Describe The Texture Of The Lens

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There are many tools in a photographer’south “emotional toolbox” – the things you can do in photography to shift a photo’southward emotional bulletin in your preferred management. The one I’ll be talking about today is texture.

Photographic Definition of Texture

Texture in photography is not much different than in other contexts. If you imagine reaching out, closing your eyes, and touching a photo, texture is how it would feel in 3 dimensions. Sand might experience smooth and granular. Water could be smooth and glassy, or it could be rough and abrupt.

NIKON D780 + VR 100-400mm f/4.5-six.3E @ 145mm, ISO 100, one/160, f/6.3
Gentle, glassy texture in water
NIKON D3400 + seventy-300mm f/4.v-6.iii @ 300mm, ISO 360, ane/thousand, f/six.3
Texture of rough water
NIKON D800E + lxx-200mm f/four @ 200mm, ISO 800, i/4, f/8.0

Texture is more than well-nigh the “in between” details of your subject or the background, rather than the broader shapes of the composition. In other words, you lot could have two similar compositions (say, symmetrical left/right photos of a building) with different textures (maybe ane is modern and has a lot of windows, while the other is weathered and falling apart).

Emotional Messages

Texture is one of the easiest elements of photography to explain in terms of emotions, because usually the words y’all would utilize to describe the texture are the same words to depict the emotions it carries.

If the texture is rough, it imparts rough emotions to your photo. If the texture is gentle, the mood is gentle. The more infinite in your photograph that the texture takes upwardly, the clearer the corresponding emotion will exist.

Like all things in photography, there can be exceptions. I’d be interested to run into people’due south attempts to create harsh emotions out of smooth textures, or calm emotions from sharp, jagged criss-crossed shapes. Information technology can exist done, if you lot employ the other elements of composition creatively (such as light, rest, positive/negative space, and so on). Simply it’due south not the norm.

The norm is more than like this. Harsh texture, harsh photo:

Texture of jagged ice up close
Canon EOS 80D + EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM @ 18mm, ISO 100, 1/fifty, f/

Bubbly texture, bubbly emotions:

Bubbles on a pink background with a cool texture
NIKON Z 7 + 105mm f/2.eight @ 105mm, ISO 64, iii seconds f/iv.eight

Smooth and organic texture; a sense of nature in the emotional bulletin:

Leaf up close with drops of water
NIKON D800E + 35mm f/one.8 @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/ix.0

Texture as Subject area

Sometimes, texture isn’t just a detail inside the photo, but the whole indicate of the photo itself. These tend to be abstract or semi-abstract images, and they can be a powerful type of photography.

Repeated pattern of vertical lines
NIKON D7500 + 300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 3200, 1/400, f/4.0

The reason why “texture as subject” photos tend to piece of work well is that they tell a unified story. And then long as aught distracting interrupts the texture, you’ll end upwardly taking a photo where every part of the frame is on the aforementioned page, so to speak.

One-half the problem with most photos is that they don’t have a cohesive bulletin, where as much of the photo as possible adds to the image. (It’s certainly the biggest problem with nigh of the photos I take and never show anyone.) Texture-based photos bypass that, to some extent. If the whole image is a single texture, many of that photo’s emotions are going to be unified almost by definition.

Repeated pattern and texture in sand
NIKON Z 7 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 185mm, ISO 64, 1/xl, f/9.0

This lonely doesn’t guarantee a portfolio-worthy image. The texture notwithstanding needs to be interesting if you want a expert photo. Odds aren’t great that a random picture of your kitchen flooring volition be a winner. Factors like calorie-free and composition continue to play a big role in the picture’s quality, as always. But “texture as field of study” is still i of the easier means to take a unified photo, and that can exist a very skilful starting point.

Texture equally an Element of Composition

In nearly photos, texture isn’t going to exist the leading role and won’t command most of the photo’southward attention. For example, if you take a portrait photo, chances are that people will wait at the field of study’s eyes more than the texture of their skin or hair.

Simply even when texture isn’t the reason behind a photo’southward existence, it still plays a role in shaping the paradigm’s emotions. Perchance the primary subject of your photo is a mountain on the horizon, and that won’t modify regardless of the rest of the photo. But there’s still a big emotional difference between a flowing meadow in the foreground versus croaky patches of clay and rocks.

Distant rock formation with high-contrast leading line in the foreground
NIKON Z vii + NIKKOR Z 20mm f/ane.8 South @ 20mm, ISO 64, 1/thirty, f/13.0

I surface area that I always pay attention to in my photos is the out-of-focus background. In many photos, the out-of-focus areas take upwards large amounts of the image, giving them a lot of emotional impact. Take a expect at the image beneath:

Dragonfly photo with busy, distracting background and bad bokeh
NIKON Z vii + Laowa 100mm Macro @ 100mm, ISO 250, 1/800

In this case, the crude and clashing highlights and shadows in the groundwork don’t help the emotional message. In fact, the groundwork attracts enough attending of its own that it really draws people’due south eyes away from the subject field.

