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.
Introduction. The making of portraits in the home is by no means a difficult task, if one proceeds in a careful manner and without any attempt at haste. Attention must be given to each and every item included in the picture space, as it is essential that the composition be such as to produce a pleasing effect. There must be harmony throughout the scene; so before attempting to make a picture decide which is the most important item of interest. When this has been done, all other items must be kept subordinate, their functions being to add to, rather than detract from, the principal subject.
Light. While, ordinarily, rooms with a northern exposure are preferred for portraits amid home surroundings, more strong and bold results may be obtained when the sunlight enters the windows, as you have far stronger illumination, which is carried farther into the room. This permits of working in any part of the room desired, and yet have plenty of light. Where the sunlight does not extend into the room sufficiently to show in the picture space, the windows will not need to be screened other than, perhaps, to allow the lace curtains (providing they are white) to remain on the windows undisturbed. If the curtains are of an ecru color they are apt to exclude too much light, and, therefore, should be drawn to one side or removed from the windows entirely. Should the sunlight extend into the room too far, so as to be included in the picture space, tack a sheet of white muslin over the window. This will diffuse and give a better distribution of the strong light throughout the room, allowing of reasonably rapid exposures being made. In many instances, with the light in this condition, exposures can be made in less than one second; much depending, of course, on the surroundings and the speed of the lens employed.
Control Of Light. Proper control of the light has much to do with concentrating interest on the principal subject, or subjects, the less important items being kept in shadow to a greater or less extent. The turning of a chair, or a slight diffusion of the light, may effectively do away with reflected light on polished surfaces of furniture, and also obscure objectionable objects.
Value Of At-Home Portraits. When rightly handled there is no field of photographic work more remunerative or interesting than the making of portraits in the home, amid home surroundings. There is hardly a family that would not appreciate having portraits made at home, with the general furnishing of the interior as accessories. To relatives and friends such pictures not only show likenesses of individuals, but also give an excellent idea of their home.
128. For some unknown reason comparatively few photographers have attempted this class of work, yet those who have taken up this important branch are meeting with most gratifying success, photographically and financially. As a rule, higher prices are paid for At-home pictures than for those made in the studio. As there is no rent to pay, no accessories or elaborate outfit to purchase, the expenses of the home portrait artist are very much less than those of the regular studio photographer. Thus, the profits are vastly greater. The field is absolutely unlimited.
129. If you will carefully follow the suggestions and instructions which follow, absolutely no reason exists why you should not master this phase of the work and be able to produce most excellent results.