Hands play a very important part in expression. As an index of character they have always been given a very high place by portrait painters, but it can not be said that many photographers have given them the same degree of attention.

The tendency has been to hide the hands as much as possible rather than exploit them as a means of getting more character into the portrait. This is due, no doubt, to the difficulty in preventing distortion when they happen to be nearer to the camera than the sitter's face. The trouble is not with the position of the sitter but the position of the camera. And this, in turn, is due to the fact that a lens of too short a focus is used.

The distortion of hands has been referred to so often that many sitters have the impression that "big hands" can not be avoided in a photograph. The photographer does his best not to show the hands at all or to keep them near the body, and the picture often reveals the fact that he has had considerable difficulty in posing. There is stiffness and awkwardness in the attitude and uneasiness in the expression - the face seems terribly conscious of the hands.

If you are very observing you will have ample opportunity to see how others treat hands in their photographs, for nearly every magazine and Sunday paper have pages devoted to pictures of people who are prominent in public life, and many of these pictures have been made by our best photographers.

Note the hands of the artist or musician and compare them with the hands of the man who fought his way to the front in business or politics. It is not always the shape of the hand either. The pose indicates character in an equal degree, as will often be seen in the natural pose of the musician's or artist's hands.

Once a photographer fully realizes the value of hands in a portrait he soon sets about the task of overcoming the difficulties in rendering them. He can not make full use of hands if he has to work in a confined space with a short focus lens, this is certain. It is absolutely necessary to be at a good distance from the sitter and a long focus lens is absolutely essential.

Once the hands have a natural and characteristic position look to the way they are lighted. They should not appear as two spots of light claiming equal attention and fighting against the highlights of the face for first place in the picture.

The face should always claim attention first, for it is of greatest importance in depicting the character of the subject. The hands, while subordinate to the face, are of next importance and offer an excellent means of balancing and adding attractiveness to the composition of the picture, as well as expressing the character of the sitter.

If the space under your light permits you to work at a considerable distance from your subject, and you have not used this decided advantage because you are not the possessor of a long focus lens, get one, if only on trial, and see what a decided improvement it will make in the character of your results, especially as regards hands.