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.
Fig. 8. "Companions" Henry Hall
Fig. 7. "The Picture Book" Davis and Eickemeyer Fig. 9. "Master Gerald Philbin" Davis and Eickemeyer
3, 4, 9, 10 and 11 are to be preferred to more impressionistic renderings like Figs. 5, 12, 13 and 16.
Nearly all the leading photographers work with a small, but strong, source of light. The striving for effect in a limited scale of tones, which has been introduced by the extreme portraitists is only the reaction from the old time photograph when the scale of tones extended to 16-20 gradations, commencing with white paper for the strongest high-lights and ending with black in the shadows. The right thing seems to be a halt somewhere between the two extremes.
In Figure 3, the portrait of "Mrs. Arnold Daly," by Davis and Eickemeyer, the lighting is a trifle colder and harsher than in Fig. 2. The minutiae of modeling are not quite as subtle, but the facial expression has the merit of being more spontaneous. The light scheme represents a similar problem as in Fig. 4; it is concentrated upon the face, but as there was less opportunity for line in the rendering of the furs, the photographer wisely arrayed a diffused play of light in the figure and thereby avoided monotony. The triangular space arrangement of the silhouette against the dark background is skillfully managed. The texture of the fur is well rendered and sufficiently subdued to avoid monotony of effect.
Many photographers seem to consider the representation of texture of fabrics a detriment. I think that it is at times a beautiful adjunct. Perfect clearness as in Figs. 6 and 14 may not always be desirable. It is true only as a record and can claim no artistic importance. But if represented in a subdued way as in Fig. 2, where it is, despite its profusion and distinctness, subordinated to the face, it helps the pictorial quality of the picture.
Child portraiture, of which you see a few examples on Plate II, is apt to have a story-telling quality to it, or at least to resemble a genre study. Amateur photography has made a big inroad into this particular branch of portraiture. It is easy to take a snapshot, and no matter how badly the result may turn out it will always prove of interest to those who arc immediately concerned with it. The amateur picture generally has something which is lacking in the studio print - a certain intimate flavor and naturalness which is sure to exercise a special charm upon parents and relatives and all those who are familiar with the individual ways of the child portrayed. The professional photographer cannot compete with this quality, even if he indulges in home portraiture. It is beyond his reach.
The professional is forced to photograph children very much the same way as he does adults. Of course the scope is wider. There is much more chance for arrangement and composition. A child can be taken in almost any kind of a position. Generally the photographer is restricted in the management of the feet and the legs. A little boy you can place unceremoniously on the floor, give him some plaything, and make your exposure. But never forget that this unceremonious treatment demands greater, or at least a more specialized, knowledge of composition. Also that the more vivid the action you wish the figure to assume the more chance there will be of a failure.
The simple bust portrait, and the stereotype sitting and standing positions (Fig. 6, for instance) are, after all, the most reliable. The tendency is luckily for an increased naturalness in the posing. In home portraiture the parents of the young sitters are apt to let the photographer do what he likes with their children. Figs. 7 and 8 are examples of this method.
There is one technical peculiarity which should really regulate all efforts in this direction, and furnishes the fundamental basis to work upon. And this is really in the nature of a deficiency, namely, that the light in the ordinary studio is seldom good enough for very brief exposures, which would be the ideal condition for the fleeting expressions of a child's face. For that reason, and solely for that reason, all attempts at depicting animated expression, motion and vivacity (as occur so often in the life of children) should be left to out-door photography. Henry Hall in his "Companions," Fig. 8, gives us a charming version of a little boy. The attitude is naturalness itself, but it represents less the likeness of the face than a likeness of the whole body. The pose attracts immediate attention, and the photographer showed good judgment in blurring the form of the cat. This rectangular division of space considerably helps the composition.
Indoor photography, whether studio or home exposure, must content itself with dignified compositions and the getting of likeness, a composite expression of all the various expressions that might interest in the faces of our little ones. This we see in A. F. Bradley's "Miss Demorest" (Fig. 6). It is a trifle stiff, but after all, as far as pose and detail are concerned, a capital example of child portraiture.
"The Picture Book" (Fig. 7) and "Portrait of Master Gerald Philbin" (Fig. 9), by Davis and Eickemeyer, seem to pursue that golden middle way. Fig. 7 is an excellent combination of a picture and a portrait. The figure is well placed. It gives the impression as if the little girl is actually seated in a room. The simpler, subdued pattern of the carpet and curtain, and of the dress, offers enough variety and contrast to set off the uniform tint of the face.
The flatter the tints of a face are the more easily does it hold the eye as an important spot in the composition. As soon as a face shows decided contrast, no matter how subtle the gradations may be, the background has to be very plain. In Fig. 9 the face shows strong modeling. I believe the picture would be better if it were less pronounced and carried out in a more uniform tint. It would represent a larger middle tint plane and at once fascinate the eye, but as it is the rabbit attracts an equal amount of attention. This optical peculiarity can also be studied in Figs. 2 and 3. The modeling in the face of Fig. 2 is rather decided and would not stand more contrast in the dress or background, while the face of Mrs. Arnold Daly, if it showed stronger contrasts of light, would at once lose its interest. An absolute correct rendering of values, i. c., the relation of the tonal gradations (of the various objects represented) to each other is most desirable, but it should never be permitted to give the face a secondary place of importance.