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.
Introduction. The finishing touches are generally responsible for the making or the spoiling of many things. This can be no more emphatically exemplified than in the completion of a photographic print. Careless trimming or unsuitable mounting may easily ruin the most perfect print - either portrait or landscape - yet it is seldom the amateur, or even the professional photographer, gives due consideration to this most important feature. Many take great care to produce the most technically correct negative, work with utmost pains to procure the resultant print, but are extremely careless and indifferent as to the trimming and mounting.
1197. Both trimming and the mounting form the most difficult feature of the finishing of a photographic production, due to the fact that if successful, these two operations must conform to the original idea that was intended to be expressed in the picture. The mounting must, to a large degree, continue or conclude the general treatment of the subject. As an example: A strong, vigorous print will be out of place, and many times ruined, by placing it on a mount of too light a shade. On the other hand, a print with delicate fleecy tones may be entirely killed if placed on a black mount. Yet these mistakes are made daily, and without the least reason for so doing.
1198. Imitation is no doubt the cause of the greatest amount of trouble. Some particular mounting has been seen and admired, but is was not recognized that this was the dress for a particular photograph, which although perfectly suitable to this print, would be entirely out of place if applied to another.
Illustration No. 22 Ingento Trimming Board See Paragraph No. 1200.
1199. A few years ago very little thought was given to the displaying of prints on suitable mounts. The mount was simply a rectangular card of white, or doubtful gray, with a certain amount of embossing which necessitated the placing of the print in the exact center of the card. One redeeming feature of this kind of a mount was that one could not possibly make a mistake by using it wrong end upward. Even today mounts of a similar character are manufactured and sold by the thousands. Some are slightly altered, leaving more space at one end than at the other; to others has been added a tinted border, but there is absolutely no display of an artistic character, or individuality, in employing such mounts.
Illustration No. 23 Ideal Print Trimmer See Paragraph No. 1200.
Trimming. As a rule, when the print comes from the frame, the edge has a jagged or rough border, caused by the rebate of the frame. This must be cut away and the edge of the print left straight. A regular trimming board should be used (See Illustration No. 22), or a scissors may be employed with the device shown in Illustration No. 23. The simplest method of trimming, however, is to secure a knife of good steel and keep the edge sharp by constant application to an oil stone. The print should be placed on a piece of plate glass or zinc, and in order to guide the knife straight and cut the corners at perfectly right angles, a wooden straight-edge or steel square should be employed. Having trimmed one side, square the straight-edge to it and cut the other side, and so on until all four sides are trimmed. This will give clean cut edges and the opposite sides will be parallel. Instead of the straight-edge, glass forms larger than the print, with perfectly square corners, may be employed, and by trimming one side and one end at a time, the corners will be absolutely square. These glass forms should have the edges made perfectly smooth by rubbing on a piece of sand paper.
1201. There is, however, a more important point to trimming than this. It is usually a perplexing question with the average worker, to know how much to trim. As a rule, the knife is used too sparingly, in order to save every scrap of paper and to preserve the complete image as shown in the negative. It is for this reason that too much is usually retained, to the detriment of a pleasing picture.
1202. It must be borne in mind that there should be but one principal object of interest in the composition. Everything that detracts from this object should be eliminated in the trimming. Especially in landscapes are there most frequently objectionable details included in the negative, which, if trimmed away, would leave an excellently composed picture. Many times there is too much foreground or too much sky; perhaps the line of the horizon cuts the picture space in two. Trimming then becomes necessary, to eliminate the objectionable features and to bring the horizon either above or below the center, as the subject may require.
1203. The spacing of portraits is also of great importance. Especially is this true when the subject is posed in profile. If the face were placed in the center of the picture space, the nose would almost touch one edge of the print. There must be enough room in front of the face to give the subject proper distance into which to gaze. Such prints may be improved by removing a portion of the print at the back of the head. It is safe to say that five out of every six prints could be greatly improved by judicious trimming. When a portion of a picture has nothing of interest in it, or if it is not required to balance the remaining part, trim it off.
1204. Before using the trimming knife experiment by laying two pieces of cardboard on the print, moving them backward and forward, up or down, until the best effect and proper balance are apparent. Two pieces of dark cardboard, cut in the shape of a letter L, longer and wider than the print, and about one inch in breadth, laid on the face of the print will form rectangles of different sizes and shapes, when it will be easy to judge how much of the print to leave and the most suitable shape for the print to be when finished. Illustration No. 24 will help to explain this.
1205. To the novice, trimming the print usually seems a waste of good material. In fact, it sometimes requires a mental effort to decide to cut a print to half its original size, or even less; nevertheless it is often greatly improved by this procedure.
1206. If you are still bound by fetters that hamper the judicious employment of the trimming knife, you have failed to grasp one of the most important elementary les-.sons of pictorial photography. You have yet to learn and realize that you must not use the trimming knife too sparingly, as it is one of the most valuable aids to the securing of proper arrangement of the actual subject with regard to the edges of the print.
Illustration No. 24< L Shaped Cards for Spacing of Print See Paragraph No. 1204
Illustration No. 29 Print Rollers See Paragraph No. 1225.
1207. It is seldom possible to employ the stock cutout mounts, or those with printed lines or figured patterns. Only once in a great while can the original negative be reproduced and the print kept in its full size. In portraiture there are certain standard sizes of pictures, and for these there are also standard sizes and shapes of mounts. For commercial work, the plainer and simpler of these may be used with satisfying results. As the standard cabinet prints will always be in demand we show in Illustration No. 33 a series of suitable solid mountings for these standard size prints. For commercial studio work one should have in mind, during each stage of negative making, even when posing the subject, a particular mount on which to place the print.
1208. Where artistic work is involved it is not possible to make hard and fast rules as to the size and shape, nor as to the amount of the print that should be removed by trimming. This must be decided when the print is before you. Your artistic talent will be brought into play and thoroughly tested at such times.
In landscapes there are certain rules relative to the proportion of the sky and foreground. Not in one case of a thousand should the horizon come exactly in the center of the picture. As to whether the horizon line should be above or below the center, all depends upon the subject. Sometimes the sky, or the foreground, requires at least two-thirds of the visible space; much depending upon which contains the greater amount of interest.
1209. A sunset view, or a print containing a beautiful cloud effect, has the interest centered in the sky. Therefore, two-thirds of the print should be left above the horizon (the horizon is of course, understood to be where the sky and earth seem to meet). A seascape frequently contains a great deal of life and interest in the water or waves in the foreground; therefore, in such a case the foreground should be in greater evidence than the sky.
1210. The width of the print must be considered as well as the height. Many times cutting off an inch of the width will produce a wonderful improvement.