Texture

We think of photography primarily as a visual medium. But a wise photographer remembers that our senses aren’t entirely independent of one another. A photo of a band playing might bring sounds to the viewer’s mind, even if she can’t actually hear music being played. Food ads use photos to make audiences think about smells and tastes. And in the case of texture, photos use the sense of sight to simulate and stimulate the sense of touch.

Nikon D7000, 55mm (18-55mm), 1/640, F/13, ISO 500, adjusted

A good texture shot immediately suggests an adjective about touching. In this photo, the word “rough” comes immediately to mind. Both the textures in the shot produce the same visual-tactile sensation. You might also get other adjectives from this, such as “dry” and “lumpy.”

At the opposite end of the touch spectrum, this shot produces a feeling of “smooth” or perhaps “wet.”

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Nikon D7000, 86mm (28-200mm), 1/1250, F/9, ISO 2500

What you’re aiming for is communication with your viewer that says “If you could somehow reach into this picture and touch what we’re both looking at, you know exactly what it would feel like.”

Nikon D7000, 86mm (28-200mm), 1/1250, F/9, ISO 2500

You’ll notice that most of the photos in this slide show are “close ups,” taken from positions close to the subjects and using higher focal lengths to bring out surface details. From farther away, it’s harder to get the feeling of what it would be like to touch the subject.

Nikon D7000, 86mm (28-200mm), 1/1250, F/9, ISO 2500

You’ll also help your sense of texture by framing to exclude distracting elements. A wider shot of this wing – a photo including the cockpit, engine and the like – would have done a better job of saying “airplane” but a worse job of saying “smooth.”

Nikon D7000, 135mm (28-200mm), 1/800, F/5.6, ISO 400

However, that doesn’t mean you have to live inches away from your subjects all the time. This picture was taken from a considerably greater distance than most texture shots, but it still does a solid job of saying “wet.”

As you work, keep an eye out for images that include more than one texture. The artist who made this statue uses “smooth” for skin but “rough” for cloth, as this photo brings out.

Nikon D3000, 55mm (18-55mm), 1/250, F/14, ISO 1600

As a last practice exercise before you head out to take pictures, mentally list all the textures you see in this photo.

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