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Texture – A Key Design Element


Canon 5D camera with Canon 24mm f1.4 L series lens

Canon 5D camera with Canon 24mm f1.4 L series lens


A key design element, particularly in black and white photography, texture describes the relative roughness or smoothness of a surface. While a rough surface has a more highly textured appearance than a smooth one, it is the correct application of light that enables the viewer to perceive surface details.

Maximum texture can be achieved with a relatively hard light, skimming over the subject from a 90° angle. This technique will enhance texture by increasing local contrast between the lit and shadow side of details on the subject’s surface.

Conversely a diffuse or soft light source will reduce texture visibility. The smaller the light source the more specular the light emitted, creating darker shadows and more intense specular reflections.

Painters utilise texture, though the application of varnish or the build up and gouging of paint on the surface of a painting, as a means to express mood or atmosphere. Photographers employ texture to describe an object’s surface quality and, thereby, better communicate an idea, message or theme. Examples of which include the following:

  •       youth or old age
  •       hard or soft
  •       wise or foolish
  •       experienced or innocent

The textural characteristics of the subject, and their relative importance compared to other design elements, need to be considered by the photographer.


I was drawn to make these two photographs by the age of the buildings, with their weathered wood and rusted iron, and by the relationship between tree and building in the image ‘Old Shed and Tree, Harcourt’. I was careful to exclude the sky from each composition so as to further emphasize the tones and textures present in the wood, iron and grasses. The warm brown tone in the ‘Shed Door, Harcourt’ image was applied to evoke a sense of bygone days.

Canon 5D camera with Canon 24mm f1.4 L series lens

Canon 5D camera with Canon 24mm f1.4 L series lens

Both image were made with a Canon 5D camera and Canon 24mm f1.4 L series lens. Image processing was done through Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography


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