Working with Textures – 8 Ideas to Get You Started

Working with Textures – 8 Ideas to Get You Started


A Guest Post by Claire Woollam from The Digital Iris.

The Oxford Dictionary defines texture as ‘the way a surface, substance or piece of cloth feels when you touch it, for example how rough, smooth, hard or soft it is’.

As photographers we constantly strive to capture what we see in our pictures. Shooting textures takes the challenge one step further: conveying to the viewer not only how something looks, but also how it feels to the touch. A great texture shot reaches out and grabs you.

To get you going, here are a few classic texture subjects to think about:

Bricks / Walls

Claire Woollam Brick.jpg

Bricks are everywhere in town and country alike, from smooth and flat to misshapen and crumbling, they form the boundaries of our daily lives. Bricks often have the added bonus of creating patterns and symmetrical shapes. You can try photographing them en masse or up close for a different perspective.

Trees / Leaves

Claire Woollam Leaf.JPG

There are plenty of great textural opportunities in nature. Tree bark may be glossily smooth or dry, peeling and rough. Leaves can be veined, spiky, succulent. Take a hike in the countryside, a walk in the park or a simple stroll along your street and you are sure to come across an interesting specimen or two which grabs the eye of your camera.


Claire Woollam Paint.JPG

Again, it’s hard to go far without coming across a painted surface, inside or out. Used to protect, prettify and portray, it sadly doesn’t last forever, but this creates some good opportunities for the budding texture photographer. A shiny new coat of paint on a windowsill, an old peeling fence or a thickly layered oil painting all invite the lens forward to reproduce their touchable qualities.


Cold, hard, smooth, chipped: stone lends itself well to the study of texture, both in nature and in more urban settings. A pebbly beach may not seem as tempting a prospect as its sandy counterpart, but the range of shapes and sizes of the stones underfoot can’t help but fascinate the interested observer. The glossy marble interior of an expensive hotel or the skilfully crafted contours of an architectural masterpiece remind us that stone can also be one of the ‘biggest’ textures we might choose to photograph.


So recognisable to us thanks to its many uses in life, wood is another classic textural subject. Every stage from forest to finished product presents a new opportunity: twisted roots, roughly chopped fire piles, shavings and splinters in the carpenter’s yard, smoothly sanded new grain, visible gnarls and knots, a slickly varnished chair leg – there’s never an uninspired photographer around wood!


Claire Woollam Fabric.JPG
A huge part of our daily lives, fabrics and furnishing materials can be some of the most enjoyable textures to touch, but are sometimes the most difficult to capture. Wonderfully soft velvet, itchy but warm wool, a deep shag pile carpet, rough sisal matting, smooth silk, fresh crisp cotton – the opportunities are endless, just take a quick look at what you’re wearing today and the furnishings around you.


Perhaps a less commonly-seen subject for many, rope has plenty of scope in the texture department. Rough and fraying or smoothly waxed, the many different sizes of rope offer the photographer the chance to move in close and grab that macro texture shot. If you can get to a fishing port you will surely see some great rope action.


Smooth, cool and reflective, rusty, tarnished and dull, metal easily gives up its age and provides the photographer with another great texture to work on. Check around your home and discover the many pieces of metal which hold together our households. Hop outside to the garden to capture the effects of the weather on this omnipresent material.

These are just a few ideas – it would be great to hear suggestions for other interesting textural subjects!

See more of Claire Woollam’s work at The Digital Iris.

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Some Older Comments

  • Andrew Pacheco January 17, 2013 05:00 am

    This is such an informative site. I find so many of your great tutorials and tips every time I do a google search for photography techniques. I'm starting to experiment with adding textures to some of my photos and the ideas you've posted here will be very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • PaulB October 22, 2012 03:59 am

    Interesting how this post prompted quite a range of responses. I liked Peggy's post and the textured photo done in PS.

