IT is fair to assume that the reader of this book knows why the plate or film from which the completed photograph is printed is called a negative, and also that the negative is produced by first exposing a plate in the camera and subsequently developing it in a chemical solution ; but the beginner impatient to realise his results stays not to acquire a right understanding of those initial stages of the process a knowledge of which would go far to ensure more uniformly successful results, instead of largely depending, as is so often the case, on mere luck or accident; and whilst it may be too much to expect that the novice should be willing to delay his practice so long as to acquire an exhaustive knowledge of elementary principles, yet, could he be persuaded to devote just so much consideration thereto as shall give him something like a firm foundation to start with, and thus at a later stage have nothing to unlearn, it would be for his good, and it is the purpose of this article to give just so much of the process of negative-making that for the student to know less will leave him imperfectly equipped for future practice, whilst fuller information may not be essential, though, if thought desirable, may be derived by the study of more exhaustive treatises combined with practice.
Many, though of course not all, of my readers would find it difficult to say precisely how they learnt what they know of photography. They began by placing a plate in the camera according to directions, exposed it for a period of time, not determined by anything more reliable than a guess, and subsequently poured over it a developing solution, and accepted what the Fates gave. No very definite idea was formed from this and similar first attempts, except that particular plates came out all right and others didn't. But why this was so remained for want of a little previous knowledge quite unanswered; and instead of being able to deliberately repeat the conditions which secured success, the lesson which experience should have taught was lost. Even now perhaps the reader is by no means certain of securing even a majority of successful negatives from every batch of exposed plates, and, like a spendthrift, would be astonished were an account rendered of the plates and time wasted in producing those failures which he so readily forgets in the gratification which his few almost accidental successes give him.
Surely, if the careful perusal of a few printed pages will give the beginner greater assurance, certainty, and economy, it were worth doing.