After lighting, these two factors are most important, the one depending on the other. It is the duty of the portraitist to make a true and sincere picture of his sitter, and to do this he must avoid any attempt at "posing" as it is ordinarily understood. The subject must be arranged with taste, and the most perfect result will be obtained by the man who understands how to combine natural charm with truth. We would submit that success does not depend so much on the following of certain fixed laws of composition, as in the innate sympathy which must exist between the photographer and the sitter, sympathy which will be apparent by an increasing ease and naturalness, resulting in the true individuality of the sitter being duly expressed. Even the most experienced photographer cannot do much, if all he has is mere knowledge of the rules of composition. Nature must come to his assistance. Composition alone and study of effect on preconceived lines can do nothing. One may succeed in getting harmonious effects, but will at the same time lose the "soul" of the sitter, the one thing necessary in a portrait. It is of great help to study the work of others in this respect and to endeavour to see what it is that gives to a picture the attributes of success; and then to compare it with one of our own productions, and endeavour to find out in what respects the latter is lacking. Such an exercise is of great assistance for the purpose of strengthening the artistic perception, but, of course, if we are slavishly copying, we are not only untrue to nature, but we are stealing another man's ideas, and worst of all, putting a limitation on ourselves.
Maud Allan - A Study In Tones.
E. O. Hoppe, F.R.P.S.
We have to observe our sitters keenly, but without obtrusiveness. They must be entertained in animated conversation, all apparently without special purpose. With little art they may be led to that part of the room where one effect or another can be obtained. In this connection, there is a great advantage in photographing the sitter in his or her own home. It is surprising how different one and the same person will appear under conditions which are quite familiar to himself as compared with his demeanour in the studio. We can safely occupy him with something or other, either writing or reading, in as easy a position as possible and leaving him the greatest possible freedom in his choice of position. Move the camera rather than the sitter, but watch him of course, with regard to the arrangement of lines and light. It is obviously wrong to choose the position of the camera and make the sitter shift himself to suit the convenience of the instrument. Thus in sitting down there is no possible chance of obtaining the sameness of effect, since every one sits in a different manner, and no two people will ever automatically take up an identical position. One cannot, of course, do entirely without alterations or suggestions; one must take precautions to prevent foreshortening or wrong perspective. But instructions to the sitter should be given as hints and suggestions rather than as definite requests. Let the alterations be made by him and never by the operator. Apart from the fact that the result will be forced, it should be considered "bad form" to touch your sitter.
An eye for harmony is more a matter of sympathy, strengthened by constant study of nature than a product of fixed rules of composition. Strive to obtain natural and sincere portraits and, in proportion to your efforts, so will come the success of your portraiture. Do away with posed attitudes, try to observe the varied expressions of life instead, and remember in this connection, that a result is not necessarily artistic because it is natural and according to nature. It is selection which makes nature artistic.
E. O. Hoppe, F.R.P.S.