This section is from the "Studio Light Incorporating The Aristo Eagle - The Artura Bulletin 1919" book, by Aristo Motto. Also see Amazon: Studio Light Incorporating The Aristo Eagle - The Artura Bulletin 1919.
A well-known photographer received a call from a great surgeon who wished a portrait made. Of course, he made no suggestions, for he was a professional man who would not have accepted any suggestions himself had the photographer come to him for an operation. He was tall and lank - the kind of a man that some photographers would have photographed in a sitting position, doing everything possible to make him appear less long and thin.
But this photographer did nothing to camouflage his subject. He did not even attempt to give grace to his bearing. He took him in an attitude that all who knew him would recognize as characteristic of the great man.
Did he complain when he saw his proofs? Most certainly not. He said: "That's bully, man; you've got all my gauntness." Of course, we couldn't say whether his wife was pleased with these portraits, but you expect to get business from men through the influence of men. And a man will not hesitate to give his portrait to a friend if it is a real man's portrait.
You photograph a lot of men, but do the pictures you make of men appeal to other men as well as to your customer and his family? A photograph may be a perfect likeness, it may be a pleasing portrait, or it may be a strongly characteristic portrait.
The perfect likeness may be merely a map of the man's features and it may or may not be pleasing.
The pleasing likeness may be entirely satisfactory to the man and his family - it may even be flattering and still be a good likeness but void of any indication of character.
The characteristic portrait is a good likeness but is seldom flattering. It portrays not the man alone but the character of the man as well. If he is a fighter, it shows fight; if he is a student, it shows thought; if he is a man of strong will, it shows determination; if he is a poet, a musician, a diplomat, a miser or a philanthropist, it shows those characteristics of the man he expresses in his everyday life.
In which of these classes do your portraits of men fall? If in the first class, you are merely working along mechanical lines, photographing people as you would photograph furniture. If your work falls in the second class you are pleasing people with pleasing pictures which most likely appeal to vanity. Such an appeal is, however, not the most lasting. The man who approves of such a picture will more likely than not, hide it from the men who are his associates.
If your work falls in the third class you are in a fair way to call yourself a specialist, for you have solved the problem of what appeals to men and will bring you the greatest volume of business from other men.
If a man has strength of character it shows in his face and his expressions and he doesn't want it covered up or retouched out. Neither does he care for the studio smirk. You have probably noticed that real men will invariably reject the proof that shows them smiling. It may please for a while, but it doesn't wear well and men don't like it.
If the same rule applied to women you would hold the same course and have plain sailing. But it doesn't. All women are beautiful, but all women do not photograph well. Some have beautiful features, while others owe their beauty to attractive manners, vivacity or something in the nature of spiritual goodness or beauty that is difficult to describe and still more difficult to photograph.
It is permissible and quite necessary to idealize the portrait of a woman just as the painter does. An atmosphere must be created for her - accessories must be light and dainty, the retoucher's pencil must remove a blemish, or the etcher's knife improve the turn of her chin or the curve of her neck, all, however, without destroying the likeness. Every photographer knows the means employed, but some have more skill or intuition or artistic judgment than others and know just what to do to make the portrait pleasing.
The woman who is beautiful when animated is often a disappointment the instant you say: "Now be perfectly still for just a second." Don't make such a remark. Keep her animated and make your exposures the same as you would for a child's portrait. You will have failures, to be sure, but one good negative will make up for a dozen failures.
You may wonder at times how one photographer gets a bigger price for his work than another, but if you could see the discarded negatives - the misses he has made, possibly on one child, or a woman that was difficult to get with a good expression, you would probably see why he has to charge a good price for the good result.
If you will take notice of the work of a successful photographer of children you will find the pictures are even higher in key than those of women. Their atmosphere should be one of sunshine. There are few shadows in their lives - there should be fewer in their pictures. Throw the blinds open and let the sunshine in. Make broad, flat lightings, use light grounds and light accessories, use your lens wide open and don't say "hold still."
It isn't natural for children to hold still and pose. That's why you have trouble in posing men. They are grown up children and have less natural dignity than women. When a man relaxes and forgets his business cares his natural inclination is to play. Children are never natural when posed, so why pose them? Let them play, and watch for the opportunity to catch a pleasing picture.
There are easier ways of making photographs that will pass - that will be accepted and paid for, but they will not cause your customers to pass the word along to others that you are a great photographer.
You may have a few women down on your head for making pictures that do not idealize their husbands, but so long as you please the men you will get other men's business, and so long as you please the women you will get other women's business.
Make it your policy to make pictures that will sell more and still more photographs.
More promptly and more satisfactorily when you bring them direct to our attention than when you use the stock house as an intermediary, for the matter necessarily is referred to us. Always send a sample of your results and some of the unexposed material, carrying your initials or other mark. C. K. CO.
Eastman Portrait Film, Artura Print From a Demonstrator's Negative.