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.
Money-Making Opportunities. The first portraits made by the light of an ordinary home window were undertaken by the amateur, who attempted to secure the likeness of the various members of the family. Usual opinions on the results were, at that time, anything but polite, but with unfaltering persistence the amateur has made himself a master of this phase of photography, and opened the eyes of professionals to the money-making opportunities in the field of At-home portraiture. In many cases the studio is receiving secondary consideration, the professional making portraiture in the home the main feature of his work.
Easily Mastered. At-home portraiture is extremely fascinating and, although requiring a considerable amount of patience, as well as a practical knowledge of the principles of lighting and composition, it presents no serious difficulties in securing excellent results. In fact, so delightful is a session of home-portrait art work, with a suitable and sympathetic model, that one's enthusiasm almost always overcomes the numerous difficulties of posing.
Modifications In Lighting. No matter how carefully the lighting may have been made, some modifications of heavy shadows are at times necessary; otherwise the printed image would be exaggerated in one way or another, giving a greater amount of contrast than appears in the original.
Effect Of Color. Then, too, differences in color lead to difficulties. The white of the dress will be rendered in a tone too bright when compared with the face and hands. Although color-sensitive plates may be employed to some advantage in securing the proper rendering of the "values," the advantage is small unless a color screen is also employed. Then, the exposure is so greatly prolonged as to make the work almost an impossibility. On printing the portrait negative it will be found that this difference in color, especially where freckles show as black spots, small lines appear as wrinkles, the cheeks seem hollow and the nose crooked, makes it necessary to pay special attention to the retouching.
Character Destroyed By Retouching. It is an easy matter to destroy character in the face, making it a mere expressionless mass. Even when you know just what you wish to produce, you might not possess the required skill of hand to carry out the ideas by retouching. If you trust the negatives to some one else, even a professional retoucher, he may not be able to bring out the character lines as you have seen them on the ground-glass. For this reason the greatest of care must be exercised in making the lighting and in finishing the negative.
Definite Aim In Portraiture. There should be a definite aim in all photographic work, but especially in At-home portraiture, as it is necessary to plan and know just what effects you wish to produce before attempting to pose and light the subject. Your individual ideas will have everything to do with your final results.
Setting Must Be Harmonious. It is quite essential that special attention be paid to the surroundings, as well as to the subject. For instance, it is entirely wrong to pose a figure against a background of strongly figured wall-paper, which would detract from the subject rather than add to the value of the portrait. Frequently, portrait "studies" are so overloaded with curtains, pictures, furniture and bric-a-brac that the entire omission of the figure would have been a very distinct artistic gain.
Likeness Of A Person. Referring to Webster, we find that a portrait is " the likeness of a person, especially of the face." It would certainly be an excellent idea to have these words emblazoned upon each and every camera. You should include in the portrait everything that will add to the likeness of the subject - omit everything else. In order to secure this effect study the expression and the natural pose of the individual. It may be necessary to include the hands, and sometimes even the feet; anything that will help to interpret character, leaving out all those features which tend to detract from it.
Study The Subject. Study the subject previous to making an attempt at posing before the camera; acquaint yourself with the subject's individual peculiarities, and, in posing, aim to reproduce as many strong characteristics as possible. Do not begin to "fish" for ideas on the focusing screen, while the sitter is losing confidence in you, and patience for the ordeal.
Obtaining Ideas For Posing. Many excellent ideas may be secured by looking over the various popular magazines, as they contain splendid studies made by the very best photographic artists. If you will study these, many ideas will be presented which will lead away from the stereotyped forms of posing. It is sometimes a good plan to make a few rough sketches of favorite poses, some pleasing lightings or other details which you can study and impress upon your mind. Arrange and re-arrange until the whole scheme appears quite clear to you. This preliminary study is quite essential, although many workers consider it is time wasted.