How to shoot textures outdoors

50mm, f/4, 1/80, ISO 200.

Lurking around every corner is texture. You may not notice them upon first glance, but if you take a closer peek in the crooks and crannies of your neighbourhood, you will find a whole world of excellent textures to capture: Mossy rocks, rotting wooden fences, rusty hinges, chipped paint on window sills, and corrugated metal doors. It’s out there just waiting for you to shoot! And unlike people and animals, mossy rocks sit still for hours with little to no complaints.

You’ll want to shoot in the early morning or during magic hour (one hour before sunset) to get the best light for showing texture. Great light will help define the surface texture and bring out all the little details. Get up really close with a macro lens and magnify the subtle flaws of the texture. Or conversely, look for patterns in the flow in the texture on a larger scale. Think of the patterns created by hundreds of roof shingles, or miles of rippled sand.

If the texture is part of a larger scene like the rippled sand, try shooting a wider frame like the shot below. The contrast of the different textures makes the photo dynamic. Framing contrasting textures together, i.e., blades of grass breaking through a heavy concrete wall, can also provide an extra thematic layer to your photos. You know, struggle against oppressors and the environment and sustainability and serious stuff like that.

Even if you don’t see the covert symbolism, somebody smart will. When they tell you, just nod, smugly smile and say, “Mmm. Yes, that was exactly what I was trying to capture. Not many people catch that.” Even if it’s not true, it’s a double win. You seem like a deep artist for actually creating something with meaning, and they feel like an intellectual “art critique” for having their thematic analysis affirmed.

Textured: Rusty
50mm, f/2.8, 1/80, ISO 100.

PS. Don’t be afraid of trying different angles, especially low ones, using different lenses, and experimenting with composition.

Share your best textured picts or stories in the comments.

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  • Reply
    Afif Tabish
    November 8, 2008 at 1:05 AM

    Those are some legit shots. Drool.

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    November 8, 2008 at 1:10 AM

    haha *turns bright red* I’ve been writing that for yeaaaars and no one has ever corrected me. gosh. well since i’ve said it hundreds of times, i’m just gonna make it a mostly lisa saying. plus, a crook is a like a nook but more creepy. creepy nook = crook.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2008 at 1:45 AM

    ahhh beautiful! We like the same kind of stuff. That’s so awesome. One of these days I will make a better portfolio place for these photos, but they are here for the time being.

    All of the photos in the index on this temporary site were taken by me starting in 2003 with a traditional film camera, a Minolta 35mm and on some, I used macro lenses to get close up shots. (I have a set of 3 lenses in different ranges of focus) I was “photowalking” before I knew there was a “technical” term for it. One of my absolute favorite shots I’ve ever taken is the shingles entitled “LayeredPerspective.” (taken in West Stockbridge, Mass. just before my husband and I eloped.)
    (Someday, I’ll tell you more stories about the other photos in that set.)

    I’ve since stopped using my old Minolta because a piece of lint got inside of it and onto a mirror in the back where I can’t get to it so I need to take it to a professional cleaner. In the meantime I had gone truly digital (as opposed to taking my film to Sams Club and having it digitized) but the point-n-shoot camera I have now (a Nikon CoolPix given to us as a gift a few yrs ago) has no where near the macro power I once had. I try, but it’s just not quite the same and I like having the manual control. Having a baby has kinda put my photography hobby on the back burner even though my son is the subject of much of my casual photography these days. (a toddler is extremely challenging to shoot and I think I’m attracted to this challenge!) I’m slowly getting back into it and one of these days we’ll try to purchase a better camera. I’m taking notes. I just try to make do with what we have now and someday I’ll get back into it like I was before. I’d love another opportunity someday to stare down another praying mantis! They say it’s not the camera that makes the shot so I try to keep that in mind.

    Keep up the great work on your photography and I’ll keep being inspired by you! :)

  • Reply
    Tim Allen
    November 8, 2008 at 5:11 AM

    I spotted this on a beach hut – it’s actually a window which I’ve twisted 90 degrees. The colours I just love.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2008 at 8:01 AM

    I love shooting textures, but I still haven’t found a way to really use them with portraits, as many photographers are doing right now. There’s got to be a tutorial about that somewhere…

    Great article, I enjoyed it very much.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2008 at 12:51 PM

    I live by Granville Island so I end up going there to shoot quite often.

    Here are some from my last “walk.”

    Lately, however, I seem to be shooting a lot of street signs…

  • Reply
    November 8, 2008 at 12:55 PM

    I live by Granville Island so whenever I go there and shoot I often end up shooting texture stuff.

    Here are some from my latest “walk”

  • Reply
    November 8, 2008 at 1:07 PM

    Funny you mentioned roof shingles.

    And also water makes real nice patterns.

  • Reply
    Jauder Ho
    November 8, 2008 at 2:56 PM

    Here are some pictures. They were taken in eastern California near or in Bodie.

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    November 14, 2008 at 4:29 AM

    Love that one with the hinge. I heard you on a podcast today and decided to check out the site and say hi.


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