As to manner of working with the pencil, let each man adopt the way that suits him best. Some adhere to cross-hatchings, after the manner of line etchers, others make little dots and short marks, while yet others prefer the round-and-round scribble. All arrive at the same end.

A few hints borrowed from Mr. Robert Johnson's work on artistic photography, published some twenty years ago, are still worth repeating. "Lines drawn in a certain direction, along or across any surface, lead the eye in that direction; a necklace round a lady's neck makes the neck look rounder; so with a bracelet on the arm. The lines across the chest of a soldier's tunic make his chest look broader; vertical lines on a lady's dress make her appear taller. So, if in retouching your work with a series of lines, they happen to print, let them be in such a direction that the surface they are upon is improved by them. For instance, do not make vertical marks on a cheek that is already thin; if the lines show in printing, the cheek will look thinner. Lines across a forehead are not objectionable, that is, if your work shows at all; even if it does not, it is as easy to handle the pencil so that there can be no possibility of its conveying a wrong impression. But above all, do not aim at giving all faces one common texture; such treatment is absurd. Try by your handling to reproduce the texture that is already there."

The Complexion

Of course, the retoucher will have a good proof before him - not a haphazard one, but one so printed as to bring out all the qualities of the original negative. Twenty years ago the manufacture of plates was a different thing from what it is to-day. A good modern plate will often show the true texture of the skin; in the old times this department was part of the function of retouchers. Old people as well as children have often complexions of great beauty, only lined with years; and this is another reason why the photographs of the aged should rarely have any retouching. Freckles in children, too, are not a disfigurement unless they print out black; to retouch them out is to destroy the pure transparency of the skin. More difficult to deal with are those complexions of high colour in which the veins appear with too great prominence, or those in which freckles and skin-marks appear in the proof but are invisible to the eye upon the subject themselves.


These also want thoughtful and delicate handling. We must discriminate between lines of character and those lines which are unduly accented by the lighting. Most lines have to be shortened and softened, especially in adults of a certain age. There is a line which appears on almost every face at about the age of twenty, running from the base of the nose to the corner of the mouth. The camera always exaggerates the depth and length of this line. Besides this, there are lines under the eyes and between the eyebrows needing attention. Lines across the forehead must be dealt with according to the character of the subject. The retoucher must feel that he is an artist, and that his duty is to illustrate the character of his subject in the best possible way.

In certain branches of commercial photography the retoucher will be called upon to perform miracles in the correction of the abnormal features of sitters. Humanity continues to be human, and is not likely to care whether a particular treatment is "legitimate" in the eyes of the advanced critic. The man with a crooked nose expects it straightened out in the proofs submitted to him; large mouths and thick lips must be judiciously mitigated. But in the better-class studio these devices are rarely made use of. It is the business of the operator to discover how, by proper lighting and posing, he can conceal, or at least disguise any abnormal qualities in his subject. And the greater the difficulties the greater the opportunity for the true artist to show his genius in surmounting them.

The best practical work for the higher education of the retoucher is undoubtedly Mr. George E. Brown's Finishing the Negative.


Now that enlargements are so cheap we should much like to witness a reform which would displace the negative retoucher altogether in favour of the retoucher of enlargements. Here he would find a definite and legitimate scope for the exercise of his abilities, leaving the work of the operator alone to speak for itself. He might be allowed his own methods, soft pencil, black and white chalk, charcoal, and the very ingenious air brush. So effective an instrument is this latter that the cheap advertised "enlargements" are often prepared entirely with it, copying direct from the small print sent by the customer, without going through the form of taking a negative and enlarging in the camera. The aerograph is especially effective for colour work in the hands of a good artist. Given a rather chalky bromide of moderately coarse grain, with the shadows not too dark, some very beautiful colour pictures can be made with the aerograph. The print must be very well fixed and washed, or yellows may afterwards make themselves apparent. One special advantage of the aerograph is that it will distribute the tints so minutely over the surface. A very small number of pure colours is advisable, because mixture effects are obtained so easily by going over the parts again and again with the separate pigments. But as these matters concern the limner and the sciagrapher rather than the photographer, we must not occupy any further space in discussing them here.