Texture and side lighting

Snow and stones, shadowsWhen we make images, our goal is for them to have some sort of impact on our viewers.  One way to achieve this is by presenting a subject in such a way that it’s texture adds drama to the viewer’s experience.  Rick Sammon says: “Light illuminates, shadows define”, and that combination of light and shadows is what gives us texture.

To capture texture, you obviously need something that has a non-smooth surface, and it’s unevenness has to be visible to the camera, and hence the viewer.

grey shingles on barn side lit for texture

Subjects are numerous – think wood, stone, fabric, even pores on skin.   The challenge is less about finding the subject but more on lighting it properly.  The key to making that texture is side-lighting.  In nature, this can occur especially well during the golden hours (an hour after sunrise and and hour before sunset), when the sun is low on the horizon.  You can also redirect the sun into more of a side-lit direction with a reflector.

Sunrise on Elephant Butte, Monument Valley

Another very effective method of creating side lighting is by using artificial light, which allows you to position a lamp or move your subject to maximum advantage.  And especially powerful is off-camera flash, which I used for these photos from my “Nut Collection”.  These all were made using close-up filters on a Nikon 35mm prime lens.  Read more about close-up filters in this post.

Walnut in shell, side lit, texture

Almond in shell, side lit, texture

Brazil nut in shell, side lit, texture

Notice how in all of these images, the side lighting accentuates the unevenness of the surface of the subjects, making them appear to be more than just two dimensional.

Assess your subject for it’s texture and consider lighting it to bring that out.  You’ll have a more dramatic image with greater impact.   Email your texture images to me (espadon9@yahoo.com) and we’ll include in a later post.                             Posted by Ed


About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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