Only the merest rudiments of this very interesting occupation can be touched upon.
But within the space at our disposal we can, firstly, put the reader on his guard against the special dangers of indoor portraiture - dangers which do not readily occur to those who for the first time set up their cameras in the house ; and, secondly, give him some hints on the quite opposite difficulties of portraiture out of doors.
For purposes of practical work do not let us limit "indoors" to sitting-rooms, drawing-rooms or other apartments of the home. The opportunities for portraiture occur in many other places than these - in the shop of carpenter or cobbler, or in the schoolroom or in the inn parlor. The ruder and rougher the building, the better for our photographic purpose ; the array of glittering knick-knacks in the drawing-room, as it is furnished by the young matron, being one of the minor obstacles in the path of the indoor photographer.
One window being usually the only source of light, it is soon discovered that the lighting of the sitter can easily be wrong. The most common mistake is to place the sitter sideways with the window and fairly close to it, with the result that one side is in strong light and the other in deep shadow, with little gradation between these two extremes. The effect is a hard or " chalky" portrait, not calculated to display to advantage the features of any but the most rugged Irving or Martin Harver type of countenance. On the other hand, if the sitter's face is fronting the window the light is the same all over the face, and the result is a corpse-like flatness, perhaps the worst sin of indoor lighting that can be committed.
The chief secrets of obtaining a pleasing modelling on the face are:-(1) A position for the sitter not near to the window, say 5 or 6 ft. from it ; (2) a reflector on the shadow side of the face ; and (3) softening the strong light coming through the upper part of the window. This latter casts heavy shadows under the eyes, nose, lips and chin. We can get rid of this top light altogether by going far enough back into the room, but then we lose the relief which it gives. With the sitter in a position nearer to the window the top-light is screened by pinning tissue paper over the window frame or using a screen (say of muslin stretched on a child's hoop) above the sitter.
Figure a shows how camera, sitter and reflector may be placed, and is offered as the roughest hint as to arranging matters in an ordinary room.
The wall or interior of a room is almost always the worst of backgrounds, unless stripped of ornaments and prominent objects, which, by hook or crook, manage to show up somewhere behind the sitter's head most prominently, causing us much work before they can be removed from the negative. Smooth brown paper damped and mounted on a clotheshorse or a framework made for the purpose, forms a good background. For a lighter one a blanket will answer well - a white sheet is too light - or alight-colored traveling rug. One little dodge about backgrounds may be mentioned here, and that is on using some rug or drapery of prominent pattern when a a plain background is wanted. It is really very simple. Get some one to gently move the background a little up and down and side to side during the exposure.
The reflector is a big piece of white cardboard or a white sheet stretched on a frame. It is all the better to have the reflector pivoted so that it can swing from its center like a bedroom looking-glass. The movement is convenient in tilting it towards or away from the sitter.
The largest aperture the lens can be opened to may safely be used for portraiture indoors, that is to say f l 8 :or f l 6 is none too rapid.
The danger of indoor work is under-exposure, and as the exposure must not be long - to avoid movement of the sitter - there is need of a large aperture and a fairly rapid plate. In this as in all portraiture, it is well to use a lens of the longest focal length permitted by the distance between sitter and camera. In many rooms this is not greater than the orthodox 5 1/2 in. for quarter-plate, but it is better to have longer if circumstances allow.
In winter work - indoors or out - use a meter. Useful in summer, a meter is indispensable in winter, when the light falls off after noon with much greater speed than in summer. For indoor work it is convenient to work the meter at the quarter tint, otherwise the time taken by the paper to darken is too great.
In portraiture the beginner must learn to recognize the effects of unrder and over-exposure : The former accentuating the features of the face, burying dark parts in one inky blackness, and the latter by the loss of contrast on the face, general flatness, and a lack of difference between tones which were different.
On development there is little to be said beyond the caution to aim at a thin, delicate negative, for which amidol, metol or rodinal is a very suitable developer.
With proper precautions some most charming effects can be obtained by placing the sitter close to the window, the chief light coming towards the camera and thus putting the side of the face, as seen in a photograph ,in shadow. The beauty of this form of lighting depends on preserving the roundness of the face and figure of the sitter, and to do this the reflector must be used to relieve the heavy shadow on the near side; but not too much reflector, or the effect of the straight lighting is lost. A beautiful profile is the subject for lighting of this kind, by which also transparent draperies, muslins, chiffons and lace appear with good effect. The arrangement of camera, etc., will be somewhat as in Fig. b. Plates should be backed and a liberal exposure be given, so that everything you want in the negative develops easily in about five minutes. In this way halation will be avoided as much as possible.
The fine piece of portraiture of this kind by Mr. Mc-Lean may be taken as an incentive and a standard by those commencing indoor work.
Sunshine is susceptible of many strong and beautiful effects, but it wants more skill in management than diffused lighting, and particularly so in small rooms. The wisest suggestion that can be made to those anxious to use it for portraiture is to commence in semi-outdoors, such as a veranda, gateway, or even doorway.