Adding Texture

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 is 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.