So, I followed the dragonfly around for a few minutes as it landed on different plants, in hopes of getting a background with a less distracting texture. I was happy to come across it land here soon afterwards, for what I consider a ameliorate photo:

Macro photo of dragonfly with beautiful background texture
NIKON Z 7 + Laowa 100mm Macro @ 100mm, ISO 125, i/800

The subject area of the two photos is the aforementioned. The composition is also the aforementioned, merely mirrored. But the 2nd photograph works amend because the more than gentle groundwork texture is a better fit and doesn’t distract from the dragonfly.

(Changing the groundwork texture is also something you tin attain past irresolute your aperture, although in this case, I’m reasonably sure that I used the same discontinuity both times. Information technology was a non-CPU lens, though, so I can’t say for certain, aside from noting the like amount of the dragonfly that’s in focus both times.)

How to Brand the Most of Texture

Texture isn’t something yous should spend an eternity worrying near. It’s simply another tool at your disposal during composition. Simply information technology
something that you have some control over in most photos, even non-studio scenes. In that location are near always going to be means to shift a photograph’s texture in ane direction or another.

For instance, you could change your composition either slightly or drastically. Here’s an case where I think the harsh foreground texture of the seashore, though not atrocious, contradicts the rest of my photo somewhat:

Harsh foreground with a gentle background
NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/two.8 S @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/vi, f/13.0

So, when I started taking some drone photos a bit later in the forenoon, I made sure to capture a like composition merely with gentler texture in the foreground. To me, this next shot is an comeback:

Landscape with gentle ocean texture in the foreground
DJI Mavic Pro 2 + 28mm f/2.8 @ ISO 100, one/1600, f/4.0

Yous could also search for different subjects in the first identify. As I watched the sunrise from a mountain several years agone, I establish a particularly jagged subject to photo:

Intense mountain with harsh texture
NIKON D800E + lxx-200mm f/iv @ 200mm, ISO 100, ane second, f/8.0

Whereas the texture on the same morn, just in a unlike direction, was about the complete opposite:

Minimalist mountain with smooth texture
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/15, f/8.0

I’thousand not saying either is better or worse, just that you can become drastically dissimilar results just by keeping your eyes peeled for a variety of subjects. This goes along the same lines as my recent article on timing and direction in mural photography. Based on the time of 24-hour interval that you’re taking pictures, and the direction you face, y’all can stop upward capturing drastically different textures – and, therefore, drastically unlike emotions.

You may have noticed that nigh of what I’ve talked well-nigh so far has to practice with field-based photography nether natural lite. But if you’re taking pictures in a studio, you have most limitless command over the texture throughout your image.

Here, I photographed some sheets of paper in a way that emphasizes how coarse and rough they are:

Jagged texture in sheets of paper
NIKON Z 7 + 105mm f/2.viii @ 105mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/iii.5

But from a different angle, and by using softer and warmer light, I was able to capture a much gentler texture:

Smooth texture in sheets of paper
NIKON Z 7 + 105mm f/2.8 @ 105mm, ISO 64, i/200, f/iii.5

Even if y’all don’t have the luxury of shooting in a studio, you lot can as well control texture to some caste in postal service-processing. For example, to emphasize the cracks in the wall in the following photograph, I additional Lightroom’s clarity slider – and, yes, the texture slider! – to +15 and +5 respectively:

Slight clarity and texture boost in lightroom to emphasize the cracks in the wall
NIKON D780 + VR 45mm f/1.8G @ 45mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/x.0

Just it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to go overboard. Maximum or minimum slider settings aren’t usually a adept thought, especially when dealing with peculiarly harsh sliders similar Lightroom’s clarity option. It’south piece of cake to run across a texture you like, but then take things manner too far:

Overdone post-processing with extreme clarity
Too much of the clarity and texture sliders in Lightroom!

Everyone’south tastes are going to be different, but the image above crosses the line from a photo to digital fine art in my listen, and not in a mode I’g happy with. And then, brand sure not to overdo it if you decide to beginning emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain textures in postal service.

Lastly, your camera settings can take an impact on your photo’due south texture, and not just in terms of depth of field like I covered a moment ago. Here’s an case where I used a deliberately slow shutter speed of i/10 second and shot handheld, panning with the body of water wave, to emphasize its gentle character:

Texture of the ocean with a long exposure
Canon EOS Insubordinate SL2 + EF-S18-55mm f/4-five.6 IS STM @ 55mm, ISO 100, 1/10, f/22.0

When y’all remember out of the box, you can discover many similar cases. Long exposures, filters, wink (sometimes in combination with long exposures and filters) – all of these tin be tools for capturing the textures you want in photography.


I promise this commodity gave you a good idea of how to work with texture in your own photos. I won’t claim that it’s the virtually important part of limerick, or probably fifty-fifty in the peak v. Only it yet influences a photograph’due south emotional message, which means information technology’s worth paying attending to. And if you’re completely stuck for skilful photo ideas at a given location, expect around for some interesting textures, and you tin can get those creative wheels spinning again!