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.
565. The faces of babies and aged people require very-little retouching. In fact, if the photographer has properly-lighted and posed his subject there is not one case in ten in which it will be necessary for the retoucher to apply his pencil to the negative at all. It is quite true that there might be pin-holes in the negative; there might be small imperfections on the face, which should be removed, but this is such an elementary stage in the art of retouching that it is hardly necessary to consider it. The majority of children up to the age of eight years have very clear complexions, and to touch the pencil to their features would be to immediately encroach upon nature and destroy the little characteristic expressions of the face.
566. There will be times, however, when the operator has failed to properly illuminate or model the face, and then it devolves upon the retoucher to blend from the high-lights into the shadows, and thus carry out the roundness which naturally exists. To blend these shadows and soften the high-lights, proceed with a very light touch, beginning at or near the edge of the high-light and work with a moderately short stroke. There should be no perceptible grain to the surface, as the skin of a child is so soft that it has no grain - that is, none that can be observed at a distance of a few feet. If you have not noticed the appearance of the flesh of a child you should cultivate your faculty of observation, for you must know how your subject naturally appears before you can properly apply the pencil to the negative and expect to truthfully reproduce the original.
567. The flesh of aged people is just the reverse in appearance to that of a child. Each feature is full of character, which has been gradually moulded through the years that the individual has been fighting the battles of life. To alter these with the retouching pencil would be a crime against photography. The photographer should in the first place, of course, have correctly posed and lighted the subject, so as to bring out all of the good qualities, and to so illuminate the wrinkles that they are not exaggerated. The photographer can, just as well as not, photograph aged people so that the retoucher will have no penciling to do on the negative, except to remove minor blemishes.
568. There is, however, a class of subjects whose faces contain small yellow patches, which will not affect the sensitive plate to any perceptible degree, thus causing lighter patches in these parts. It will be necessary to build these up to match the surrounding tints, by applying the pencil in quite long general strokes. Do not attempt to fill in these blotches solid, as you would then destroy the actual flesh value. The grain in the flesh of aged people is quite coarse, as a rule, and therefore you should use long strokes in retouching, so as to reproduce this same effect.
569. Do not remove wrinkles altogether. If the portrait has not been properly lighted; if too much back light has been employed; if not enough reflected light has been thrown into the deeper shadows; if the direct source of light has not been sufficiently diffused; if the angle of light is not correct; in any of these cases it will be necessary for the retoucher to blend the deeper portions of the wrinkles, and also to lighten any shadows which may appear to join the high-lights too abruptly. The finer lines which are formed at the end of the wrinkles may be removed and the depths of the wrinkles built up a mere trifle, so that they will not appear too prominent; but the greatest of care must be exercised that the character is not altered in the least, and that the very slightest amount of penciling be applied to the negative. Referring to Illustrations Nos.
17 and 18 an idea may be obtained as to the amount of retouching that should be placed on work of this kind.
570. As a rule, the flesh of children is very soft and does not reflect light to the degree that the more oily skin of the aged person does; therefore, the tendency in child portraits is to flatness, while that of the portraits of aged people is toward extreme contrast, and even an exaggeration of roundness. One reason in particular for this is, that the photographer photographs the child in the broad, open light, so as to reduce the exposure to a minimum. When aged people are the subjects the photographer generally tries to make an artistic study. He will then reduce the size of his light, and this, of itself, concentrates the illumination onto the features, accentuating those portions which are nearest the skylight or window. The oiliness of the skin readily reflects the light in these particular spots, and these, together with the deep shadows, which give a great amount of contrast, really exaggerate the effect of roundness.
571. Bearing these points in mind, the retoucher should, if he attempts to work on the negative of a child, build up the high-lights a trifle, so as to do away with the flat appearance which might exist in that particular negative. When retouching negatives of aged people the highlights should be reduced in strength, so as to flatten out a trifle the extreme effect of contrast.
572. Remember, that the very least amount of retouching should be applied to negatives of children and aged people. Each stroke that you take on the negatives of such subjects will, in the majority of cases, simply aid in the destroying of likeness, as well as expression, of the individual.
573. The beginner should always make a proof of the negative before attempting to retouch it. Study this proof and compare it very carefully with the negative. Then, if you find that it is necessary to remove a slight imperfection, proceed to do so. If it is necessary to build up a shadow a trifle, very carefully work in the portion which
needs to receive the detail. Should the high-lights be too weak, build them up a trifle, while if they are too strong they should be reduced at the very start by applying a little reducing paste if the area is somewhat large, or by using the etching knife if a very slight amount of reduction. is required. Notice how the faces of children, as well as aged people appear in the average light of the home, and then try, to the best of your ability, to work along the lines which would give you these same effects in the finished print.