Texture photography is one of the most unique and interesting rules of composition.
You can find texture in photography scenes pretty much in every spot. In nature, or in an urban landscape you can find textures that you can use to highlight the details of a surface. Texture photography can be combined creatively as a compositional element together with other elements like diagonal lines for example.
In this easy guide you are going to learn all about texture in photography, what it is, and how to capture amazing photos using texture.
What Exactly is Texture in Photography?
A texture is literally the qualitative feel of an object or a surface. In texture photography, we describe the physical feel of a photographed subject. It represents details that can convey a message of how some objects physically feels.
Texture can be seen through different tones, shapes, patterns, and color depths and should show a high level of detail. The texture is very important when we want to bring some life and vibrancy into our photographs, giving the viewer the clear sensation that moments and objects are captured as they really are.
Photographs without texture can seem a bit dull and flat, almost boring. In fact, texture in photography is also used to create depth and to show different levels of creativity.
Unfortunately, you lose texture when photographed objects are overexposed or are in the shadow (underexposed). That’s why it’s important to know different guidelines to achieve the best possible results such as what light is the best for capturing most of the details, what settings are the best to capture the texture, or what equipment could you use.
How to Capture Texture?
Texture in photography can be captured quite easily if you follow some basic rules.
I’m going to talk about what gear to use in a moment, but the first thing you need to know is that to highlight texture photography you need to render a high level of details and for this, you need to deliver sharp images.
An out of focus photograph will conceal texture on objects. A creamy background won’t show any texture at all. Avoid any camera shake or you’ll get motion blur so you’ll need a tripod if you’re shooting in a low light environment.
This is especially through for subjects in motion. You might want to highlight the texture of the skin on an athlete in movement for example.
Capturing texture in photography means also choosing the right subject. You can play with the texture of a rug and decide to create a completely abstract photo.
If you are trying to capture the surface of a calm lake instead, you’ll have to rethink the composition technique you want to apply since texture won’t be ideal.
I’m going to show you more example below, but now let’s talk about what gear to use and the right camera settings for texture photography.
Of course, you need a good camera and lens, but you don’t have to break the bank to produce creative and beautiful photos. Texture photography can be achieved with a phone or with a compact camera as well.
After finding the best tool, it’s time to find the texture you want to capture and to prepare everything that is important for this job – good lightning, right camera settings, necessary equipment, and maybe some editing at the end.
Texture Photography Camera Settings
As mentioned earlier, you might use some post processing technique at the end, but to be a good photographer you don’t want to rely too much on photo editing.
Knowing how to prepare your camera and what settings to use is crucial. A small aperture (big f-number) is what you need to enhance the details of any surface. A wide aperture (small f-number) will give you a shallow depth of field and likely many parts of your photo will be out of focus.
To find your sweet spot in terms of aperture you can start from a very small f-number and increase it to obtain smaller apertures. This is a good way to experiment when you don’t know exactly what’s the best depth of field to use.
To tell the truth, you can also use a wide aperture if you are at a very close distance from the subject. What’s important is that you experiment with different angles and that the area of the picture you want to obtain is in focus.
Texture Photography: Use the Right Gear
To capture highly detailed and sharp pictures, you have to be very still. Even if you have the most steady hands on the planet, you’re going to move a little bit when you press the camera shutter.
These movements shouldn’t have a big impact on texture photography, but if you want to avoid it, think about investing in a tripod to reduce camera shakes. To avoid pressing the shutter at all and eliminate any possible movement, you can set a timer and have completely clear pictures.
Think about investing in a remote, so you can stay away from the tripod if necessary.
If you think you can do without a tripod since you won’t shoot in low light conditions, you can think of buying a camera and lens with good image stabilization.
Lighting and Texture
Whatever you want to capture, great lighting in photography is the key to success. You can have all the equipment, you know all the right settings, but if you don’t have good lighting, your pictures will look unflattering.
Direct lighting and too much of it can cause an overexposed effect and that can’t be fixed in post-production. The same goes when there’s not enough light – underexposed areas don’t play well with texture photography. In dark environments, you’ll need to raise your ISO value and if your camera doesn’t work well in low light it will add grain to your photos which will take away from the texture.
To capture the best possible texture photos, you have to find the point between these two extremes. In order to find that point, you have to play with lighting and find the right exposure.
If you’re shooting indoors, you can use artificial lights depending on the type of photo. You can use different lighting equipment and it doesn’t have to be professional equipment.
You can improvise your lighting setup with lamps and torches and create DIY diffusers with paper and panels if you don’t want to spend money.
The Importance of Depth of field
As you’ve learned, the depth of field is connected with aperture. For texture photography, you’ll have to play a lot with the aperture value to get the perfect depth of field for your subject.
A distant subject, like a landscape, will require a long depth of field, since you want everything in the scene in focus.
For a closer subject you can use a macro lens for example and with a shallow depth of field create a bokeh effect. This will bring some diversity and creativity to your texture photo.
Texture Photography Post Processing
Editing tools are allowing us to have even better photos that we can capture even with the best equipment, settings, and lighting.
There are many editing tools such as Lightroom, Photoshop, GIMP, you just have to find the one that works the best for you.
To achieve the best possible results and to emphasize the texture, play with contrast, clarity, shadows, and black points. Contrast can fix even the dullest textures, clarity will enhance every detail on your photo, shadows and black points will add an atmosphere to your photos.
However, if you go overboard with editing, you can take away from the texture.
Find more examples of texture photography here.
Create Your Texture Photography Bonus Video
In this video, famous YouTuber Peter McKinnon shows some cool tips to create your own texture in photography. He is a master of this and I highly recommend watching the video since you’ll learn a lot in just a few minutes.
Peter shows his technique to add a grunge texture on top of different types of photos. I think it’s a cool trick to create interesting and unique images especially, for social media.
Texture Photography Examples
Here are some examples of texture photography I selected for you from Pexels.
Texture Photography in Wildlife
Animals offer a perfect subject for this type of composition. To capture these furry creatures stay far and make sure you use a super telephoto lens. Be creative and don’t underestimate the power of a black and white photo.
Texture in Portraits
Small wrinkles can be very interesting and offer a nice opportunity for texture photography.
Or you can even create your own texture with a bit of inventiveness.
Texture Photography in Nature
Flowers are perfect for macro and close up photos of texture, but even landscapes can be used. All you have to do is highlight grass and rocks with a combination of the right exposure and depth of field.
Texture Photography Walls and Doors
Don’t forget about close up of old walls and doors. Always easy subjects for texture photography.
You can really have a lot of fun with texture photography. You can capture texture in so many different contexts, even at home. Or you can create your own as you’ve seen from the video.
Now, why don’t you go and put these tips into practice? Will you create your own texture photography with Photoshop or will you find texture around you?
Let us know in the comments below.
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.