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Photography Tips

This slideshow contains 18 items
1
Haystacks, 1923

Haystacks, 1923

Item 75165 info
Maine Historical Society

French's Photography for the Amateur outlines three factors of composition: Unity, Balance, and Perspective.

Unity is described as, "when one point of interest is made paramount through the cooperation of all the other elements in the picture."

In the photograph to the left, the repetition of haystacks is disrupted by the principal figure, the farmer. The haystacks' uniformity helps distinguish the farmer as the principal figure in the picture.


2
Men leading cows, ca. 1920

Men leading cows, ca. 1920

Item 75166 info
Maine Historical Society

In order to achieve balance in a photograph the principal figure must have a complementary figure to even out the weight.

For example, a person in the foreground could be balanced by their shadow extending in the opposite side of the picture.

French notes that the sturdiness of the triangular shape can also be used to help compose a balanced picture.


3
Winding road, ca. 1920

Winding road, ca. 1920

Item 75167 info
Maine Historical Society

French describes perspective in two forms: linear and aerial.

Linear perspective suggests distance by the convergence of lines and the diminished size of objects as they move back into space.

Aerial perspective relates to the atmosphere of objects in the distance; the further an object is in the distance the more hazy and unfocused it looks.


4
Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, ca. 1955

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, ca. 1955

Item 75157 info
Maine Historical Society

French creates atmospheric effects with a strong toned foreground and lighter toned background.

In the photograph to the left French uses aerial perspective to show the distance of Mt. Washington from the two trees. This effect is created by the mountain's hazy appearance in comparison to the sharp trees.


5
Kezar Lake, Lovell, ca. 1935

Kezar Lake, Lovell, ca. 1935

Item 75151 info
Maine Historical Society

French takes careful consideration of tonalities in his landscape photographs.

He stresses the importance of recognizing light and shadow in photographs.

The blue-green landscape that looks beautiful to the naked eye might not translate as well in a black and white picture.


6
Road in birch forest, ca. 1935

Road in birch forest, ca. 1935

Item 75154 info
Maine Historical Society

French masters the skills of exposure and orthochromatics for his landscape photography. Exposure is especially deceptive in wooded areas. It is difficult to gauge the intensity of light through foliage.

Often photographers underexpose photographs of wooded areas because of deception of light diffusion.

French writes that the acquisition of an orthochromatic plate is beneficial to correcting the tonalities of a photograph.

An ordinary plate is sensitive to dark colors such as blue and violet. This sensitivity renders blues and violets as lighter than yellows and oranges in photographs.

The orthochromatic plate corrects the color tonalities, and represents a truer color valued photograph.


7
Child with fish, ca. 1915

Child with fish, ca. 1915

Item 75155 info
Maine Historical Society

When including human figures in landscape photography, French sees it vital for them to harmonize with their surroundings.

For example– a man stands in a stiff pose in a collared shirt, but is photographed farming. When the pose and clothing do not harmonize with the subject, the photograph looks deceiving.

In the photograph to the left, the child is dressed appropriately in winter gear, and is posed in a child-like pigeon toed stance.

French makes the child the principal object of interest, while the car is included as a less important feature to create balance.


8
Fish on display, ca. 1930

Fish on display, ca. 1930

Item 75164 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1923 French wrote an article titled, "Pictures that Tell a Story."

The article gives 5 composition tips on what to avoid when taking a photograph.

One of the warnings is to avoid representing a figure as "walking out of the picture." This can be avoided by having more space in front of the principal figure than behind it.

In the photograph to the left, the fish hang directly in front of a backdrop, which instantly creates a greater space in front of the fish than behind.


9
Albany Basin waterfall, ca. 1935

Albany Basin waterfall, ca. 1935

Item 75150 info
Maine Historical Society

French's Photography for the Amateur includes a chapter entitled, "Specialized Phases of Photography." One phase includes information on water photography – especially useful in Maine.

A waterfall is one subject in which French suggests the use of direct sunlight.

Waterfalls run between dark toned rocks and foliage. An even distribution of light is ideal to capture the details in the dark tones.


