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.
Introduction. The manufacturers of furniture, especially when there is no upholstering, such as in beds, dressers, wooden chairs, etc., never finish or polish the wood for their sample pieces, before photographing, but only fill them with one coat of filler. This brings out the grain of the wood and gives an even surface throughout.
278. Furniture and highly polished surfaces are hard to photograph satisfactorily without the proper facilities. A soft diffused front light is necessary, and the light should come all from one source. If objectionable high-lights cannot be prevented, arrange to have them come from one source of light only. When this class of work is photographed in the studio you will usually require some white muslin diffusing screens on the skylight to diffuse the light in some portions. Where the work is done at the factory, the light from the windows may need to be diffused by means of cheese-cloth stretched across a portion of them. Under any circumstances a uniformly soft illumination must be given the object.
Reflectors For Very Difficult Work. Many times a reflector must be employed to reflect light into weak parts. For this purpose a large mirror will be found very convenient. Where a mirror is not at hand a large white cardboard held in the hand, tilted to the proper angle, will answer the purpose. For articles of furniture requiring a perspective view, the front and one end must face the light, and in that case the camera worked more diagonally across the room.
Lens To Use. A good rectilinear or an anastig-mat lens should be used. Where distance will permit, a very long focus lens is preferred. For example, where an 8 x 10 negative is desired, an 11 x 14 lens is best to use. With the larger lens better perspective will be obtained. The photographs for Illustrations Nos. 59 and 59a were made on 8 x 10 plates, with an 11 x 14 rectilinear lens. Short-focus lenses cannot be used successfully for photographing furniture, bric-a-brac, glassware, etc., as you will be troubled with distortion. When photographing tables, chairs, beds, stoves, etc., where a short-focus lens is used, the rear legs will appear very short and out of proportion. Even with a rectilinear lens of normal focal-length, one that can be used on a plate no larger than the size negative you are making, you will not get the best results. You should use a lens made for at least a one-size larger plate than the negative you expect to make; two-sizes larger, in many instances, would be still better.
281. To further illustrate the advantage of large-size lenses being used for this work, make a 5 x 7 negative of an ordinary table, using a 5 x 7 lens. Then attach an 8 x 10 lens to the 5x7 camera, or if the bellows is not long enough in your 5x7 camera to admit of the 8 x 10 lens being used, then attach the 8 x 10 lens to your 8 x 10 camera and use only a 5 x 7 plate, and make a negative of the same table with the larger size lens. Develop the two plates and note the difference; the one will show a very much distorted table similar to Illustration No. 60; the other will look well balanced, with good lines.