These come next in importance to backgrounds. Here again a second clothes-horse will prove useful. The material of the reflector is not of much consequence provided it is white. We may thus use a sheet or tablecloth or plain white paper. Indeed, a newspaper is better than nothing, although a large proportion of its surface has been put out of action by the printing ink. In order to see the effect of the reflector it is an admirable plan to enlist the services of a couple of patient friends, one as the sitter, the other as the background manipulator. The sitter should keep in the same position in the room, and the reflector moved this way and that, while the student keeps his head under the focussing cloth and watches the effect on the ground glass. But of course as each effect on the focussing screen is produced he should observe and store up in his mind the relative position of background, reflector, camera and window, so that at any future time this or that effect can be obtained. Two points should be observed : first that the reflector not only reflects the window light falling upon it on to the shadow side of the figure, but in nearly all cases throws some light on to the background or wall; also that the nearer the reflector is to the figure the more accentuated its effect, and that by increasing the distance between the reflector and sitter a more diffused, even effect is obtained. When working in a room with two windows care must be taken not to produce a cross light effect. This may arise if one side of the figure be illuminated by the light coming through one window and the shadow side by light entering by the other window, and reflected on to the shadow side of the figure. The beginner is apt to fly from one extreme of no reflector to the other of too much reflected light, and may be even tempted to use a mirror. This is a grave mistake. The reflector may desirably be as large as the background.
Of course, it goes almost without saying that in outdoor work we seldom, if ever, need a reflector, though at times a light wall, sail of vessel, etc, may give very charming effects of this nature. And it would be quite a mistake to say that in indoor work a reflector is always needed. It may well happen that the walls of the room are effectively reflecting and scattering the light. Or again we may with deliberate purpose desire to get strongly marked contrast effects of light and shade. But in any case the golden rule of art, " Ars est celare artem," prevails. If a reflector be used it must not be so ostentatiously employed as to attract notice to the means whereby the effect has been secured. The observant worker will soon see the difference obtained by using a large reflector at some little distance from the sitter and a smaller one near to him. The former is generally preferable.
This is the crux of the whole matter. Do not forget William Hunt's saying that picturesqueness is a matter of light and shade. The beginner nearly always places his sitter (when working in a room) as near the window as possible, with the result that half the face is in strong light, the other half in strong shadow. Exposing for the light and ignoring the shadow, he greatly underexposes, and then, wrongly thinking that prolonging development will rectify what in truth it will tend to exaggerate, obtains a black and white effect. These three mistakes (harsh lighting, under-exposure, over-development) are the cause of quite nine out of ten early failures.
It is a safe working hypothesis that in nature there is nothing quite white and nothing quite black, and in art one may translate this by saying that in a picture little or nothing should be quite white or quite black. Pictorial effect depends upon two chief factors: (i) breadth in the arrangement of the masses of light and shade, and (2) gradation of shadows. If your shadow portions are fairly right in tone value the high lights will frequently look after themselves. Applying all this to our portrait work in a room we must remember that the eye can take in a range of light and shade greater than our negative can record or our printing papers yield. Hence it is that the eye does not, at first, realise the strong light and shade effects of interior lighting, or at any rate the untrained photographic eye does not realise how much stronger the difference of light and shade will probably seem to be in the print than in nature.
The nearer the window the stronger the light, but as the shadow sides are not proportionally strengthened the nearer the window means the stronger the contrasts, unless proper care be taken about the size and position of the reflector.
Portraiture is no exception to the general rule of " expose for the shadows," therefore let the beginner guard against thinking that the nearer the window the shorter the exposure is a rule in this matter. Indeed, the opposite might more often be the case, on account of the contrast effects being likely to be greater than the negative or printing process can adequately render.
Where the composition includes only a very small bit of strong dark then at times we may ignore this and adjust our exposure for the more important proportions of dark, but not darkest part.
It will be found advisable to give a somewhat fuller exposure for those arrangements of light and shade which give a picture chiefly shadow—for instance, in what are often called Rembrandt lightings.
This calls only for a few words to the worker who is familiar with this subject in general. In portraiture we do not, as a rule, desire such a great range of contrast as in ordinary landscape. Our high lights are not so bright, our shadows are not relatively so dark. Again, we do not usually desire so strong a light for portraiture as a sunlit landscape. Hence, in general we do not desire so long a range of densities—in other words, so much contrast—in a portrait as in a landscape negative. Other things being the same, this means one of two things, either shorter time of development or more water in the developer, so that contrasts may not be the same. As a rough sort of guide to start with, one may say to the beginner in portraiture that if your landscape negatives take six minutes to develop, then your early portrait experiments should not be developed for more than four or four and a half minutes. Of course, experience will justify the worker modifying this to meet his own requirements.
In the not unlikely case that the reader has already discovered the " quite best" developer among the eighteen or twenty now on the market, we have no desire to disturb this conviction. If, however, he is seeking advice, a word may be said in favour of an unprejudiced trial being given to Metol, Rodinal, or Ortol. Seeing that the beginner's early failures will most probably be due to excess of contrast in the negative, we suggest metol because this is a member of that class of developers that bring out shadow detail quickly after the high lights have made their appearance. If, then, the worker guards against prolonged development, he will not err on the side of excessive contrast provided the exposure has been enough to impress shadow detail.
It will suffice if one formula be given as an example of what the writer has found quite satisfactory in actual practice :—
Water 18 oz., soda sulphite 1 oz., soda carbonate 1 oz. When dissolved, allow any sediment to settle, and decant or filter off the clear part; add 1 drachm metol, and make up to total bulk 20 oz. This single solution is used just as it now is, and will keep in working order a month, but it gets slower with age. A week is a desirable limit of keeping time if best results are desired.
The image of a correctly exposed negative appears in ten to fifteen seconds, according to temperature, plate, brightness of high light, and so on. With most plates one should get a nice soft range of gradation in about twenty times the time of appearance. Thus, if the image first appears after twelve seconds' immersion in the developer, we may carry on development for twenty times twelve seconds, or four minutes. If this ratio is found to yield too little contrast, we can easily prolong the time of development for greater contrast.
With some plates it may be found necessary to add a little potassium bromide to the developer if fog is present in detrimental degree. The quantity of bromide for the foregoing developer is at the rate of half to one grain per ounce, or ten to twenty grains for the twenty ounces. But as the presence of bromide in the developer tends to hold back shadow detail in the early stages of development, its presence is not desirable unless some peculiarity in the particular plate demands it.