The ordinary results obtained by the average professional worker might lead one to suppose that the possibilities both of lighting and posing were limited to a few stereotyped forms. As a matter of fact, the variety of lighting effects is almost endless, and in this respect can only be compared with the infinite variety available with posing the sitter when we come to deal with that point. It is here proposed to deal only with a few of the most instructive forms, which will serve as an impetus leading the student to consider the subject and, if he be possessed of sufficient enthusiasm, to make a series of experiments on the lines suggested.
Let us take an ordinary room with one window. The illustrations Nos. I. to VII. give an idea of the possibilities. No. I. shows the model sitting near the window; the light comes straight from the side as shown in diagram A. The side of the face turned towards the light is fairly well modelled; but the shadow portion almost disappears in darkness, and the result is inharmonious in effect. In cases such as these it is necessary to have recourse to a reflector, and we see in the following examples, Nos. II., III., how a decided effect can be obtained by its use. At the same time we must be careful not to produce the unnatural or exaggerated effect caused by too much reflected light, and thus suggest a double lighting.
The simplest form of reflector is a white sheet hung over a screen or clothes horse, or even a sheet of newspaper hung over the back of a chair.
A strong reflected light can be produced by using a mirror. This was done in No. II., the position of the sitter being the same as in No. I. The mirror was held by another person at about knee-height in standing position. The difference is extraordinary. The whole of the shadow side, cheek and forehead, which had in illustration No. I. been almost completely immersed in the background, are clearly brought out, but the reflection is so strong that the face appears to be lit from two sources of light. The unnatural effect will be noticed in the left eye where the light spot surpasses in brilliancy the high-light in the right eye. This illustration demonstrates the fatal effect produced by the use of too strong a reflected light. The double lighting robs the face of its fine modelling and destroys possibly an artistic result.
In No. III. a sheet of white bristol board was used instead of a mirror. In No. IV. the sitter was placed more towards the back of the room, as per diagram B, the camera being at (a). No reflector was used in this case. The result is that the head is sufficiently lit and the modelling satisfactory. If we bring the sitter to the middle of the room and opposite the window (No. V., diagram C) we obtain the so-called front lighting, a form of lighting which is usually interdicted in the handbooks. In this form of lighting practically all the shadow has disappeared and the form is marked by very slight contours. Nearly all professional workers refuse to admit this form of lighting, on the ground that the face is expressionless, owing to the absence of shadow. It seems, however, that it occasionally should be employed with the deliberate intention of giving effect either to an idea or to characteristics of the sitter, or in such a case as a child's study where a delicate rendering is necessary. No one who has seen Cadby's child studies, nearly all taken with this form of lighting, will fail to appreciate at its full value the fascination of correct drawing, (see illustration, p. 144). One of the strongest points in favour of the photographic art can be demonstrated by this form of lighting more clearly than by any other, and it should not be condemned merely because it is rather more difficult to handle successfully. We must use such a lighting, of course, with discrimination. The effect, for instance, of using it in the case of a face naturally weak and unintelligent, would probably be to produce a senseless and idiotic expression.
Now place the sitter once more near the window, (diagram D), the camera being at (b), the effect will be as in figure VI. In order to soften the strong direct light it is well to pin a piece of butter muslin across the opening of the window; the effect of doing this will probably be much more noticeable in the resulting negative than it will be apparent to the eye, at any rate to the untrained eye. In these few examples, some idea can be got of various lighting effects possible under the most simple conditions. How often has one seen it said that the student should make a series of similar experiments for himself, and it would be interesting to know how often this advice has been followed. It remains, nevertheless, the fact that by no other means can so rapid improvement be made, provided the experiments are conducted with ordinary common sense. Going through the few examples which we have made, we find that the characteristics of a person can be accentuated according to his position relatively to the light and to the camera. There is no secret in successful photography. It is a matter of common sense and principles, applied with judgment.
For instance, in the case of old people with well accentuated features, a soft light would be employed in order to avoid too great hardness and heaviness. But in the case of young people, where the face is full of "unwritten promise," a stronger and more accentuated light would be used in order to avoid weakness. Now, suppose that we have two windows; if we place the sitter at g (diagram E) the light will be received not only from the side window nearest to him but also in a more diffused form from the distant window, and thus will fall on the shadow side of the face and result in a soft harmonious light. Portrait No. VII. was taken under these conditions. The position of the camera and sitter was the same as in diagram B (illustration No. IV.) and a comparison in order to see the difference made by the second window is instructive.
More interesting effects can be obtained by photographing the sitter against the light. If the sitter were placed in a direct line between the camera and the window, the face and figure would appear almost as a silhouette, and much too dark and hard, against the light behind it. A more pleasing effect will be obtained by placing the sitter a little away from the two windows. The figure is now lit from behind at an angle, and the profile stands out in fine relief against the dark wall. The effect is clearly shown in No. VIII. and diagram F. The sitter is placed between the camera and the corner of the room and the lens is pointed towards the light. To diffuse an otherwise too hard light the muslin curtains were drawn.
Effects like the above may be resorted to in special cases, but they should be an exception rather than a rule. The treatment requires judgment and, what is intended as a subtle variation only, may easily become a bore and lead to a mannerism. It should be our endeavour to develop in all directions and never to allow ourselves to be limited to any special form or effect. It must be remembered also that such a pronounced form of lighting may destroy the likeness owing to the somewhat unusual conditions.
Under ordinary circumstances the eye of the beholder will not rest comfortably on the face of a friend when the latter is placed in front of the source of light; and when the result of such a lighting is seen in a photograph, it is at once considered extraordinary, although possibly beautiful in effect. (See illustration "Maud Allan - a study in tones.")