From: THE PRACTICAL PRINTER
A COMPLETE MANUAL PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTING
By: Charles W Hearn 1874
PRINTING THE BENDANN BACKGROUNDS
Of all the improvements within the last year or two, in the printing department of our art, nothing excels or even equals that of the use of “Bendann Brothers’ Backgrounds,” for the merit of which “The Holmes Medal” was awarded to them by the National Photographic Association, at their convention in St. Louis, Mo., in 1872. The simplicity and convenience of using them, as well as their great beauty, insured for them at once a hearty welcome, and it was not a long time before they were in use in the printing department of the leading galleries in the United States. There are many designs, and among them a great variety of interiors, such as drawing-rooms, libraries, &c., and some of them with beautiful paintings on the walls are very noticeable.
The inexperienced printer is troubled a little when he first commences to use these background negatives, and for the benefit of such ones who may not understand the modus operandi, I have entered quite minutely into the details of using them.
The public admires and want the Bendann Backgrounds, and if business is dull, this will refresh it.
In making the portrait negatives for this kind of printing, do not have the background either too dark or too light; a medium light ground is best. When you have negatives with rather a light background, select a Bendann Background that is not quite as decided in its contrasts about the center as others may be, such as some negatives of libraries that I have seen; providing said library is suitable to the idea to be conveyed.
As to the artistic results that can be obtained by the use of the backgrounds, let us notice a couple of instances which will, I think, illustrate what we wish.
Would it be appropriate to select a library background when the figure is that of a gentleman reading?
A gentleman and lady in outdoor costume, standing conversing, he toying with his cane, she picking a flower to pieces would not some one of the exterior backgrounds answer capitally?
There are a great number of cases in which these backgrounds can be used with artistic results, but my space will not permit me to dwell further, and I will pass over this part with this remark, that the artistic photographer can indulge in a few such positions as promenading, conversation, reading, meeting of friends, collection of gossips, &c., with a plain woollen background, and backgrounds either interior or exterior can be printed in, suitable to the dress of the figure and the idea to be conveyed in general, with such effect as to make the finished print look like (what it surely is) an artistic photograph.
In preparing to print these backgrounds, first print the sensitive paper under the negatives until finished, and then remove them from the frame as you would do if there were to be no backgrounds printed in. Print the number of prints wanted and one extra. This extra print, which can be the worst print of all, is then used as a cut-out for use in the printing of the “Bendann Background.”
In cutting out, observe whether the dress, draperies, &c., are light or dark, and if light, cut in all around, but exactly on the edge of the figure down to the floor, leaving the floor in the cut-out.
It may be worth mentioning here that the floor of a print or negative whether they are copies or life should never be taken out, or the resulting prints will in every case be worthless.
In cutting out the print mentioned above, if the draperies, &c., are dark, then cut a little inside of the edges and all around the figure, with the exception of the face, hands, &c., which should be cut as all light things should be, i.e., on the line.
Do you remember when you were children, how you would cut the pictures out of your picture-books, and how careful you were to cut them, as you then termed it, “on the line?”
Do so in making the cut-outs with light draperies, but with dark draperies a little inside is best, for since they are dark the background will not be likely to show in on the drapery of the prints so as to be at all noticeable; only cut, however, the least trifle inside when cutting the draperies, although more freedom is given as regards the hair, if dark. Spaces between the arms, legs or two figures should be cut out.
The suitable background negative being selected, the cut-out is placed on the back of it, and the sensitive side of the paper outwards, and then, when a print is laid under the background negative, the cut-out and print will lay in the same position, since they both are face up, and consequently all parts of the cut-out will fit the print.
The center of the head of the cut-out should be laid on the glass side of the negative, allowing the edges of it to turn up slightly, and a weight or knife laid on the cut-out will prevent it from curling up during the printing of the background.
If there are panels to the doors of the interior backgrounds, allow the floor of the cut-out to run parallel to the cross panels, i.e., those panels which run parallel to the floor. Heed this last remark, and when you have learned its importance, you will see the value of it.
Now substitute the background negative for the portrait negative, adjusting it properly in place. Then place the mask on top of the background negative, and a weight on the whole to prevent slipping. Some parties use paste, but a weight answers as well and is easier.
For instance, if the figure is with dark draperies, and you have, as per advice given above, cut a trifle inside of the draperies in making the cut-out, then the print should be so placed that you can see a trifle all around the edge of the cut-out by looking directly at the light, and then you should place all in a shallow printing-frame, without moving it from its present position, and fasten the backboard in. A little practice in placing these negatives and prints in the frames will soon enable you to do it without moving the print or negative in the least from their relative position.
