From the very beginning we are all born with an urge to touch, to feel, to experience texture. Spend a few hours watching baby’s and see what they do. Usually, what’s the first thing they do, if they can? Pick something up and put it in their mouth. Did you ever wonder why? It could be because they are hungry, or it could be because the human tongue is at least 10 times more sensitive to touch than our hands. Take a glass bottle, feel it with your fingers. Now take that same glass bottle and touch it with the tip of your tongue. Does it feel the same? That sensation you feel with your tongue, is much more intense, more exciting, and even more gratifying. That’s the difference between someone who is just taking a snap shot and someone who takes the time to create a photograph.
When you control the texture of your photos you invite the viewer deeper and deeper into your world. In other words . . . you share your feelings. Admit it; we’ve all seen those pictures of starving children from Africa, and they tug at your heart, don’t they? Of course they do, and that wasn’t by accident. Whether it’s the fluffiness of a newborn kitten or the glistening of a rattlesnake’s skin in the desert heat, you can almost “feel” the emotion rising within you. The bottom line is . . . these images all provoked an emotional response.
Photographs are most often printed on a flat, boring, non responsive piece of paper.
Keep in mind that a snap shot is a two-dimensional piece of paper. A photograph is a three-dimensional work of art. What is it that makes the difference? Often it ends up being contrast. The difference between big and little, or the difference between smooth and rough give us the viewer something to relate to. If you can’t relate to an image, no matter what the subject matter, it’s very unlikely to get you to have an emotional response. If you shoot a picture of a rodeo from the very top seat of a huge grandstand, will it have the same impact as the one shot by the clown looking at the bull face to face??
Obviously, contrast can take on many forms: color, size, distance, or texture. But texture helps to add depth. It’s not the only tool in your tool box that can do this, but it one of things specifically designed for the job. It’s like trying to open a can with a screwdriver and a rock verses using a can opener. Can you do it with a screwdriver? Yes. Was it as easy? No.
Was it as enjoyable? Probably not. Many photo classes are taught that never even mention the word texture. Can you take a picture without texture? Probably not. . . but even if you could, would you really want to?
Let’s say you take a young female model and shoot her against a plain sky. Nice looking girl, nice expression, but . . . now take the same model and shoot her against an old knotted tree or a jagged climbing rock. You have more to look at, more to compare to. Basically, you have more reason to remember the second shot than the first. It stands out because you added texture.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of simplifying the background whenever possible. But there are times when many photographers take this common practice to extremes. Since all subjects already have some type of texture, why not use that to your advantage? Even in nature shots; you can shoot water as smooth as glass or as violent as a volcano.
Sure, some textures can actually distract from your main subject, but . . . don’t forget some can greatly enhance it as well. If you want someone to reach out and touch your photographs, first you have to touch their hearts. You have to give them a new experience, a new perspective. Using texture to your advantage gives a whole new dimension to your work that people will want to explore.
About the Author:
Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography (better-photo-tips.blogspot.com). As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective. His photo eBook “Your Creative Edge” proves creativity can be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world through his website.
Like This Article?
Don't Miss The Next One!
Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current: