Tutorial: How to Photograph High Quality Textures

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I've been getting asked more often lately on how to take a high quality texture photograph so I will give it a shot and reveal the issues I've had making sure texture photographs are high quality and determining if they should be shared or not. A good texture image can be taken with any camera from a simple point-and-shoot camera up to a professional SLR camera as long as a couple key points are followed. The first challenge is focus. Keeping the entire texture image in focus can be easier if the picture is taken at as square of an angle as possible. This reduces the depth-of-field required by the camera to keep the targeted texture in focus. This will also reduce distortion of the image as well. For example, if I am taking a texture picture of the floor, I try to aim the camera as straight down as possible. This can be easier with a tripod but is often a challenge in a dirty abandoned building when obtaining grunge textures. Curved surfaces or very 3 dimensional surfaces also produce a larger challenge in keeping the entire texture surface in focus. In the example texture photo below, you can see the right edge of the texture is out of focus.

Noticing Issues with Stock Texture Photos

If a texture is out of focus, it is scrapped as it wont be very useful to a graphic designer at higher resolutions. In the image above, you can also see a small object has crept into the edge of the texture, blocking some of it. This can produce a large issue, especially if the texture is meant to be seamless. I've had to delete many texture photos after realizing a leaf or foot was in the edge of the image, blocking some of it. With textures of bricks and surfaces intended to be seamless, it is often helpful to line the edge of the image up with a mortar joint in the brick for example.

The next challenge with photographing textures is the lighting. I usually don't bother photographing textures outside unless it fairly sunny out unless I have a tripod or a way to keep the camera steady. Morning and evening light can also produce good lighting angles against various surfaces to really make their dimensional characteristics stand out. If a surface has direct sunlight on it, the camera's exposure can be set lower. This means less movement from your handheld camera will translate into motion blur because of a quicker exposure. The aperture, or f-stop, can also be increased, allowing for a larger focal depth and more of the texture staying in focus. Also don't forget to play around with your camera's white balance settings as more vivid colors may be able to be obtained.

Having Fun with Grungy Spray Painted Concrete

After worrying about focus and lighting for your camera, the next challenge is to have an eye for unique and nice textures! Some of the best textures come from the most unexpected places, so don't be scared to try taking shots of various surfaces. Digital photos can always be deleted if they don't turn out. Trust me, I delete many texture photographs before selecting which ones to upload.

A Walk Through the Woods Can Produce Unique Textures!

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