This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Substitute For Painted Background. If a background is not among your possessions, substitute an ordinary plain dark colored curtain or rug, which may be suspended from the picture moulding either in folds, or plain. In an emergency anything of this kind will prove satisfactory as a background, and sometimes the resulting effects will exceed in quality those that could be produced with a graded ground.
Reflecting Screen. For the reflecting screen prepare another stretcher 3 feet wide by 5 feet high (See Illustration No. 10). Use the same size material employed in making frame for the background. Cover this with white muslin, stretching it in the same manner as with the background (See Paragraph No. 187). This is to be used as the reflecting screen for portrait work. To conveniently move the background or reflecting screen, the frames should be fitted with castors, which are to be fastened to cross pieces at the bottom of the base of the frames. While both background and reflecting screen may be used without castors, much is added to the convenience in handling by having them. When employed without castors they can be held in position by using chairs for back support. When not in use, place face to face, resting against the wall, where they will occupy little space.
The Subject. Frequently, successful results are only obtained after working with the subject for a considerable period of time. For this reason, with first efforts in portrait work be prepared to give careful thought to the work, and do not be discouraged if failures are encountered. Determine in advance about the pose and style of lighting it is proposed to apply to the subject. Strive to carry out this idea; stick to it until the results desired have been obtained. Frequently it will be found that the best positions are those assumed more or less unconsciously by subjects themselves.
201. You must have practice, and for your experimental work select a friend, who is interested in your work, to pose for you, because sitting before a camera operated by an inexperienced student becomes quite tiresome, unless the person is somewhat interested in the work themselves.
202. Women usually make better subjects than men, as they enter more into the spirit of the work, are more patient, less restless, more graceful, and for these reasons lend themselves naturally to posing in different positions.
With women for your subjects there is also a better opportunity for lighting; i. e., you may obtain more variety of lightings of them than of men, and the effect of the light is more apparent.
Number Of Plates To Expose. It is not necessary that you expose a large number of plates, as no plate should be wasted on a pose that is not good. In fact, for practice work it is necessary to make but few exposures. Simply practice altering the light to produce different effects. Observe the effect of the light with the subject close to the window and further away; then, with the diffusing screen low and high, turning the figure first one way and then another, towards the light and away from it, leaning forward and backward. Observe the effect of light and the general balance and pose of the subject under these conditions. This will train you to observe quickly and judge the proper effects when they appear. Should you, during your experiments, obtain a lighting or a position of the subject which you consider just right, make a negative. A few negatives made during each day's experiments are sufficient. This however, applies only to the experimental or training stage, because when seriously at work it will often be found advisable to use an extra plate or two, for sometimes such chance shots will turn out great successes.