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.
946. The proper hanging of pictures is a problem which few photographers consider at all seriously, many thinking that to simply insert a couple screw-eyes in the back of the picture frame and attach to them some picture cord, which in turn is thrown over a nail or picture hook on the wall, is sufficient. True, this may place the picture in a position from which it may be viewed, but the question is, will it show the picture to its best advantage and to give a most harmonious and pleasing effect with other pictures and the room in general?
947. There is as much art in the proper hanging of pictures as with the making of them, and one should study each individual picture before placing it on the wall for display. The two essentials just mentioned, viz., the importance of the individual picture and its relation to other pictures in the room, must always be taken into consideration.
948. If, in the studio, one has a room set apart for the display of pictures, this art room should receive most careful attention and the hanging of the pictures in it should be made a serious study. Even though your reception-room may present the only possibilities at your command for securing a wall display you should follow out these same principles in the hanging of each and every picture.
General Planning. It is extremely important that the general appearance of the walls of the room are not ragged, that is, the pictures must be so hung as to present a pleasing effect. The main bulk or weight of the pictures on the wall should be above the eye level.
950. Those pictures which are adjacent drop or rise at various distances, of course, from this line, and should be made to do so as symmetrically as possible; but the line itself should be traceable throughout all the groupings. By carrying out this idea a harmonious effect will be maintained and a far more substantial appearance secured.
Classification. Nothing is so restless and unsatisfactory as a mass of things having different " weight " and character. In the hanging of portraits there is not so great a necessity of being uniformly particular in the selection of the subject material as when landscapes are to be hung, but even in the case of portraits, prints of various tones should be hung by themselves. For instance, sepias should not be mixed or hung among black and white prints. Passepartout pictures should not hang with heavy gold frames. Pictures having a fuzzy effect should not hang with those containing sharp definition. When a careful system of classification is carried on throughout all the varieties of framing, due attention being given to size, color, subject and all other qualities that make pictures different from one another, it will be found that the work is practically done, all that remains to do being but mere pattern-making, which may be carried out upon the floor until the arrangement is quite satisfactory.
952. In this process a little re-mixing of the different varieties, if judiciously done, and with not too great a contrast, will allow of the heavy groups to be lightened here and there and the lighter ones to be strengthened and, in addition, admit of occasional relief of tint as well. As to the general pattern of groups it will be found that a simple method is preferable. Horizontal lines are always safe and if a set of pictures may be had similar in size and style so much the better, and they will look best if arranged in a solid geometrical order.
Contrast Effect By Lighting. Galleries built for the express purpose of exhibiting pictures are made with skylights in the center of the gallery, which give fairly even illumination all over, but it seldom occurs that the photographer is fortunate enough to have an art room of this kind.
954. It is by no means an invariable rule that a picture looks best in a strong light. Photographs which are somewhat fuzzy in appearance or belonging to the so-called " artistic variety " usually look their best in a dim illumination. On the other hand, the print with great contrast of tone and wealth of detail should be seen in the brightest spots of light available. The reason for this is that a strong light is so searching in the dark parts of the picture that contrast is minimized and, on the other hand, a dull light enhances contrast because it catches only the lighter portions.
955. If, then, a picture is exceptionally contrasty, this defect is reduced by being placed where the light may fall fully upon it. If, on the other hand, it is flat and lacks detail, it will be immensely benefited by receiving the subdued illumination in which the utmost is made of its light portions, while the shadows are actually under-lighted. In general, the dull light broadens and generalizes, while the bright light reveals everything.