Create Compelling Photographs by Understanding Textures and Details

What is texture photography?

Texture photography can be considered a subtype of photography all on its own. It involves images that use either the texture itself or contrasts between textures in an image as the subject of the photo. Landscape, nature, and architecture photos are strongly dependent on the textures involved in the image as well. So let’s look at some examples of how we can use textures and details for maximum impact.

Create contrast using texture

The image below is a prime example of the interplay between rough, natural textures versus a smooth, worked artificial one. We can also call this texture contrast. It appeals to our sense of touch on a very visceral level. Because imagined touch plays a role in texture images, rough textures tend to be very appealing. Smooth textures can also work but usually in contrast to a rough one.

Create contrast using color

This image would be far less interesting if the stone heart was the same color as the background wood. Color contrasts appeal to an entirely different sense (sight) yet it’s enjoyable for the same reason. So when creating images centered around texture the best images will combine color and texture contrasts for maximum impact. A smooth, pale colored rock is even more interesting if rough, brightly colored lichen is growing on it.


Photo by suju / CC0 1.0


One of the best ways to capture extra textures and details is by removing the color entirely. Color contrast and saturation competes for our attention. And as visual creatures we can be overwhelmed by the richness being presented and miss out on the subtler details of a scene or subject. And emphasizing these details that would otherwise be lost is a fundamental principle of monochrome photography. Monochrome usually refers to sepia or black and white photography. Often we think these settings just makes photos look “old-fashioned.” But monochrome done right is stunning because of the details it contains. This photo of a couple walking in the park takes on an entirely new flavor by removing the color of the bright sun, blue sky, bold leaves and contrasting clothes. Instead the eye is drawn to the folds in their clothes, the way the light plays on the gravel on the path, and the graceful way the tree branches arch over the path. Texture and form become all important in monochrome photography.

Photo by MabelAmber / CC0 1.0

Here’s another example of how powerful monochrome can be in bringing out details. The lines on the skin of this elderly woman tells a thousand stories. The flaking skin on the backs of the hand and face are evident when not competing with the color of her clothes. And the background can be ignored entirely thanks to the depth of field combined with removing the color from the image.

Photo by ThuyHaBich / CC0 1.0


Form is another important part of texture and detail photography. Instead of considering the colors or texture of the subject we look at the overall shape. And once we’ve figured out the form we want to focus on we need to use a composition style that maximizes the impact. This image uses a wide angle field of view which is a lens less than 35mm in focal length. This gives us a wide expanse of sky as well as the sand dune in the background. And it captures many of the stark trees in the fore and midground. The twisted forms of the trees are in contrast to the smooth dunes and featureless sky. This image also uses color contrast in combination with the contrasts in form for even more visual impact. The trees, salt flat, sand dune, and sky all contrast with each other perfectly.

Photo by katja / CC0 1.0


Details are a big part of macro photography as well. Macro images are all about magnification. We want the small to loom large. Combined with the right lens and good lighting, details that are overlooked due to their size can make incredible photos. But image sharpness becomes all important when shooting macro images. And when photographing small, richly detailed subjects we want not only a macro lens but a tripod as well. A tripod adds extra image stabilization which helps keep photos tack sharp. When shooting handheld we make tiny motions constantly no matter how we pose or try to stabilize our posture. And if our shutter speed is too slow those motions can result in blurry photos. Worse, images that may look sharp on the camera’s viewfinder may be unacceptably blurry later. Once you view them on a high resolution computer screen they may look blurrier than you expected. But sometimes a tripod isn’t usable. In those cases, we can use a lens or camera body with image stabilization built in. Image stabilization uses software (digital) or hardware elements to counteract the unconscious motions we make while holding the camera. By countering the constant micro shakes IS works to keep fine details in photos nice and sharp.

Photo by winterseitler / CC0 1.0


Textures and details are a part of photography we sometimes overlook. Bright colors can sometimes cause us to completely ignore the other aspects of what makes a subject interesting. Likewise, we can use form as a main subject while allowing texture and color to complement the details of that form. Anyone looking to take their photography to the next level should give a little more thought to how they can use these principles in their art.

Photo by pixel2013 / CC0 1.0