Photographing Texture

Texture is one of the few things that make the photograph look real. attention grabbing and full of impact. This is one of the elements that make up a good composition. Any object when photographed in a manner, that brings out its surface details, makes it look life-like. The purpose here is to bring out the intricate details, the subtleties in color differences, surface details and patterns to give a feel of the subject. This is in a nutshell what texture photography is all about.

Rocks and Moss

(Stones covered with lichens and moss. A mixture of textures!
Nikon D200 with Nikkor 50mm f/8, 1/320 sec )

Texture as a subject
Close-up photographs consisting of simple elements and texture make very impactful compositions. Even more so when the purpose is to bring out the texture of the subject itself.

Texture to improve composition
When textures are used along with other impactful elements, they end up giving a strong support to the main subject. Even Ansel Adam’s various photographs which show moon as one of the elements (Moonrise at Hernandez in New Mexico, Moon and half dome at Yosemite), always show the moon’s texture. Portraits look good when the skin texture can be felt by looking at the image. Wrinkles of an aging face, softness of a baby’s skin and hard skin texture of a laborer’s hand… all of these when captured add character to the photograph. Henri-Cartier Bresson’s street photographs use the textures beautifully to increase the impact of his decisive moments.



(Grapes – Nikon D200 with Nikkor 18-35mm, f/8, 1/60 sec)

Tips for photographing textures

  • Go close and use a wideangle lens where possible. It adds to the depth.
  • Light falling obliquely or from one side exaggerates textures making them easier to photograph.
  • Keep the exposure in such a manner that the histogram is centered.
  • Mix and match texture with various rules of compositions or other kinds of textures available in close proximity.
  • If it is just a pattern or texture that you are photographing, try breaking the monotony using lines or curves which may be present there.
  • Keep the camera rock-steady. Even slight movement can make the images soft, taking the feel of texture away from them. Use tripods if you have to. (Camera Shake – How to avoid it?)
  • Use small apertures to have enough depth of field. When it comes to deciding the aperture, it is good to err towards the smaller apertures’ side. Smaller apertures help with more than the required amount of depth of field and so minor focusing errors can get hidden..
  • Use low ISO to keep the noise minimal. Sunlit scenes are easy to photograph. High ISO noise can interfere while using sharpening tool to bring out the texture.
  • If you are using strobes, use them off camera and at an angle.
  • Avoid using soft lights at all costs.
  • Click raw and post-process. Use sharpening to bring the texture out but do not overdo it (Sharpening).


Rusted Bicycle

(Front fork of a rusted bicycle. Oblique lighting brings out the texture of the rust.)

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