CHOICE OF PLATE OR FILM By HENRY C. MAHONEY There are numerous plates and films on the market suitable for portrait work, but it is advisable to adhere to one brand as far as possible. If you are making portraiture a feature and continually experimenting with various plates, it will invariably mean a " re-take." This is not only waste of time and material, but is definitely bad from a psychological point of view. If the average subject is asked to sit again, he is naturally more camera conscious than the first time; hence the chance of a first-class picture is reduced.
The use of an orthochromatic plate or film has many advantages, especially with certain types of people, and on the whole will give a more faithful rendering. The ordinary ortho plate needs a screen for full correction, and as this means multiplying your exposure by at least four times a very rapid plate should be chosen.
Beginners will do well to use a nonFilter plate made by Ilford. This is rapid enough for general purposes and can be used and worked with safety with ordinary dark room illumination without fear of fogging. For readers who are accustomed
to handling Panchromatic, will find Kodak Portrait Panchro films excellent for this class of work. They are so rapid that fully exposed negatives can be made in poor light with quite an ordinary lens, and even without the use of a filter the rendering is remarkable, and detail can be obtained in the shadows with a minimum exposure. Such highly sensitive films naturally need special care in the dark room, and a safelight used as recommended by the makers.
When a plate or film is properly corrected it will subdue the activity of the blue rays, consequently all " blues" photograph darker than when an ordinary akitei,is..Ased, it also tends to increase contrast. An Ortho plate, even without a screen is of value in certain circumstilitce's;' fOr lhstance, •freckles can be, almost eliminated, and fanhair much more faithfully reproduced.
The secret of a very high-class portraiture is a soft negative full of detail, and if, through unavoidable circumstances, your negative is too contrasty, it can be corrected by using the following developer in conjunction with " Slow " Water Development.
hietol:.. 20 Grains.
Sodium Sulphite ... ... oz.
}Iydrokinone ... SU Grains. &xliiim Carbonate ...... 2 oz.
Potassium Bromide• ... 20 Grains.
Water ... 20 Fluid oz.
For use ... Developer I Part. Water 3 Parts.
Develop until the image just appears; then transfer to a dish of cold water (this water bath must not be rocked). Development will continue on its own very slowly. After a few minutes again place in the developer and gently rock the dish. The moment action quickens again transfer to water and continue such treatment until such time that you have a soft negative full of gradation with sufficient detail to permit of any subsequent process of printing. Rinse and transfer to a fairly strong and freshly made fixing bath.
Attempts are oftentimes made by amateurs to combine portraits and figure studies with the view to creating a pictorial composition, and when this is attempted great care must be exercised, otherwise one's enthusiasm for pictorialism can easily assume such proportions as to make the portrait the secondary object of interest. The beginner. especially when photographing children. is apt to introduce other objects of interest which detract, rather than add to the composition.
Let us analyse the accompanying illustration, showing a child taking a photograph. An attempt was made to produce a picture in addition tO a Portrait, but the object was defeated. The camera is far too large, and detracts from the principal object of interest, which is the child. There is insufficient background Showing to create the atmosphere for a figure study in open landscape effect. The trees are too close, resulting in clear definition of the leaves, which ruin the picture even. as a child study. The attitude. and natural expression of the child is excellent and worthy of a more carefully considered setting.'
Try to visualise the same subject with a mare expansive, background.the child holding a small hand camera in ,the act of phottigraphing her doll, which is on a seat sufficiently distant so as not to detract. Such a composition would make an appealing picture, and ,at the same time a definite sorkrait study.
Not only must you avoid plating your camera in direct sunlight, but you must also avoid a position where the light is too strong, or the contrast will be excessive and shadows under the eyes, etc. You must be able to control the lighting if good results are to be obtained. This is not so difficult, when photographing in the open, as it may sound, and a little thought as to the best means of control before operations are commenced will be well rewarded. When equal light is all round your subject, unless controlled, the result will be flat, lacking in half tone and light and shade; whereas, if one side is shaded and the hard top light screened, it is simple to obtain that delicacy of half tones that is characteristic of a good portrait study.
If you arc photographing at home in the garden, select a spot in the shade and near a wall if possible to reduce the light on one side of the face. If this is not possible, paper or muslin stretched across a wood frame will answer the purpose, whilst the top light can be controlled in a similar manner. If you are likely to use the same garden for a number of portraits it is well worth experimenting to find the best position for light at various times of the day and the most suitable parts of the garden to form a natural background. An attempt to take head and shoulders with natural background is rarely successful, as it is insufficient to figure as part of the picture, and yet sufficient to prove distracting.
When you take portraits away from home, such as in the open country, it is obvious you cannot carry screens, and you must therefore look to nature to provide what is necessary for control. Remember that one side of the face must always be more strongly lighted than the other, and when you cannot put your sitter in the exact position you would like, the alteration in the position of your camera may save the situation.
When possible place your subject near the wall of a farm house or a good size tree; one or the other is certain to be available, and either will shade one side of the face. A large tree with heavy foliage is preferable, as the overhanging branches act as a valuable head screen. Naturally sunlight must be studiously avoided. or the face will be ruined by light patches.
Never take a portrait against the sky.
The face will appear dark, oftentimes due to under-exposure misjudged by the bright light surrounding, and the over-exposure of the sky as a background will probably cause halation. As a rule trees or suitable background can be found without having to travel very far in the country, and unless you can feel satisfied in this respect do not take a portrait. Two things you must remember : one, to keep the light well under control; the other, to give a full exposure which can be controlled in development.
Next article: Enlarging.