This section is from the book "Uncle Alberts Manual Of Practical Photography And Guide To The Reproductive Processes", by Powell Perry. Also available from Amazon: Uncle Alberts Manual Of Practical Photography And Guide To The Reproductive Processes.
It is not considered correct to solicit customers by standing invitingly outside the door of the studio and whistling or beckoning with one or more fingers. A discreet notice with perhaps a few chastely framed examples of photographic portraiture and landscape is deemed to be dignified and sufficient. The swinging sign shown on page 12 struck just the right note.
Once inside the subjects must be made to feel at ease and encouraged not to stare at the camera as if expecting it to leap at them and grasp them by the throat; some photographers playfully pat the camera, just to show that it won't bite. Don't overdo this - a tap is sufficient and should not be followed by a hearty kick or resounding thump: conduct of this kind only serves to alarm the client and doesn't do the camera any good.
If two people enter the studio at the same time it is wrong automatically to assume that they wish to be taken together with one seated and one standing with the right-hand on the other's shoulder, against a background of ruined pergolas . . . they probably do, but it is only courtesy to enquire. Composite photographs of total strangers do not, as a rule, sell well [for exceptions see chapter on Thick Photography.)
We quote from a contemporary suggesting that ".... When persons are about "to have their portrait taken, they should, if they wish to secure the most perfect "resemblance of themselves as they generally appear, sit to the artist without "making themselves up for the occasion; thus: a novel style of arranging the "hair, divesting the face of whiskers, beard or moustache, or making other "changes (e.g., adding whiskers, beard, or moustache - Ed.) will so palpably "alter the general appearance of the sitter as to render recognition a task of some "difficulty. . . ." With these instructions we are heartily in agreement, and would indeed suggest that the admonition be suitably lettered, framed and placed in a prominent position in the studio. Elaborate preparation such as is shown in the photograph on page 14 is to be deplored.
A subtly worded swinging sign such as the one shown above is a dynamic example of the growing use of photography in advertising - and, incidentally, vice versa. If the sign can possibly be fixed so that as it swings it hits the inattentive passer-by in the back of the neck, the message impresses itself even more forcibly.
When the writer, however, goes on to say "... All constrained attitudes and "unmeaning expression of features should be also avoided. When accessories "are introduced by way of accompaniment to' the portrait, care should be taken "that these are characteristic of the sitter's tastes and habits', and reasonable in "themselves. Thus, placing a book in the hands of a person who is notoriously "illiterate is an obvious solecism; as is also representing a female striking a "guitar, who does not know a note of music. ..." With this dictum we positively do not agree ! A brilliant, if somewhat eccentric contemporary aesthete has remarked that Nature imitates Art and, concurring as we do in this observation, we urge all photographers to stimulate their sitters to higher attainments by giving them an appropriate vision of themselves to live up to. By all means provoke the unmusical to "strum the lyre" and the illiterate to read books.
A final remark by this writer on photography serves to emphasise that he is not altogether a practical man when he says "... When persons are having their "portraits taken, it is a good plan to divert the mind by recurring to some agreeable "incident in their past life, the thoughts of which will impart a pleasant and "natural expression to the features." We can only remark that selective clairvoyance is not yet a normal attribute, even of the experienced photographer. Refractory subjects can always be clamped in position and left to cool off - this diagram shows a model we have used for years with invariable success. Incidentally, this same apparatus can also be used to maintain the "Hand-stand" position during a long exposure: the head being placed on the upholstered seat and the right thigh clamped into the top bracket.
This is, no doubt, the sort of jiggery-pokery that the unknown critic quoted on page 13 has in mind. That such scenes are taking place every day in the dressing rooms of the three unscrupulous photographers shown here I do not doubt, but, fortunately for the prestige of the profession as a whole, such practices are definitely on the wane.
It took a long time to convince the young ladies shown in my composition "Five-Finger Exercise" of the educational value, both to themselves and others, of earnest cultural scenes such as this. Apparently they all thought the Harp was an illegal instrument - a fallacy doubtless induced by the colloquial phrase "Don't harp on it!" - but when they saw the point they took it, as it were, to their bosoms and it was most difficult to get them back to ordinary bread-and-butter work.
After spending several jolly hours looking for freshwater Crustacea a bare half-second at f8 was more than these land girls could stand. Repeated invocations to watch for the dickey were unheeded and it was only by draping my "Carlyle Cloak" with water-weed and advancing slowly on all fours that I was able to arouse their interest at all.