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.
As a means of catching the dimes and quarters of the young element, school children and visitors at resorts, the ping pong and penny pictures were inaugurated, with the result that this class of picture has become very popular and the making of them a very profitable business. To meet the requirements different camera manufacturers are now making suitable instruments, at a nominal cost, by means of which pictures can be sold for a penny each and give the photographer a good profit.
The term "Penny" Pictures is somewhat misleading, for they are really penny pictures in name only as a single picture could not be made for one cent. They are made and sold only in quantities, at the rate of one cent each. Usually the photographer supplies fifteen pictures for fifteen cents, no orders being taken for less than fifteen pictures.
Ping Pong Pictures are smaller than the penny pictures, and are usually made in strips of a half dozen, delivered unmounted or what is known as a "slip mount". The aim of the photographer should be to sell mounts to his patrons for these pictures, they oftentimes bringing more money and more profit than the pictures themselves.
General Principles. - Instead of making one exposure on a single plate for this type of picture, the apparatus is so constructed that a 5x7 plate can be placed in a vertical or a horizontal position and either one, two, four, six, eight, twelve, fifteen, eighteen or twenty-four exposures made on the one plate. The object is to make a large number of exposures on one plate, and after it is developed to print as many full size sheets of paper as the proposition calls for. As an example: If you have fifteen different exposures on one plate, and if you are offering fifteen prints for fifteen cents, then fifteen prints are made from it. This completes fifteen orders of fifteen pictures each, for which you receive fifteen cents each, or $2.25 for fifteen prints from one 5x7 plate.
To make the "penny picture" business a success, various methods must be used to increase the receipts. The prints can be finished in a variety of styles, and different positions can be made; in fact there is almost an endless number of methods that may be adopted. For instance, if fifteen pictures are sold for fifteen cents, one position only is allowed to each subject. Where different positions are wanted, twenty-five cents is usually charged, and three exposures made of five different subjects, on one plate (fifteen exposures altogether), from which only five prints are to be made. These five prints, therefore, bring you $1.25. Figuring the cost of the plate at six cents, the five sheets of paper at ten cents, and the plain cards at three cents, the total cost has been but nineteen cents. Card mounts of a better quality are usually sold with the higher class of work, and in addition to paying for themselves result in a greater profit than is made when cheap cards are used. The mounts, therefore, should be given consideration.
The actual work and the methods employed in producing the so-called ping pong or penny pictures - making and developing of negatives and final finishing of prints - are practically the same as in any regular studio. Most of the ping pong studios, however, are not supplied with the regular skylight, but an ordinary room, containing one or two fairly good size windows, is selected, and the methods of the home portrait photographer are employed in making the lightings.
Illustration No. 133. Seneca Multiplying Attachment.
Illustration No. 134 B. & J. Multiplying Attachment.
Illustration No. 135
A Practical Suburban Studio
Chas. W. Allen, South Granby, N. Y.
As only bust or half-length figures are all the ping pong photographer attempts, only one or two small plain backgrounds is all that is necessary. Generally two are used, a light one and a dark one. Comical make-ups are a novel feature of ping pong pictures, so one's list of accessories might be increased and a few costumes added, such as odd hats, a dilapidated silk hat, an old style derby, canes, false moustaches, or any other paraphernalia that might be used in a stage make-up.
The Camera. - There are on the market various types of cameras which may be procured at a very reasonable figure, any of which will answer the purpose. These cameras are specially arranged for the making of a number of small pictures on one plate. In Illustration No. 132 is shown the Seneca View camera, to which is fitted a Multiplying Back, which latter is shown more in detail in Illustration No. 133. This instrument, in addition to being available for penny or ping pong pictures, can also be used for cabinet size portrait work or postal cards, as well as for view work. The B. & J. Multiplying Attachment shown in Illustration No. 134 can be adjusted to any ordinary portrait camera. Both of these attachments are simply constructed, easily operated, and form good examples of the general type of outfits on the market.
Camera Stand. - While any regular portrait camera stand, or even the regulation tripod intended for view cameras, may be employed, yet when the stand is preferred, one light in weight, that can be "knocked down" should be selected, for then it may be boxed in a small space for shipment.