If, however, the figure of the print is in a light dress, such as a bride in her wedding-dress, and the cut-out is cut as has been advised, then the print should match the cut-out in every particular, and a background chosen that will, of course, have no heavy lines in it that come in the neighborhood of the dress, veil, &c., because these things being so very light the diffused rays of the sun will penetrate under the edge of the cut-out, and if there are such lines they will be likely to print on the dress, &c.
An experienced printer, however, can use such backgrounds without having these lines show in the least on the dress. I should advise the beginner always to choose a background negative that is rather intense at the center, as some are purposely made, and then there will be no danger of these lines showing on the figure.
In placing the print on the negative there are several points worthy of notice here that should be looked at to see if they are correct before placing the negative out to print.
Look to see whether the face of the cut-out is cut as it should be, i.e., never inside, but always on the line, unless there is hair on the sides of it, and then it should be cut a trifle inside of that hair. Then come the shoulders and arms, especially if they are about bare, and then finally look to the dress.
I said above, in making the cut-out, to cut with a little more freedom about the hair, and I will here state why.
Sometimes there is a little light place on the printed-in background, either just above the top of the head or by the side of it, generally the former, which is occasioned either by the print being placed on wrong, or by the cut-out shading said places of the background during the printing. The reason why it shades is because great pains are not taken, while it is exposed to the light, to have the negative-boards exactly face to the strongest sunlight, but it is generally allowed to slant in that direction which the light place on the background may indicate. In the greater number of cases the hair is quite dark on the top of the head, also on at least one of the sides, if not both, as a gentleman with thick wavy hair and full beard. When the hair is as just described then you can, if you wish, cut quite away inside, say from one-twentieth to one-thirty-second of an inch, for when the hair is dark it will do no harm, and will then prevent the shading of the background in printing.
After you have placed your print in the right position on the negative, and have fastened the back to the printing-frame, you are then to print in the background, which is accomplished by placing the printing-frame exactly face to the sun, and keeping it constantly in motion by gently moving it from side to side and from top to bottom, care being taken that it is constantly kept in motion.
In cloudy weather several negatives may be printed at once, taking care to frequently turn each one.
Unless the background negative is made as some are, with the center of it a little more intense than the border, it will as thus printed give to the figure a sunk-in appearance, as though it were too close to the background, as in ordinary, negative-making. To overcome this defect we make another cut-out, roughly cut from a cardboard, with about the same shape as the cut-out on the back of the background negative, but considerably larger than that, so that when it is held up before the cut-out on the negative it will overlap on all sides of it for the space of half an inch or so. This rough cut-out is held with one hand about the space of a foot from the negative, so that it will shade the cut-out on the back of the negative. This last-mentioned cut-out, intended to shade the figure of the print, should always be kept in a brisk motion by means of the right hand, while you hold the negative-board face to the sunlight with the left hand. The direct rays of the sun will fall on that part of the negative that this rough cut-out permits it to do, and only the diffused light is permitted to print the background in close to the figure, and the diffused light not being so strong as the direct, it will, as a natural consequence, print lighter at that part where only the diffused light is permitted to go than where it is not, and the finished print will have a decided air of relief, on account of the toning down of the background as it approaches the figure.
Some may criticize this on the ground that the diffused light would not permit the background around the figure to print hardly any before the border would be plenty dark. These background negatives are quite thin, and in strong diffused light (which would be the case if the pasteboard were held at some distance from the negative) the background around the figure will be permitted to print some before the outside is done, but if upon examination of the print before it is done it should show that this part of the print would be too light, then expose the whole thing without the rough cut-out to the full sunlight, and permit it to remain there for about a minute, keeping the board in a gentle motion in the meantime, and then finish the rest of the printing in of the background with the aid of the rough cardboard cut-out.
Instead of making this extra cut-out for every different pose that has to be printed with a “Bendann Background” I use a handkerchief, and by the aid of the fingers of my right hand I contrive to fasten it in the shape I wish, with but little trouble and considerable saving of time.
Vignetted grounds, especially for outdoor scenes, are very beautiful and stylish. The vignette is made as usual; proceed as above, only relieve the ground; in printing in, vignette the edges. Vignetted grounds are best printed in the shade, as they do not require strong printing in.
As to the depth of printing these backgrounds, attention must be given to the style of the print, &c., and then let your own taste be your guide.