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Capturing the Glory of Textures in Pictures

2021-12-07

If you’re stuck at home but still want to create otherworldly photos, here’s an idea: texture photography. Focus on the fine surface details of objects and create mesmerising images that make viewers think: “What’s this?” 

In this article, the SNAPSHOT team captures interesting images of objects found at home, taking you on a photographic journey of textures. 

 

What to shoot​  

Finding the right subject for textures might sound like a challenge at first, but it can be very fun.

For example, when you look at the average kitchen, you’ll quickly find many objects with very different textures. Vegetables, fruits, and items that come directly from nature are the best because nature provides a great source of texture.

Left: EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/100s, 100mm
Right: EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 500, 1/40s, 100mm

With texture photography, repetitive patterns don’t look repetitive at all, just like in the corn above. The waxy surface becomes more visible, and you can see the kernels bursting and pushing against each other.

On the right side is a standard dish sponge. But if you come in close, the tangled together fibres result in an intricate texture we easily ignore.

 

What gear to use​ 

Aside from the camera, one obvious item you need to look for is a lens that can take macro images. Canon’s macro-capable lenses (often distinguished by the word “MACRO” in their name) are the best options.

Left: EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 320, 1/30s, 100mm
Right: EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 800, 1/30s, 100mm

 

To capture the onion image above, an RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM lens was used. This lens could preserve many details in the image as captured by the Canon EOS R6 body.     

Despite the extreme closeup, the lens preserved the texture near the layers and signs of weathering on the onion’s skin. Macro lenses can focus on the subject close to the lens despite the high magnification. This allows the photographer to move closer to the subject. 

For more lens options, you can read our guide on telephoto and macro lenses here.

A tripod also comes in handy when shooting texture photography, as any camera shake at longer focal lengths and low shutter speeds can cause motion blur.  

 

Staging and lighting

Staging is pretty simple for texture photography. Since the object will fill the frame, it won’t require a fancy staging setup like in still life photography

When lighting for texture photography, it is important to experiment a little and understand the effect of light on textures. When light hits a textured surface, the raised parts of the image will cast a shadow.

The mushroom image below shows the gills or the underside of the bell. In between every gill is a shadow and the backlighting light creates a softer contrast.

EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/4, ISO 250, 1/320s, 100mm

 

The same shadows created by the gills are even more prominent at this angle: 

EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 800, 1/200s, 100mm

The use of bare flash to the side of the subject creates darker shadows within the gills of the fungi.

Another interesting quality to play with for some objects is translucency, or the ability for light to pass through. In the first eggshell image below, we see an opaque object with its reflective surface creating a glow around the overlapping edges.

EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 2500, 1/60s, 100mm

However, when backlit like in the image below, translucency creates an interesting effect as light passes through the object itself.

EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/8, ISO 2500, 1/60s, 100mm

 

Use narrower apertures and cropping

When shooting texture images, you will have to shoot your subject extremely close. The closeness to the subject and a longer focal length will shrink the depth of field, making it hard to keep things sharp in the photo.

Always experiment with narrower apertures to make sure you get sharp images.

Another important tip is to always save at the maximum resolution of your camera. The cropping and post-processing stages can uncover new photographs that could show texture even more effectively, like this one: 

EOS R6, RF100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM, f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/250s, 100mm

 

Trying to capture texture and macro photography might seem like a daunting task. When considering trying it out, sophisticated lighting setups and rare lenses often come to mind. However, with some creative thinking and a few interesting objects you can find around the house, you could be unlocking a new world of textures.

Ready to give it a try?

 

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