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.
Use Of Diffusing Screen. In lighting full length figures, especially when the subject is gowned in white drapery, the use of the diffusing screen is indispensable. With it the light on the drapery can be diffused and accentuated, and by separating the curtains of the upper section the light can be directed to fall more forcibly on the face, thereby lighting it stronger than the drapery. To supply catch-lights to any part of the drapery, by separating the diffusing curtains on the lower section of the screen just a trifle, it is possible to admit as small or as large a quantity of light as is desired. With this screen the light is absolutely under control, and whatever effect is visible to the eye can be retained in the negative.
Reflecting Screen. Little use will need to be made of the reflector, especially when the subject is gowned in light drapery. Where extremely dark drapery has to be contended with, the reflector may be needed to illuminate some of the deeper shadows; but this should be done with great care, as a false lighting and flatness will result if too much reflected light be employed. Always direct the reflected light onto the front of the figure, rather than toward the rear; consequently, the reflecting screen should be placed somewhat to the front of the subject. As has previously been stated, reflected light is simply a continuation of the direct source of light, and its sole use is to break the harshness of the line which exists between the high-lights and shadows.
Backgrounds. The background must harmonize with the subject as to size, lighting, etc., and if a figured ground is used, care must be taken to have it correspond with the attire of the subject. For instance, for a lady gowned with hat and cloak, an out-door scene will be appropriate; or, a plain ground without design may be introduced, but in using it be careful to place the ground far enough from the subject to throw it slightly out of focus, thus securing proper atmospheric effect and good illumination between subject and background.
407. We advise plain backgrounds, especially for men, as figured backgrounds detract from the portrait, and a design ground suitable for all subjects is rarely obtainable. When a plain or dark clouded ground is used, the same ground can be employed for the greater part of your work. With a plain ground, the center of interest in the portrait is concentrated upon the face and figure, and where there are no surroundings to detract, such a portrait is always pleasing. If a design is required in the background it can be worked in on the back of the negative, to suit the subject.
Lighting. The curtaining of the skylight for full figure lighting is the same as for bust portrait work, with the exception that in lighting a full-length figure a trifle stronger illumination is required than for bust pictures, as the increased light gives better lines and more prominence to the drawing. Many photographers misjudge their lighting. Some light very strong and chalky and expect soft results; others diffuse to the extreme without providing for high-lights or catch-lights. In consequence, the work produced is flat. Remember, it is possible to get in the negative (if properly exposed) exactly what is under your light, and nothing more; consequently, it is necessary to light subjects exactly as results are wanted in the finished picture.