Photography Element of Composition: Texture

Texture is one of my favorite elements of composition! Learn how to use texture to make your images more interesting and meaningful.

What is Texture?

Texture is a visual representation of how something feels, whether it is rough or smooth or soft or prickly. The cues we use to determine texture as we look at a subject (or scene) are variations in color, shadow, line, shape, and depth.

These variations are revealed best through directional light, that is, light that skims across the surface of an object from the side (to the photographer’s left or right) and not flat light (light that is directly in front of the object, behind or right next to the photographer).

how to photograph texture

The Value of Texture

Texture is valuable for providing tactile information about your subject. For example, look at the two images below of an elderly man. In one, texture is minimized (although not eliminated) through the use of flat light, and in the other texture is accentuated to give you a sense that the man has lived a long, tough life. Notice the different mood you get from the images, and the different assumptions you might make about the elderly men based on the texture (or lack thereof) in their faces.

Textures can also be emphasized to encourage a certain emotional response. For example, dramatic jagged texture creates a sense of danger, and smooth soft texture can evoke a sense of peace and tranquility.

Textures, especially contrasting textures like a baby’s hand held in an old woman’s hand, can add a lot of depth, visual interest, and meaning to an image as well.

And textures can be a wonderful subject for a photograph.

Where Can You Find Textures?

Textures are all around you. Everything has a texture, you just need directional light to see it. If a subject intrigues you and you want to take a photograph of it, walk around it and look for directional light that will reveal the texture more fully.

The natural world is full of exquisite textures. A photowalk in the woods will provide endless inspiration and textures to photograph – trees, birds, moss, rocks, water, fur, and more!

Other possibilities are animals, textiles, food and meals, cities — even your own neighborhood with its sidewalks, buildings, and gardens.


#MindfulPhotoChallenge: Textures

Take a photograph using textures. Remember to look for directional light to reveal texture.

Some possible ideas:

  1. Get really close to an object and fill up your frame with texture.
  2. Take a photograph of contrasting textures. Feel free to set this up if you can’t find it naturally, like a pinecone on a silver plate.
  3. Use texture to enhance the emotion or mood of a photograph.

Share your images on Instagram with #mindfulphotochallenge and/or #RefocusPhotoChallenge, and tag me @ goodhartphotography.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like:

  • My full color 30-Day Photography Challenge Workbook here on Amazon.
  • My Photography Articles Listed and Sorted by Type here
  • My Mindful Photography Workshop here
  • My “A Gossamer Thread” Newsletter about photography/creativity, productivity, and joy here