Using Texture to Enhance Visual Experience

When we look at an object with attractive textures, we have this urge to reach out and touch it. We remember the pleasant feelings these textures triggered before so we want to experience it again. We may also remember being pricked by objects with sharp surfaces so we might be wary when we are near them. These are called 'sense memories' and can be very powerful. Showing texture in your photographs can give it a tactile dimension which can hook a viewer's interest.

There are many kinds of textures we can represent in a photograph. Although texture connotes a physical sensation, emotional experiences can be triggered by their appearance. Let us analyze a few textures that may be used in a shot:

Smooth – Smoothness is considered a very pleasant and calming texture. A baby's skin, rose petals and silk are just a few examples of subjects that are smooth. There are many things you can do with a camera to make a subject appear smooth. For example, by using a slow shutter speed, you can take a picture of a waterfall and make the moving water appear very smooth.

Rough – objects with rough textures, such as rusty metal or old tree bark, may not be as pleasant as smooth skin but they can also evoke vivid tactile sensations from the viewer.

Sticky or slimy – this texture may or may not be pleasant to the touch but it can provide great impact when captured in a photograph. Imagine looking at a picture of a hand covered in honey and you can probably almost feel what it would be like as if that hand were yours.

Frame your shots wisely when showing off texture. Finer textures, such as the stubble of a man's chin, would be more prominent if you get a close up shot or do a tighter crop. On the other hand, if you want to present texture in a larger scale like the cracks on a dry riverbed, it would be better to step back and capture more of the scene. A great way to highlight texture in your shot is to shoot contrasting surfaces such a soft stuffed toy lying down on rough cement.

Lighting is crucial in successfully presenting textures. Sidelighting is often used because it brings out all the little details. Angling your light source shows the facets of the subject's surface due to the highlights and shadows that are formed. The strength of the light is as important as its angle. Bright light can erase fine details such as fiber, sand or fuzz but it can show off large and prominent textures such as the rough façade of a crumbling wall.

Use texture to add visual interest and emotional impact. If your shot can get a reaction from a viewer then it will have been successful in enhancing the viewer's experience.

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