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.
98. If the object of all portraiture by photography is, first of all, to secure a good likeness of the sitter, then the second is, to present it in an agreeable manner. Choice of stop, exposure, proportion of figure, pose and expression are only details which aid us in presenting the peculiar characteristics of the sitter in an engaging and agreeable manner. But not until the lines are well balanced in the portrait, its masses of light and shade suitably opposed, and a perfectly harmonious and broad effect secured, do we have what is known as a good composition - the foundation of every correct and pleasing arrangement in any picture.
99. Straight lines in a portrait should be avoided, or broken up by the introduction of other lines or objects, to lend variety of interest. The stiffness of a square window in a background, or a picture on the wall, can be modified by the curved lines of a curtain. On the other hand, straight lines can be used by way of contrast to a superabundance of curves in a picture, setting them off to better advantage. The dress of a sitter should not hang in straight lines, but the folds should be rounded and curved; while the main lines, wherever possible, should always lead up to the central point of interest in the portrait, namely, the head.
100. The center of attraction in every picture is that point which holds the greatest amount of interest. It is called the center of equilibrium of attractions. Centering interest in this point is effected in various ways, of which contrast, radiation, and moving lines are the most used. Under the general heading of contrast, there is contrast of direction, produced by opposition of line, contrast of quality of line, contrast of form and proportion, which all may be used singly or collectively, to heighten the effect of the picture. In centering interest, however, we should never use a stronger contrast than is needed.
102. Moving lines center the interest at their ends. Strong contrasts placed near such lines in a picture have no effect in arresting the attention; but if the moving lines are broken at or near the points of strong contrast, the attention is arrested. Especially is this so when the break occurs in the middle of the line and the two parts are alike in curvature. Moving lines may connect areas of space, but strong contrasts and radiation of line should be kept away from the edge of the picture, as they borrow weight from association.
103. The number of lines running in one direction should be balanced by others going in an opposite direction. This attempt to secure perfect balance in the lines of a picture should not be obtrusive, for should the arrangement be exactly symmetrical, so that the two sides of the picture will resemble each other too evenly, as regards their lines, its beauty will be marred.
104. The masses of light and shade in a picture should balance and compliment each other. Any picture well balanced in light and shade will always look interesting, even though the subject is not discernible. It is not easy to lay down definite rules for balancing. The feeling for it. however, is instinctive, though the instinct itself can be cultivated and perfected. As one can analyze the composition of a great painting, step by step, so also in portraiture by photography, should composition figure. There is first a massing of light and shade. Then follows the subtle introduction of contrast here and there, dark against light, and light against dark. Finally, note how the details in the portrait are made to harmonize with the whole scheme of
PORTRAIT STUDY Study No. 7-See Page 576, Vol. VIII J. Will Towles.
(Copyright 1903, by Pirie MacDonald, Photographer of Men, N. Y.) EDWIN MARKHAM Study No. 8-See Page 576, Vol. VIII Pirie MacDonald light and shade-like the accompaniment to a song. It all looks so natural that the idea of arrangement in the picture is not even suggested; yet, it is the result of careful planning, or instinctive grouping, by the genius of the artist.
105. The examples of portraiture reproduced in this volume have all been carefully planned, thought out, and designed by the makers. These pictures have been designed as a poem, symphony, or a house might be designed. Design brings abstract ideas into concrete form, and the value of design in picture-making lies in the fact that it makes good the conception of the photographer in the picture. In creating any work of art, the artist must first think of his subject in a certain effect or design. In photography, he must think of his subject in lights, in shades, in beauty of line; and, having created the effect he imagined, he then takes the picture. In this way, the creative imagination comes into photography with design, and when they both come into any art, that art becomes a fine art.
106. Three things, however, are necessary to make a design successful: First, the idea must be present; second, the artist must have a good technical knowledge of the materials through which the idea is expressed; third, he must know the fundamental principles of design-if beauty is to be the result-and this means composition.
107. It goes without saying, that every ambitious photographer has ideas and is more or less familiar with the technical details of his medium.
108. But the question of the principles of design is too often ignored by the average worker, and the temptation to make portraits should be resisted until he has mastered at least some of the elementary principles of composition and design.
109. We have already spoken at length of the value of line arrangement in a picture. In every portrait the lines of the face and head and figure should not only balance with one another, but should also be in harmony with those of the background and accessories.
110. By means of moving lines, radiation, opposition of direction, contrast of value and of sentiment, interest is centered in every picture
111. We come now to consider the massing of light and shade, or the distribution of values. By properly introducing this factor, we may either support or neutralize the line of composition. Contrasts of form, proportion, etc., are always intensified when contrast of value is added. The best results accrue when this distribution of light and shade values takes up and continues the line idea. By values are meant the gradations of light between white and black, grays and brown, and neutral colors. As light attracts more attention than dark, it follows that a small, bright patch of light in the picture will balance a large dark one.
112. Most pictures consist of large, intermediate, and small masses of light and shade, which should play into one another. They should be so arranged in relation to the frame lines of the picture, that by themselves the result would be agreeable, and when mingled and interlaced they should form a unified whole. In studying this distribution of light and dark patches, they can be so arranged as to suggest an infinite number of values. But through all this repetition of similar forms of light and shade, and line direction, the element of unity should dominate and shine forth. Simple harmonies are the most attractive. All kinds of lines and all kinds of values should not appear in the same picture. If the photographer can make himself understood with two or three combinations, it is best to stop there. Instead of trying to put in all he can, it is best to leave out everything that can be dispensed with.