine feet wide, and there are a vast number of lights throughout the country of even smaller dimensions than this. Under this kind of light, and especially if the skylight is steep and high, we will have some trouble in making what is known as the Rembrandt lighting, from the fact that it will work with rather stronger contrast than may be desired in our lightings.
It must be remembered that Rembrandt lighting is rather strong in contrast anyhow, and when we are forced to use a narrow light it is possible that we will go into what we call harsh lighting. However, with a little judicious curtaining, we can make a very nice light.
Figure No. 1. Lighting White Drapery.
Figure No. 2. Lighting White Drapery.
Figure No. 3. Lighting White Drapery.
To begin on our drapery we will take up white first. This is the most difficult drapery to light from the fact that it is so easy to "bury" it in light, and thus lose the detail. When we have such a piece of drapery to light, we should go at it with the intention of bringing out all that there is in it. It should be our desire to see, if possible, just what kind of goods the drapery was made of, and this should show in the picture. If this is what we want to secure, we can never accomplish our desire if we throw open our light and allow it to beat down full force on our subject. But rather must we begin to cut off the volume of light, and do all in our power to tone down the intensity of our whites. There should never be anything of a "chalky" nature in our picture. When our picture is finished, and we look at the whites in it, say the shirt front or collar of a gentleman, they should never appear as white as they do when we see them, as we pass the same subject on the street. If we receive a lady in our studio parlors, and she is wearing a pure white dress, this same dress will look a hundred shades whiter when seen on the street. We should therefore try and light our drapery as we see it in the reception room, and further, when these pictures are taken home by the customer, they will not be shown to friends out on the front lawn, but rather in the parlor, and it is a conceded fact that all parlors must be a trifle darker than any other room in the house. Generally speaking, we would say that white drapery should be made with "back lighting." By this we mean that the light should fall across the shoulders, and slightly back of the subject. In Figure 1 we have a piece of white drapery lighted in plain light.
As we have described in previous chapters our method for making plain light is light falling from the front, composed both of side and top light. This being the case, we can easily account for the "buried" or blocked-out appearance of our drapery. It will be noticed that none of the fold of the waist shows. This is due to the fact that the top light falling from the front was beating down directly on the subject, thus illuminating every fold of the dress to such an extent that they developed up as rapidly as the high tints did, thus causing the "buried" look. In making this negative we had the sitter under the southwest corner of our light (our light being a north light). We had four curtains on the skylight, also four on the side light. The first curtain on the west of the side light was pulled to the top, the next three were about half up. The first curtain on the west of the skylight was pulled down about half way of the light, the next lacked about two feet of being pulled so far, and the next two lacked about two feet of being down as far as the second. Thus it is seen our light was falling from the front, and the result is seen in the illustration. Figure 2 shows almost the same view of the face, but the result is entirely different. Here we can see every fold of the dress, and in the original photograph the nature of the goods can be distinguished. To secure this beautiful result, we moved the sitter up under the light so that there was only about five feet of the skylight remaining in front of the subject. She was placed about eight feet from the side light, and the camera was about six feet. We had the curtains on both the skylight and side light reversed exactly from what we had in Figure 1. The body of the sitter was turned slightly away from the side light and camera, and the result is seen in the illustration. Figure 3 shows us an entirely different effect, and to our mind this is the most pleasing. In this we have a soft Rembrandt lighting. We have the drapery as nicely lighted as it was in Figure 2, and the gradations of the face are all that could be desired. To get this we only turned the subject further from the side light without moving the posing chair. This allowed the strongest light to fall over the left shoulder. The camera was then moved away from the side light until the desired view of the face was obtained.
Figure No. 4. Lighting Dark Drapery.
Figure No. 5. Lighting Dark Drapery.
Figure No. 6. Lighting Dark Drapery.
In Figure 4 we have a piece of dark drapery which was placed in the same position, and the camera was in the same position as for Figure 3. Here it can be seen the detail in the shadow side of the coat has not been brought out. Matters could have been helped to some extent by giving longer time of course, but under a narrow light, this was not the correct lighting for this drapery. In Figure 5 we have the same drapery as Figure 4, and placed in the same place as for Figure 2, and with the curtains arranged the same, the difference being that we have the body turned toward the side light, and the result is seen to be decidedly better than in Figure 5. But it remains for Figure 6 to show us the dark drapery lighted to the best advantage. Here we have the subject in the same place as we had in Figure 1. In the case of black drapery the body may be turned either toward or away from the side lights. Our curtains were arranged just the same, and our camera in the same place as for Figure 1. It can easily be seen that the result is very pleasing. We do not for an instant claim that white drapery can only be photographed in Rembrandt light, and black drapery only in plain light, but under a narrow steep light, most satisfactory results can be obtained in this way.