Lens, - Any lens may be used, but, naturally, one of short focus and good speed should be chosen. The manufacturers of cameras equip their outfits with or without lenses, and also supply the lenses separately, at a moderate cost.
Lighting the Subject. - Under the ordinary studio skylight the subjects usually are placed in open light. When the ordinary window is employed a room is generally selected with the window facing the north. The subject is placed within a few feet of the window and slightly back of it, so as to receive the full benefit of all the light entering. The usual background is placed back of the subject. When but one style of picture is made, all subjects are seated, and, generally, the chair is made stationary. This avoids the necessity of focusing on each subject, for when once in focus the camera will need no further adjusting, no matter how many different subjects are photographed.
Operating the Multiplying Attachment. - The manufacturers of cameras and multiplying attachments supply complete instruction for their use, which is so very simple that further mention here is unnecessary.
Mounting Prints. - In order to obtain a high gloss the prints are squeegeed onto ferrotype plates. After rolling the sheet print and the ferrotype plate into contact, mopping off the surplus water, apply ordinary mucilage to the back of the prints and allow them to dry. Then they may be cut apart, the backs moistened with a damp sponge, and, like an ordinary postage stamp, attached to the mount.
If slip mounts are used it is not necessary to apply mucilage to the back of the print.
Ping pong pictures are generally made in strips of five exposures, and are delivered unmounted. When mounted usually the slip mounts are employed; they require no pasting.
General Notes. - The making of ping pong or penny pictures is entirely mechanical in every respect, and each exposure must be accounted for.
There must be no re-sittings, no proofs shown, and the pictures taken on one day should be ready for delivery the next.
Get all the extra money you can by selling mounts.
Keep on hand a variety of different styles and prices of mounts.
These pictures are seldom ever retouched. When it is requested an extra charge should be made for the retouching.
Advertising. - A very common method of advertising is to place on the front of the building a large canvas sign, reading: "Your photograph for one cent." On all such orders you would make fifteen pictures, one position, mounted on cheap cards, for fifteen cents. In some localities you may see signs which read, "Your photograph for 5 cents," or possibly 10 cents. In such cases they usually make a trifle larger picture, or, perhaps, more than one position, and make each order amount to fifty cents. If they should advertise five-cent pictures, they would supply ten prints for 50 cents, and in the case of ten-cent pictures, they would supply five for 50 cents, or twelve for $1.00. The price of such photos will need be fixed according to circumstances and location.
As previously stated, the money in penny and ping pong pictures lies in the quantities ordered and in the selling of suitable mounts for the prints. Slip mounts are to be preferred, as they save the bother of pasting and mounting, for the prints and mounts are usually delivered in separate packages, leaving the slipping of the pictures into the mounts to the customers themselves. The slip mounts are very attractive little mats, many of them having embossed borders, with openings displaying one, two, three, four or five faces, either oval or square, and they are designed to take the place of "paste on" mounts. The print being inserted saves much time in mounting. Of course the regular mounts may be employed, but slip mounts give a finished appearance to the photographs far superior to the plain ones, on which the prints have to be pasted.
A novel method of advertising is to circulate small cards among school children, these cards to be neatly printed, bearing some inscription similar to the following: "I am going to have my pictures taken at the Gem Studio, to exchange with my schoolmates, 15 for 25 cents, five positions, and get those pretty cards to mount them on." To make this card more attractive have a small half-tone of some cute picture printed on one corner of the card, and have your address in neat type at the bottom.
A Practical Suburban Studio. - In Illustration No. 135 is shown a neat and very convenient little studio, which is practical for use in suburban localities, small cities and villages. This particular one was constructed in accordance to the floor plan shown in Illustration No. 136, at a cost of $500, the size being 12 x 28 feet. The general arrangement is plain. The business can be handled by one man, so that expenses can be reduced to a minimum.
Illustration No. 136.
A Practical Suburban Studio - Floor Plan.
Chas. W. Allen, So. Granby, N. Y.