Photography, as a hobby, brings pleasure to people of many different inclinations. The scientific-minded person will want to concentrate on the optical and chemical side of picture taking and making. The artistically inclined person will be interested in the careful composing of all the lights and shadows so that a pleasing picture results. A mechanically minded person will enjoy putting together gadgets and inventing useful devices to make his work simpler or more efficient. This discussion is limited to the basic processes involved, starting with the idea for the picture and going straight through to the print. Specialization or a more thorough mastery of any one phase will come with time and study.
No particular makes or brands of cameras, film, or paper are discussed. A general type is considered in each case. The discussion is divided into three main sections: first, taking the picture; second, developing the negative; third, making the print. At the end of each section there is a listing of all essential equipment and a listing of desirable accessories.
If simple snapshots are being made, little planning will be necessary, since the main object is to get pictures of people or their surroundings in a natural pose or mood. Several tilings should be considered, however. Watch out for messy backgrounds. Try to have the main subject against a plain background of contrasting shade. If the subject is dark, use a light background, such as a white wall, or plain sky. If the subject is light, use a dark wall or shrubbery. This precaution is not necessary, but it produces a more interesting picture in most cases.
Vary the angle or position in which you place the camera. If vour subject is a standing figure, kneel down and see if that point of view improves the background or is more flattering to the subject. Have the person turn three-quarters away so that he does not look directly into the camera or into the sun. If there are several people, try to get them into an unposed group instead of standing everyone up in a straight line and all level. If possible, take the picture when people are not aware of the camera. Then the groups will be completely natural.
Get in close enough, but not so close that you blur the subject. All cameras are limited as to how close to the subject they can be used. If there are figures showing the range printed on the lens, the smallest represents the elosest possible distance. For folding cameras, it is usually 4 to 6 feet. If the camera is of the box type, with no printed range, experiment. Take pictures from varying distances of some black and white object, with sharp outlines, such as a white signboard with black letters. Start at a distance of 14 feet, and take 7 pictures, moving in 2 feet each time. Compare the prints. You can tell at what distance each was taken, because the closer you are the less signboard appears in the picture. The last sharp picture shows the closest camera-to-subject distance possible with that particular camera.
Too many trick shots, such as the perennial greatly enlarged feet, become monotonous. They seldom succeed and are almost never as funny as they look at the time. If you see something unusual which looks very funny or strange, go ahead and take it. Your own experience will soon tell you what is funny from the camera's point of view.
If you are controlling the angles, the groupings, and the light, study all possibilities and then take several shots. Again, your own eye will soon tell you what you did wrong. Remember that a lot of small objects seldom make a good picture unless they are arranged in a definite pattern. Large, broad flat surfaces of contrasting brightness make better subjects to start out on. Varying textures, shapes, and brightness (or tone) result in more interesting pictures.
Work with strong diagonals, circles, or spirals to achieve interesting compositions. Contrast a large dark object with a small bright one for emphasis. As soon as you become aware of all the elements that make up a photograph, your pictures will be more interesting even to the untrained eye.
You will probably start out with roll film, since this type is most common and very practical under all conditions. All film comes in several speeds. This means that some films are better suited to bright light, while others are better suited to dim light. The films to be used in daylight or other bright light are called "slow" films, while those suitable for dim light are called "fast" films.
Load the camera in subdued light. Most film is protected by a paper backing, so loading in direct sunlight would probably do no harm, but the fast films are very highly sensitive to light so be careful with them. Take off or open the back of the camera and examine the path through which the film travels. After exposing and removing a roll of film from the camera, an empty spool will be left in the camera. Remember that the function of this spool is to take up the film after each picture. Place the empty spool in such a position that it turns when you turn the take-up knob or handle.
Put the new roll of film into the empty position. Pull out enough leader (the paper end of the toll) to reach to the take-up spool. Thread the leader into the. slit in the spool and give the spool a few turns. See that the film is winding straight onto the take-up spool.
Replace or close the back of the camera. Be sure it snaps into position firmly and locks tightly. When opening or closing a camera, never pry it open or force a knob to turn. You will certainly damage the camera and probably cause light leaks, which will make the edges of your picture streaky.
Advance the film forward by turning the winding knob. On roll film a warning arrow or hand will appear to indicate that the first film is coming into position. Turn slowly until the number 1 appears in the window on the back of the camera. The film is now ready for the first picture.