Challenge #4: Texture, texture, texture!   

Textures are all around us and many of the best photographs play up the textural element. This challenge aims to help you recognise and accentuate those elements in your photography.

In texture photography, it’s all about patterns, depth and colours, and every single detail of a texture plays a significant role in the overall perception of the photograph. The combination of these intricate details, interesting patterns, good depth and sometimes vibrant colours all contribute to a beautiful texture.

There are two different ways that you might like to try using textures in your photography:

1. You can forget about the object itself and let the texture become the subject

Simply photograph the textures themselves or use light to affect the appearance of the same texture.

  • Find objects that have very detailed textures like trees or rocks, knitted sweaters or woven rugs, rusting surfaces or concrete, woodgrain, tiles, canvas or painted surfaces, textured ceramics and textured paper such as wallpaper or sandpaper. Mid-tone textures with contrasting colours or details tend to work better than monotonous dark or bright surfaces.
  • Photograph them as close as your lens will allow.
  • Use different angles and capture the same texture as the light changes. Notice how the different lighting directions and camera angles can change how the texture appears.
  • Try screwing up pieces of paper and then flattening them out for backgrounds. You can even use a scanner for paper backgrounds, which has the advantage of holding them flat while still recording the folds and creases.

Lunar landscape, Sue Hoggett

2. Adding textures to photos

Adding textures to your photos is a fun way of creating new pictures. In some respects, it’s a bit like printing your photos on to textured paper. You can do this with photos you’ve already taken. Better still, take photos specifically with this treatment in mind. Blend them together to create something new, as in the picture below on the left. You could, of course, always let your camera take the strain and try a double exposure, as in the picture below on the right.

Echoed in Stone, Sue Hoggett
A Bad Hair Day? David Kessel

Choosing your photos

You can add textures to almost any type of picture, but this method works well with simple photos where there isn’t a lot of fussy detail. Ideally, you need a reasonably large single-tone area that allows the background to come through. Alternatively, you can use a simple texture with a complex photo – the important thing is that the two photos do not fight with one another.

You can apply this treatment to portraits, landscapes, still life, or just about any genre. With still life, you’re at a particular advantage because you can take very simple pictures of subjects against plain backgrounds and then attempt to create something interesting later with a textured background.

You just need to check whether the two parts suit each other? For instance, old books generally go better with leather, paper or card textures than they do with a brick wall. Metallic objects might go well with rust or oxidation.

Blending your images

Once you have captured your textures and chosen your images, you need to blend them together. There are several ways to do this, as described below.

Using apps on your mobile phone

It is very easy to blend two images together using apps on your phone, such as PicsArt; Snapseed and Canva (all available free on iOS and Android). Why not have a go?

The image shown on the right merges the same two photos that were used to create the one shown above, but using a mobile phone app instead of Photoshop.

Using in-built filters in your image editing software

Another simple and straightforward possibility is to use the in-built textures offered within some image editing programs, such as in Photoshop using the ‘Texture’ filter in the Filter Gallery (https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/photoshop-elements/using/texture-filters.html).

Echoed in Stone, Sue Hoggett

Blending layers in your image editing software

This gives you the most control over the blending of your images and was used to create the first ‘Echoed in Stone’ image shown at the top right above. Most image editing software has layers and blending modes. You just need to drag one photo on top of the other and adjust the blending mode between the layers to suit. Sometimes you might need to tweak opacity.

Here’s a workflow in Photoshop, but if you use other software, you can just use this as a guide:

  1. Open the two images you intend to merge (i.e. subject and textured background).
  2. Ensure that the texture image is the same size as the main photo or slightly larger.
  3. Using the move tool in Photoshop, drag the texture image onto the main photo. This automatically creates a second layer (“Layer 1”).
  4. Try the various layer blending modes in your layers palette until you find one that suits the image. “Overlay” is one that often works well.
  5. Adjust opacity to taste. If you want to strengthen the effect rather than fade it, you can duplicate Layer 1.
  6. Merge the layers (Ctrl + E) or Flatten Image.

You can do this the other way round and drag the main image onto the texture, but then the opacity slider becomes less useful. You ideally want to be able to fade the texture effect rather than the main photo.

Another thing you can do with your textures is to selectively paint parts of the effect out of or into the picture. You might do this if, for instance, you want to create the illusion that an object within the photo is resting on a textured background without being part of it.

(For Photoshop, see: https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/photoshop-elements/using/copying-arranging-layers.html)

Finally

Once you have got the idea of making imaginative use of textures, why not play with a few different techniques and experiment with a variety of textures? We’ll look forward to seeing your creations!

Submission information

  • Please submit up to five images no later than Sunday 17 May to web@bishopthorpecc.co.uk, preferably by WeTransfer.
  • The subject of your submitted images could be the textures themselves, although ideally we would like to see composite images using your original images with an appropriate textured foreground or background.
  • Please stick to the guidelines for submission, which you can find on the website under Submitting Images.
  • Resize your images to a maximum of 1600 pixels wide or 1200 pixels high, and limit the size of each image to 500kb.
  • Please include a title and your name in the metadata exactly as requested for Challenges in Submitting Images.

If you’re not a Club member, you are more than welcome to join in this challenge. Please feel free to send us images for up to five objects and we’ll post our favourites in the Gallery.

Acknowledgements

With thanks to Glenn Harper for some of the ideas for the Challenge:

https://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-use-textures-to-create-compelling-photographs/

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