One of the definitions of texture in photography provided by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “the visual or tactile surface characteristics and appearance of something.” Objects may be rough, smooth, wrinkly, silky, gritty, etc., or a combination of various textures, and these can be highlighted in a photograph to create a strong visual impact. Texture in photography can elicit certain reactions from the viewer. A photo of a puppy with its soft velvety fur can create a feeling of comfort and affection while a shot of bare feet stepping on jagged stones can generate an opposite response. The appearance of textures also enhances a sensory impression, giving objects in the photo a tactile dimension.
Lighting Texture in Photography
Arguably the best way to show off the texture in photography is through the use of side lighting, which efficiently brings out fine details. Avoid strong frontal lighting which has the tendency to give a flat look to the image by removing the shadows that would accentuate the textures.
Textures Can be Used to Provide Information
Certain textures give distinct associations, making us better understand the subject or the scene and the message behind it. Wrinkled skin and rusty surfaces imply aging, smooth waters signify a calm and serene day, gritty sand on a beach ball hint that the ball was recently played with.
Make Use of Composition Techniques
An image entirely filled with texture has the danger of become boring, especially if the texture is uniform throughout the frame. A focal point, tonal or color contrast, patterns, or leading lines to break the monotony can greatly enhance the image. Since texture in photography can be a strong visual element, remember to balance your shot to keep it from also becoming overwhelming. Many strong textures and patterns in a single shot can make it look cluttered and busy.
Get Close to Capture Small Details
Close-up and macro shots are ideal to show off the minute texture details of a subject. Small objects and creatures can be full of interesting textures that are often overlooked because they are not that obviously visible. With most digital cameras, you can already capture close-up photos with great image quality. Most cameras have a Macro mode which is ideal for close-up compositions. Macro lenses for DSLRs can grab fine details from the tiniest subjects although these lenses can be pricey.
Tip: Be careful with getting too close to the subject since your camera might block the light and cast an unwanted shadow.
Incorporate Textures in Larger Scenes
Larger subjects such as rocks, paths, and buildings can also show a great amount of texture in photography. Sometimes, a play of various textures, together with patterns and lines, can come together to create a strong graphic scene.
Sharpen in Post-Processing
Digital photos straight out of the camera may not always be pin sharp and can be made clearer with the use of a photo editing program. A quick edit with the Unsharp Mask or your favorite sharpening process (there are several ways to sharpen your image in post) can make your textures more defined.
Tip: Try not to oversharpen your image since this will create a halo around the outlines or make lines look jagged.