10
Reflection on flood waters, ca. 1920

Reflection on flood waters, ca. 1920

Item 75156 info
Maine Historical Society

French explains that still surfaced waters are difficult for beginners to capture on film.

One of the problems is the need for orthochromatic plates; without them the water is rendered a white expanse.

With the orthochromatic plate, it is still necessary to consider interesting reflections and water "disturbed enough to have character."


11
Sunset over lake, ca. 1915

Sunset over lake, ca. 1915

Item 75153 info
Maine Historical Society

It's commonly thought that the sun should be at the photographer's back when taking a photograph. French disagreed entirely.

He believed that when the sun is at the photographer's side, it creates shadows that give the picture depth and make it much more visually interesting.

In the photograph to the left, French shoots with the sun directly in front of the lens. This creates an interesting silhouette feature.


12
Clothes lines and reflection, ca. 1920

Clothes lines and reflection, ca. 1920

Item 75158 info
Maine Historical Society

French's architectural photography puts emphasis on perspective and dimensionality. Ideally a building should be photographed so more than one side shows (preferably with one side in shadow).

He wrote that there should be an interesting foreground so "the building sets well in the back of the picture."


13
Swimmers, ca. 1920

Swimmers, ca. 1920

Item 75168 info
Maine Historical Society

The photo to the left is an example of one of French's photography of children.

He was careful to harmonize the background with the subject.

When taking photographs of children French aimed to capture certain expressions. To do this he asked the children to repeat phrases that brought the desired expression.


14
Moose and cows, Stoneham, ca. 1938

Moose and cows, Stoneham, ca. 1938

Item 75159 info
Maine Historical Society

Wild animal photography is a subject French preferred to leave to the professionals.

He explained that the subject is "not only difficult, as it requires a great deal of study on the characteristics and habitats of wild animals, but what is more, it requires a special form of equipment."


15
Beach-goers, Ogunquit, ca. 1955

Beach-goers, Ogunquit, ca. 1955

Item 75160 info
Maine Historical Society

French explained in his Photography for the Amateur that portraiture is beyond the beginner's field of activity.

If one desires to become skillful in this area, he or she should study the subject under experts, French advised.


16
Harold S. Fairfield, ca. 1900

Harold S. Fairfield, ca. 1900

Item 75162 info
Maine Historical Society

However, French still provided guidelines for beginner home portraiture. To obtain proper lighting, he wrote, the subject must sit at least six feet away from the window.

Ideally, the lower section of the window ought to be covered. This allows the light to fall at an angle of 45 degrees on the subject.

The shaded side of the subject's face can be lightened by the reflection of light off of a white towel. The towel can be placed over the back of a chair near the shaded side of the face, he wrote.

Ideally, according to French, a well lit portrait "should have a highlight on the forehead, on the lighted side of the face, on the bridge of the nose, on the tip of the nose, on each cheek, on the lips, the chin, and a catch light in the eyes."


17
Tintype portrait, ca. 1900

Tintype portrait, ca. 1900

Item 75163 info
Maine Historical Society

Home portraiture backgrounds should be plain, French wrote, in order to draw the attention to the sitter.

The sitter is situated in a natural pose, while the photographer aims to capture an engaged expression.

In order to keep the sitter interested, French suggests keeping a conversation with them.


18
Cadillac Mountain Road, Acadia National Park, ca. 1940

Cadillac Mountain Road, Acadia National Park, ca. 1940

Item 75170 info
Maine Historical Society

The final chapter of Photography for the Amateur is entitled "How to Make the Camera Pay."

Here, French included categories of activities in which amateur photographers can make money on the side.

One of the categories gives information on how to sell one's photographs as postcards. French had personal experience with this because he had worked for the Wittemann Brother's Postal Card Co..

Maine benefited from French's lifelong passion for photography. He provided historical and artistic records of the state's history, and shared his knowledge so future generations could do the same.


Works Cited:

French, George. Photographer For The Amateur. New York: Falk Publishing Company Inc., 1922.

French, George. "Pictures That Tell A Story." American Annual of Photography. 37. (1923): 222-225.


This slideshow contains 18 items