Show Texture in Your Photographs – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

Showing texture in photographs is not that difficult when you know how to capture it. Photographs are a two dimensional medium, so to show texture, we need to light our subject in such a way that we present the illusion of depth in the image.

To maximize texture in a photograph, side lighting is key. That is the direction of light comes across the face of the subject from one side to the other. This directional light will highlight the ridges of the texture and cast shadows into the valleys. These highlights and shadows are what is needed to emphasize texture in your photograph. On the other hand, front lighting is very flat and can be used to minimize texture in a photograph.

Below is an example comparing side lighting against front lighting. This is a 100% crop from two photographs taken from the same location, with the camera setup on a tripod. The only difference between the two is the lighting used to illuminate the wall I used as a subject. This is obviously an extreme example, but it illustrates the point well.

The first image is shot using frontlighting. As you can see, frontlighting illuminates the wall evenly and shows very few ridges or depressions in the wall, while side lighting emphasizes the ridges and depressions.

To use this in your photography, when you want to emphasize texture in your subject, turn it to so that the light falls across your subject. If you want to minimize texture in your photograph, turn your subject into the light. A word of caution though, if your subject is a person, apart from removing any modeling (sculpting of the face through the use of light) turning them into the light may cause them to squint.

Knowing how to properly light your photos to achieve the look you want will help you create stronger, more dynamic photographs.

Next week I review the ExpoDisc white balance filter for more accurate colour rendition in your photographs. Until then, happy shooting.

The digital photography tip of the week is written by the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer and is currently the President of the Niagara Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography he can address in the newsletter, send it to

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