Victorian Photography

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by rock robbster, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. Has anyone tried doing a Victorian Era photo shoot? I have a model
    that as soon as I saw her, this was exactly what I was thinking of. I
    have a few questions. She is very pale, how would expose, light, etc.
    The other question I have is that where do I locate these costumes?
    Could I rent them from theater's? How are they on these policies? I
    found some sites on the 'net, but they are all for sale and I don't
    want to spend thousands of dollars on a photo shoot.

    I also need suggestions on backgrounds. Where would you set this shot
    up at? I'm having a blank on this one. Outdoors? An old house?

    Thanks for any help in advance. I've learned a wealth of information
    from this site, keep up the good work.
  2. As for costumes, with Halloween approaching, there are many shops open right now with costumes to rent; I'm sure you can find Victorian among the Spider Man racks...but you have to act fast.
  3. Robb, try your local thrift shop before a costume rental house. You might find some suitable pieces there more cheaply. And props as well.
    There's a book, Victorian Studio Photographs by Bevis Hillier that your library might have or can get for you, with some good examples of period backdrops and costumes (mostly male portraits though). But there's a good diagram on p. 27 of a studio setup:
  4. Sorry - the initial file was over 100k - and it occurs to me that even though the image is a Victorian engraving, the copyright issue is a bit dodgy. Let me know if you can't find the book and I'll send you the jpeg.
  5. Start with a Google of "Costumers Guild" and then make contact with an organization near you. You'll most likely find someone who knows someone who has friend with costumes they would like good shots of. Then do some bartering.
  6. I'd check "costume rentals" or similar in the Yellow Pages and Google some on the net. There are some historic and Victorian dance societies and they may also have some costume info. I'd check out historic photos, era related books etc., for pictures to get setting ideas. I do some old west re-enacting and the SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) folks do a lot of period dress and the ladies are more and more getting involved and dressing for formal events. You might check their website for a club near you, they may have some local source suggestions.

    It seems to me that due to the time and complexity of taking pictures in Victorian days, many of the shots were formal or at least posed portrait opportunites, occupational or organizational group shots, etc. Picking a name or two of famous people of the era will bring up websites, often with contemporary pictures, historical societies often have period shots, etc. Oftne they were shot in parlors but outdoors would work in a victorian home, near a gazebo, etc.
  7. Being an employee of a community theatre I would check there first. Usually rent for less than buying. And you don't have to store them until another epiphany hits. (ok only I am that slow coming up with great ideas....lolol)
  8. As far as costumes are concerned--it all depends on how authentic you wish to be. The least authentic will generally be the stuff you can rent from your local costume shop, but this will please many people. Community theatre will read well from a distance--but is rarely even remotely authentic--since they simply don't have the budget for authentic looking costumes--and, in fairness, usually aren't striving for it. (I speak as a former professional actress!)

    University theatre departments will have really lovely costumes--with fantastic details, and will tend to be sturdy.

    Thrift shops are unlikely to have much in the way of good authentic Victorian costumes (although they're fabulous for 40's and on)--but antique stores will sometimes have some wonderful things stashed away. If they specialize in Victorian clothing--you'll pay a mint for anything--if they don't--you can pay anywhere from $30 on up.

    eBay is a FABULOUS source for authentic costumes--and my considerable collection has been primarily gained through careful shopping there, over the years. Prices are lowest in the spring/summer. In the fall/winter, antiquers aren't outside shopping--they're armchair shopping--and the prices go up, accordingly.

    The problem with authentic costumes, of course, is that they are rarely wearable by anyone over the age of 13. (In fact, I usually put young girls, age 10-13 in them--and they look like heaven--but no one else will fit.) Also--for the BEST look--you need the proper undergarments--a period corset (not a Frederick's of Hollywood corset) and the appropriate petticoats and chemises...but if you're willing to move into the Edwardian period, you can get away with more, since the silhouette was less hourglass--more long and lean.

    Another alternative (albeit a pricey one)is to find yourself a costumer, and have a period costume made...I'm doing that right now, myself, with a couple of good costumers who wish to build their portfolios.

    And finally--in a pinch--you can do marvelous Edwardian things simply by using a tall, lean, girl with the right skin (pale)--and pin two super thin pieces of silk over her front and back...then wrapping a third piece around her waist, like this: (This is from a test shoot from an audition I was holding for models for a year-long Victorian/Edwardian project I'm working on--and that is really and truly nothing more than two pieces of silk safety-pinned to her shoulders (over her street dress), with a third piece wrapped around her waist.

    Good luck! :)
  9. It is so hard to replicate the amazing detail and tonality of a 8x10 camera coupled with that extremely shallow depth of field even at F/22.

    Maybe "Photoshop" could do it?

    Find a garage with roof sun-lights, a 8x10 view camera, expose something Ilford, a gorgeous petite french model, and learn how to print palladiums.

    You will then be there.

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