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The Mirror and the Camera

The Mirror and the Camera

Illustration: FIG. 1.—effect obtained with parallel Mirrors

Quite a number of novel effects can be obtained by the aid of one or more mirrors. If two mirrors are taken and placed parallel to one another, and a person placed between, the effect obtained is as shown in Fig. 1, where one soldier appears as a whole regiment drawn up into line. To make this experiment we require two large-sized mirrors, and they must be so arranged that they do not reflect the camera and the photographer, but give only multiple images of the sitter. This will be found quite possible; all that is necessary is to make a few preliminary experiments, adjusting the mirrors at different angles until the desired effect is obtained.

Figs. 2 and 3

A process of multi-photography which was at one time quite popular consisted of posing the sitter with his back to the camera as shown in Figs. 2 and 3. In front of him are arranged two mirrors, set at the desired angle to each other, their inner edges touching. In the illustrations here given the mirrors are inclined at an angle of 75 deg., and five reflected images are produced. When an exposure is made and the negative developed, we not only have the back view of the sitter but the full reflected images in profile and three-quarter positions as well.


In the diagram, Fig. 2, reproduced from “The Scientific American” the course taken by the rays of light, determined by the law that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection, is plainly marked out. We see here their passage from the sitter to the mirror and back to the camera. Provided the mirror be large enough, images of the full-length figure can be made as shown in Fig. 4.

For photographing articles where it is of advantage to secure a number of different views of the same object this method of photographing with mirrors opens up quite a wide field of possibilities. In France, it is used for photographing criminals, and thus obtaining a number of different portraits with one exposure.


The use of an ordinary mirror in portrait work has enabled photographers to produce very pleasing results. There is often a very striking difference between the full and side views of a person’s face, and by means of such a combination as this, one is enabled to secure a perfect representation of both at the same time. In making reflection portraits it has often been noted that the reflection has a more pleasing effect than the direct portrait. The reason of this is that it is softer and the facial blemishes are not so distinctly brought out. There is naturally a slight loss of detail, but this is by no means a drawback. The worst fault of the camera in portrait photography is the tendency to include every little detail which the artist would suppress. It not only includes all the detail but often exaggerates it to a painful extent. By making a portrait by reflection this defect is avoided. Of course the image is reversed, but this is in most cases of little consequence; in fact, the sitter himself would be more likely to consider it a far more truthful likeness, for when we look into a mirror we do not see ourselves as others see us, but a reversed image. With some faces, the difference is quite striking.


[Illustration: By H. L. Bostwick. FIG. 5.–MULTIPHOTOGRAPH OF CISSY



Very many amusing effects can be obtained by the use of a convex mirror. Even an ordinary, well-polished spoon may be made to give some curious results. (See Fig. 6.) The thin man becomes an elongated mass of humanity to whom Barnum would have given a big salary, while the fat man may be reduced to the proportions of a walking-stick.

Convex mirrors for producing these ludicrous effects can be purchased at any mirror manufacturer’s store. The advantage of the camera lies in the ability to secure permanently the curious images produced.

Even more, ridiculous-looking images can be secured by the use of a piece of uneven glass silvered. For a method of silvering glass, we are indebted to the kindness of Dr. James H. Stebbins, Jr., the well-known analytical chemist. Dissolve pure nitrate of silver in distilled water in the proportion of 10 grains to 1 ounce, and add carefully, drop by drop, sufficient strong ammonia solution to just dissolve the brown precipitate at first formed, stirring constantly during the addition.  Make a solution of Rochelle salt, 1 grain to the ounce of distilled water. Clean the plate of glass thoroughly with a little wet rouge and polish dry with a piece of chamois leather. Warm it before the fire or in the sun to about 70 to 80 deg. Fahr., and lay it on a perfectly level surface. Then mix 1 ounce of the silver solution with half an ounce of the Rochelle salt solution and pour the mixture on the glass so that every part of the surface will be evenly covered with it.


Allow this to stand in the warm sunshine from half to one hour, when the reduced silver will be deposited as a fine film over the surface of the glass. When this is done wash off the glass with distilled water and wipe the entire surface very gently with a little wet wadding, which will take off the roughness and render it easier to polish. When perfectly dry the silver should be polished by rubbing with some smooth, hard surface. The plate is then varnished by pouring over it a suitable varnish and is ready for use.

Source: Public open library the project Gutenberg & Some Images: Pixabay


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