The studio should be arranged so the lights, camera,
and electrical cords are safely out of the way and your
subject does not have to avoid tripping over them. Every
effort must be made to make the portrait session a
pleasant experience for the customer. Any props to be
used should be stored out of the way where they can be
retrieved quickly and easily.
The studio should be spacious enough to move
around freely, with enough room surrounding the posing
bench so the subject does not feel crowded. The distance
from the posing bench to the background should be great
enough so shadows from the subject are not cast onto
the background. This distance should also be great
enough so the background is out of focus when the lens
is stopped down to the working aperture. The studio
should have enough room so a longer than normal lens
can be used and provide enough room behind the camera
so the photographer can move about freely. It should be
wide enough so the lights can be moved in an arc around
the subject without changing the light-to-subject
distance. The ceiling should be high enough to provide
enough space for a standing full-length portrait.
Whatever the size or location of the studio, it must,
above all, be a productive, professional workplace,
having everything required to produce technically
perfect portraits.
In many Navy photo labs, especially the old ones
and aboard ship, these conditions do not exist. Just
because you do not have a large "professional" studio
and equipment does not mean you cannot produce
professional quality portraits. Many professional
quality portraits are made by Navy Photographer's
Mates using only two small lights in a compartment
being used as an office, finishing room, and darkroom
aboard ship.
There are endless types and manufacturers of studio
equipment available for controlling light and making
portraits. The size and the budget of your imaging
facility determines what is available for making
portraits. This chapter discusses only the basic studio
equipment that is common to most Navy imaging
Regardless of what camera you use in the portrait
studio, it should be clean and in good working order. The
camera should have interchangeable lenses and be at
least medium format. The larger the negative size of
your portraits, the higher the quality of the finished
A lens used for portraits should have a longer than
normal focal length. A long-focal-length lens produces
a large image on the film while keeping the camera at a
far enough distance from the subject to prevent image
distortion. Normal-focal-length lenses are too short for
anything but full-length portrait photography. They
require the camera to be too close to the subject, image
distortion becomes apparent, and working too close to
the subject may intimidate him or her. Working too far
from the subject with a normal lens to prevent distortion
makes the image size too small. The ideal lens for
portraiture should have a focal length equal to 1 1/2 or
2 times the diagonal of the film. When you are using
4x5 film, the lens focal length should be about 8 to 12
Simplicity is the key word in portrait backgrounds.
Simple backgrounds give more artistic results by
maintaining viewer interest on the subject. The most
widely accepted background is a large, flat, unmarked
surface, such as a painted screen, an actual wall of the
studio, or seamless background paper suspended from
the ceiling. Whatever the background, it should have a
matte finish, rather than a glossy finish. A glossy finish
causes distracting reflections.
A background can be plain or patterned. When the
background has a pattern, it must not detract the viewer
from the main subject. When props are used, such as a
globe or an American or Navy flag, they must not draw
attention away from the subject.
The background should normally be light and
neutral in color; however, black or dark backgrounds are
used for certain effects. A black background is used to
add richness to the finished print. When a black
background is used, keep your subject a good distance
from it to prevent the lights (except the background
light) from striking it.
The color of a background becomes important when
color portraits are made. Bright-colored backgrounds
should be avoided because they distract from the
subject. When using a cold-colored (blue, green, etc.)

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