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.
The Subject. We will now take it for granted that all the necessary arrangements have been made, and that you are in possession of a well appointed home studio. For the beginner an adult person will make the best subject, for the reason that children are likely to tire easily.
205. Placing the Subject - Always place the subject as far from the window as possible. This distance is governed entirely by the light, which latter should fall at the proper angle and give sufficient illumination to enable one to secure good modeling and reproduce the character of the individual. In the ordinary home the distance from the subject to the window will usually correspond to the breadth of the window sash, and this distance may be taken as a guide until, after a few experiments, your judgment as to the proper distance has become more accurate. If placed too near the window, the light, being too direct and strong, will cause high-lights of excessive strength, and deep shadows. On the other hand, if the subject be located too far into the room - away from the source of illumination - the angle of the light will not be correct, as the shadows cast by the nose and other prominences will fall straight across the face, and the contrasts, even in this position, will not be materially reduced.
Atmosphere - Roundness. To secure perfect atmosphere - the greatest amount of roundness - in portraiture the strongest light should fall on the features nearest the camera, and gradually blend back into the shadows. To obtain this result the subject should be placed in a position which will allow of the light falling on the face from the front as well as from the side and top. The proper location depends much upon the height of the window, but in all cases the subject should be far enough from the window to allow the rays of light to fall on the face at an angle of about 45°. The subject should also be a little to the rear of the window casing next to the background. In such a position the ear on the light side of the face will not receive the light in the same degree of strength as will the front of the face. The strongest light will fall on the edge of the nose; the next in strength on the forehead, then on the cheek, lips and chin of the light side of the face, while a delicate half-tone or "catch" light will be visible on the shadow cheek.
Controlling The Light. As the window in the home does not admit a large volume of light, those rays that are allowed to enter the room will produce a somewhat contrasty effect. For this reason it is necessary to employ such means as will assist one in securing softness and modeling. The diffusing screen on the window and the reflecting screen, which is placed on the shadow side of the subject are the two important accessories for the controlling of the light. The diffusing screen filters the volume of light as it enters through the window, and in so doing diffuses and spreads it over a large area, subduing the harsh effect on the high-lights and softening the shadows so the contrast between these two extremes is very much lessened. If the contrast cannot be reduced sufficiently in this way, the reflecting screen should be placed at an angle with the window, to soften the line which may still exist between the high-lights and shadows. Extreme care must be exercised when using the reflector, that it is not placed parallel with the window, for the reason that the light will either be thrown too strongly on the rear of the shadow side of the face or the reflected light will not touch the subject at all - simply being cast back to the window. It cannot be too emphatically stated, that the strongest light on the face in a Plain Portrait Lighting should be on that part nearest to the camera. For this reason the reflector must be judiciously handled. It should act simply as an agent to give harmonious blending between the high-lights and the shadows. 208. Referring to Illustration No. 12, observe the position of the subject, the camera, the reflecting screen and the background. The reflector should be at least 3 feet to the side and the background 3 feet to the rear of the subject.
Illustration No. 12 See Paragraph No. 208.
The reflector should catch a little of the direct light and throw it onto the face, so as to obtain proper blending from the highest points of light to the deepest shadows. The angle at which the background is turned will depend entirely upon its nature and the effect that is desired. Usually, however, the background should be at a right angle with the axis of the lens.
209. Posing the Subject - The beginner should make no attempt at set posing. The more simple the pose the better. First, seat the subject figure and face toward the window; second, slightly turn the face from the window; then, watch the effect of the light as it falls upon it. The face and figure should never be posed at the same angle. If the subject is a lady gowned in light drapery, the lines of the face permitting, in order to save the drapery and obtain all the detail possible turn the figure into the shadow and the face toward the light. This rule will not always hold good, however, as frequently the angle of the neck and contour of the face are such, that to obtain the most pleasing results of the face - most essential in a portrait - it will be necessary to reverse this order. If the window supplying the illumination is so located as to permit of the subject being placed at either side of the light, arrange the subject on the side that will give the best portrait and drapery effects.
210. In making bust pictures, carefully square the shoulders never allowing one to be higher than the other. Only in extreme cases, and particularly in reclining positions, where more of the figure is shown, is it permissible to deviate from this rule.