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.
1. During the earlier years of photography - while it was, as we might say, in its experimental stages - portraiture and landscape, with occasional flights into scientific fields, were the beginning and end of the photographer's endeavors.
2. In those days, the publisher, the advertiser and the manufacturer were dependent on the black and white artist for their illustrations; the newspapers had not yet educated the public to news-pictures taken but an hour or two, or at least, a few hours, before; the travelling salesman was yet hampering his movements from city to city with huge cases of samples, instead of carrying in his grip a few portfolios of photographs of his goods; the daily growth of a monster building or a railroad could be shown only by the written reports of the engineer in charge; damage cases in court, trials for forgery or murder were all dependent on verbal evidence; the art auctioneer could only offer the more expensive but generally less reliable wood-cut in his catalogue-de-luxe, and so on throughout the realms of art and business.
3. Today, this is all changed. Without the camera, the lens, and the sensitized plate and paper, the business of the world, the amusements of a large part of the population, the instruction of the school children, the expeditious selling of material and the spreading of news, would be vastly hindered, if not at a standstill.
4. The constant improvement in photographic apparatus, lenses and material has made photography of use, and in most cases a necessity, in every branch of human endeavor - scientific, commercial and artistic.
5. While photography, in its earlier years, was classed amongst the luxuries, today not even the strictly portrait photographer will admit that he caters to a fad, while the so-called commercial photographer, the man who specializes in everything but portraiture, from the photographing of a tombstone to the flashlighting of a princely banquet, is a necessity and is to be found in every hamlet. His activities extend to anything and everything that has to be put in permanent, preservable shape, or quickly converted into pictorial form for public use. And it is a field, too, which will never become exhausted, but, on the contrary, grows daily in its variety and needs.
6. Commercial photography comprises all those manifold phases of picture-making which fall outside the domain of the portrait or landscape photographer. News-pictures; photographs of buildings, machinery, manufactures of every nature, from delicate laces to elaborate curtains and rugs, from fancy bric-a-brac to the product of the piano-maker; pretty posings for advertisers; interiors of work-shops or palaces; instantaneous views of speedy trotters or prize cattle - anything not strictly portraiture is the commercial man's share.
7. A volume could be filled in merely enumerating the various subjects, but a general summary of the work and the different demands made on the photographer's skill is all that is necessary here. The knowledge gained from the instruction given in the following pages will enable the student to undertake any other class of work not specially mentioned herein.
8. Commercial photography deals more particularly with the technical side rather than the artistic, but the lessons already learned in handling apparatus and lenses, in obtaining lightings, in retouching, printing and finishing, all apply equally to portrait or commercial work. The methods are the same, but the technique and the conditions are slightly different.
9. It is absolutely necessary in commercial photography to secure a perfectly accurate reproduction of the original, and in doing this, detail must exist in all portions of the picture, and the perspective should be perfectly true and accurate. In other words, sufficient illumination must be had and the proper amount of exposure given, to produce good, clear detail. To avoid distorted perspectives a lens of long focus, or one which will give a narrow-angle view, should always be used.
10. The portrait photographer has but few principles to learn and apply, as compared with the commercial worker, for the latter has to deal with all kinds and classes of subjects, situated practically under any form of light, and this adds difficulties with which the portrait photographer does not have to contend. In both cases, however, the field is unlimited in its scope, and to this same extent is the amount of practical training necessary to make one thoroughly proficient. The individual ideas of the photographer, as well as his own ingenuity, both in portraiture and in the commercial field, go far toward making him a master of his work, and, therefore, a success.
11. In almost all of the different branches of commercial photography the greatest accuracy is essential. This is especially important where the object being photographed contains lines, such as interiors, furniture, machinery, exteriors of buildings, etc.
12. Depth of focus and the securing of a clear, perfectly sharp image must not be sacrificed for exposure. Without giving any consideration to the increase of exposure, the lens should be stopped down far enough to secure the required depth of focus and sharpness of image.
13. Detail is another feature which must not be slighted. The lighting should be such as to illuminate the subject to the best advantage, and the exposure sufficient to give detail in the most dense shadows. As the majority of objects to be photographed are stationary, there is no excuse for under-exposure. On the other hand, extreme over-exposure should be avoided, as the negative must not be fogged, which would be the case if exposure were carried to the extreme. What is required is a negative full of detail, snap and brilliancy, and one which will give a good strong print with detail in the high-lights, detail in the shadows, and an excellent range of gradation between these two extremes. The shadows must not be lifeless and lacking in detail, nor should the high-lights be hard and chalky.
14. It is necessary to reproduce exactly what is seen in the original and give the observer an absolutely accurate idea of the subject. Further than this, for objects out-of-doors, whose high-lights and shadows are important and necessary for the success of the picture, the time of day and the weather conditions should be taken into account, and such lighting effect secured as to show the building, or photographed object, to its best advantage. To such a perfect degree must the technical side of photography be understood, that the object will be reproduced exactly as it exists, and yet give a pleasing and effective result.
15. For advertising purposes, in particular, detail and accuracy in a photograph from the original object are of paramount importance. The dealer or manufacturer cannot, in all instances, show his customers the actual goods he has for sale and must resort to the photograph to represent them truthfully and appealingly, and the degree of perfection in the re-presentment attained will be responsible, to a great extent, for the success or failure to effect a sale of the particular article, all of which goes to prove that the commercial photographer cannot be too careful with his work, nor too well informed regarding the particular subject he has to reproduce. The best results are only attained by experience and continued practice. It will be our aim in the present volume to so cover the general principles of commercial photography, that anyone who follows the instruction with diligence will be enabled to apply these principles to any branch of commercial work that may arise, and successfully accomplish the desired results. We can supply the necessary foundation of knowledge, but the practice and the gaining of experience lie with the student.