This section is from the "Studio light a magazine of information for the profession 1923" book, by Sara F. T. Price. Also see Amazon: Studio light a magazine of information for the profession 1923.
Anyone who has watched the progress of photographic portraiture during the last fifteen or twenty years will have noticed great changes in the methods of lighting most generally employed.
With the more general use of artificial illumination a high front or ceiling lighting is being used for general illumination instead of the reflector, too much of which so often flattened out the shadows, while a strong side, or rather front-side light is used for highlight illumination. As a result, brilliance has taken the place of harshness and modeling has become more pronounced. The old idea that only a strong side light is necessary to obtain life in the print is giving place to a more truthful conception of the matter.
The modern method is to light the subject in such a way that there are no blank patches either of highlight or shadow and to obtain the sense of projection in the print by the rendering of every shadow, every light, every curve and every change of tone or skin texture. This, of course, requires a well balanced light but it must never be a flat light. It must sparkle with brilliancy if it is to have what is commonly called "pick-up."
Front illuminations for shadows if properly managed will do all this.
It will give finer likeness than will any other light because likeness depends on subtle detail that is so easily lost in harsh shadows. It will give pleasing pictures because it does not cut the face into two separate halves, as a straight side light does, but allows of composition in the best sense of that much abused word. Incidentally, such a light permits of very short exposures because the shadows you see are luminous.
Your customers may not be educated up to an appreciation of art in photography but anyone can appreciate a likeness. And, though they may not know why. they will choose the type of picture which shows the whole character and likeness of the face with nothing lost in blank highlights or empty shadows.
A study of the work of the old masters or of the best modern portrait painters will show that this is the light they used most frequently, but they put luminosity into their shadows with color while the photographer has only light that registers in monochrome. Painting is not necessarily better art than photography but we can learn much from its study because the painter has not been so tied down by conventionally designed studios and the limitations of his materials.
PORTRAIT FILM NEGATIVE. VITAVA PRINT
By The Green-Crane Studio Kansas City, Mo.
The old type of studio lighting was evolved in the quest for speed and for a lighting which would fit the limitations of the materials then in use. Modern high speed emulsions have made a fast light still faster, enabling one to secure better expressions with shorter exposures while the advent of Eastman Portrait Film has made it possible to render faithfully the most delicate high-keyed lighting effects.
The great beauty of front and side lighting is its delicacy, the roundness of high lights and the natural gradation in shadows. It is obvious that if your material is not sufficiently non-halation in quality to render the finest shades of highlight as well as shadow gradation much of your skill in lighting will be wasted.
Supplementary lights, usually in the form of spotlights, are used very generally for additional lighting but great care must be used to prevent the flattening out of the main lighting effect. The spotlight enables you to paint delicate or brilliant lights on your sitter's face just as and where you will. It is a great power in your hands and should be used judiciously for it can either make or mar the entire effect.