ya gotta light, mister

overview of a 1930s portait in studio

Toronto. For decades photographic studios were the epitome of Photographic businesses. In reality, the studios usually cranked out technically sound portraits using a tried and true combination of lighting including facial lights for modelling the features, background lights to illuminate the backdrop, and a general overall illumination.

The lighting varied – natural light (north facing preferred), incandescent lights. soft boxes, massive electronic flash, etc. Often done with a heavy tripod based camera and later a portable Hasselblad or such.

Studios with skillful photographers managed to get the true nuance of character of their subjects – like Karsh did in his famous portrait of Sir Winston Churchill.

Today, smartphone cameras are everywhere and the studio portrait seems to no long cater to modern people. If your phone can take selfies at a whim, and send them all over, then  you have no need for a fancy studio portrait anymore. At the time my uncle had his portrait taken, family cameras were very rare, usually simple devices, and few amateur photographers knew how to take a portrait let alone an outstanding one.

Like family albums and shoe boxes of prints, quality studios are disappearing into the mists of time.

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