This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Importance Of Omitting The Unnecessary. When making pictures amid home surroundings, it is as important to study what not to take as what to include in the view. Keep a sharp look-out to exclude from the picture those things which do not improve it, and which might prove to be quite injurious to the general effects. Arrange the subject with surroundings suitable to the position given, studying the picture on the ground-glass with the idea of removing everything which may detract from the subject. Highly polished furniture - chairs, tables, etc. - unless promptly handled, will, by reflection, produce displeasing white spots. When you observe these spots eliminate them by altering the position of the furniture with reference to the light, or by throwing a drapery over the objectionable spot.
Avoiding The Necessity Of Retouching. Lack of ability to retouch negatives is supposed to be a great handicap to the amateur photographer. Of course, negatives can be sent out to be retouched, if it is thought to be advisable, but in most cases it is not at all necessary. A rough printing paper dispenses with much of the need of retouching. Even if it is only medium rough, the coarseness of the paper tends to hide blemishes.
Use Of Celluloid. A piece of sheet celluloid, either matte or clear smooth surface, and not too thick, placed between the negative and the printing paper will, to a great extent, overcome the necessity of retouching, and in some cases do away with it entirely, if the negative is of good quality. If it is under-exposed and then developed to such a point as to exaggerate all the contrasts; or if the face of the subject is focused microscopically sharp, and a very short exposure given to minimize all risk of movement, there is no remedy but to resort to the art of the retoucher.
Obtaining Softness. We do not advocate fuzzi-ness in the extreme, but a little softness is, in itself, an improvement to the photographic portrait. It also helps to do away with the need of retouching. Softness is obtained by using a wide open lens - at its largest working aperture - and by giving sufficient exposure, even should there be a slight movement on the part of the subject, it will not be perceptible, but will tend to soften blemishes and harsh lines.