Photographers are always on the hunt for beautiful light, interesting subjects, great moments, spectacular colours, inviting compositions, and dramatic contrast. These are many of the things that contribute to the final images that people remember - the kind of images we all want. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there is one photographic element that is all too often left off a photographer’s list of “go to” compositional tools; and that is, texture.
Forest Texture 01Similar textures in the limestone and a tree on the Bruce Trail at Split Rock Narrows side trail in Mono MIlls, Ontario. Forest Texture 02Various shapes on a mushroom peppered with snow add texture in this image from the Bruce Trail at Split Rock Narrows side trail in Mono MIlls, Ontario. Defined as the visual and especially tactile quality of a surface texture can provide great opportunities for photographers to make images that may not be obvious at first glance. This is one reason why, as photographers, we need to look harder to see (and then capture) images that others may not even imagine.
Texture may be subtle, found throughout a scene, or be the dominant element in a fine detail shot. It may be simply be apparent in the finer details of your subject or only be visible when the light falls in just the right way. To capture texture you first need to see it, and then you need to find the best time and method to capture it.
You may find good textures in subjects that have similar shapes or patterns, like the image of the tree against the limestone cliff. Other textures may reveal themselves in contrasting shapes. The image of the leaf and other forest debris on the mushroom is helped by the fine crystals of ice throughout. Sometimes it depends on how the light is falling on a subject for the texture to be revealed so you need to imagine how the appearance of the subject may be altered depending on the light.
This is where an understanding light and shadow and the impact they have on every image is very important. Why do photographers venture out in early in the morning? Or later in the day? Of course the warmth of the light at these daytime extremes is quite nice, but beyond that the lower angle of the sun adds shape and contrast, and helps to reveal detail in your subjects. This is texture.
If you’re not out looking when the light is interesting you may not see textures that are right in front of you. Consciously look for textures and if the light isn’t right in the moment make a mental note and revisit the scene another time. By this I mean another time when the light falls on your subject at an angle that helps to create highlights and shadows and reveals all of those rich textures.
Mr. ButcherMr. Butcher pauses while fixing up his garden late in the afternoon in rural Nova Scotia. Think of photographers who add or completely light their subjects with artificial light. Rarely are lights placed directly behind or above your camera. Photographers place their lights off camera, at angles that will help give their subjects shape, and of course, texture. If you have a subject whose face is “full of character” you want to have your light, natural or artificial, at an angle to your subject in order to create those areas of light and shadow and enhance the those facial textures. [A very common exception to this is the use of beauty dish where the light falling squarely upon the subject reduces the apparent skin texture and “softens” the skin in a very flattering way. Shadows on the sides of your subject may still be present which helps give shape, but the fine textures will have been largely eliminated. More to come on this in a future blog.]
Remember that with every image you shoot, you may wish to consider if the effect you are hoping for will look better in black and white, or colour. Textures may naturally look better in colour but don’t discount how a conversion of your image to black and white may really help those textures pop. The choice is yours so play with the possibilities.