  • Ken October 12, 2012 03:17 pm

    [eimg url='' title='8059912806_141cfe01dd.jpg']

  • Pat Transue October 12, 2012 08:10 am

    I love to photograph frost on the window panes. it is always different. Thanks for all the interesting topics you use. You have been so helpful over the years.

  • James Gonneau October 12, 2012 03:47 am

    One of the best texture artists I know if is Jerry "Skeletelmess" Jones. One of the things I've learned is that you can add a texture to a photo without it looking like you've done so:

    [eimg link='' title='Auberge 2' url='']

  • Ranjith October 11, 2012 11:38 pm

    My piece of meat for this comment on the lines of texture...

  • Jay October 11, 2012 09:54 am

    Beautiful photos and thought provoking discussions.
    Recently I started trying to bring out the texture in old book pages. Lit from the side, the printed words take on a "3 D" effect, seeming to standout from the paper. I hope some of you choose to try this.

  • raghavendra October 11, 2012 01:39 am

    love the way it is posted here,
    textures and patterns can be found in daily life

  • Seth Gershberg October 11, 2012 12:52 am

    Martha Morales Polar of Peru is an expert in using texture in Digital and oil paint.

  • Badflea October 11, 2012 12:28 am

    Great post!

    Is this a texture?

  • Steve October 10, 2012 06:48 pm


  • Nuspa October 10, 2012 06:12 pm

    I love textures in photography, here one pic of wood texture:

  • Scottc October 10, 2012 09:41 am

    A pleasure to open this article! The title led me to believe this was about the textures applied in post-processing, but it's about real textures.

  • Bob Bond December 2, 2010 05:08 am

    Whenever I'm out shooting, I always look for textures.
    I hope this is not stretching the topic with this shot.
    I believe that you don't always need to fill the frame with the pattern or texture to make an interesting image.
    This is the south west corner wall of the Acropolis in Athens, taken 2 weeks ago.
    [eimg link='' title='Acropolis wall' url='']

  • Rae Merrill November 14, 2010 04:54 am

    I like skin texture myself. Especially on older people. A few lines give plenty of character.

  • Tree Wolf November 8, 2010 11:36 am

    This is the side of an old train, I thought it was a beautiful color and perfect and crackly with metal and rust! [eimg link='' title='' url='']

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer October 29, 2010 03:22 am

    Flowing water provides a texture all it's own. Plus you can kind of control how the texture looks by changing your shutter speed. I know it's not typically thought of as a texture, but I think it would be worth considering.

  • Samir Bhanji October 27, 2010 01:26 am

    I'd like to know more of what we can do with these textures and where to implement them and how??? I know its being done.

  • Laurie October 26, 2010 11:44 pm

    I've been known to take a picture of my leg while sitting in the car because I liked the texture of what I was wearing. :~) Nice pics. Thanks for sharing!

  • Loni October 23, 2010 04:29 am

    I love it!! Thanks!

  • Scrollwork October 22, 2010 07:44 am

    We become more mindful of details when we see through a camera lens. One of my fascinations right now is capturing texture on fabric, fences — and food!

    Thank you to all who have commented. I've visited each of your sites and have enjoyed and learned. Keep sharing!

  • Laura Hughes October 22, 2010 06:54 am

    Thanks for another great post on often overlooked "backgrounds" This is a great reminder to me and our clients to try different textures as background pages in their photo books. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kenneth Hoffman October 22, 2010 06:15 am

    I like to use textures in nature. They make a great background for your main subject by adding interest to
    your photograph without being competitions with your main interest. Textures by themselves have been done to death sinsce the fifties. My favorite textures are ones made by light streaming through a pattern or
    streaming in diagonals.

  • TheresaZ October 22, 2010 05:37 am

    I love the picture of the blue paint that you posted, great texture. Awesome article, Thanks!

  • Peggy Collins October 22, 2010 05:20 am

    I also thought this article would be able adding texture to your photos. I like to layer a photograph of a texture over another image in Photoshop. Depending on the blending mode you use, you can come up with many different looks to your image. My favorite blending modes are "overlay" and "soft light", but "multiply" can be nice too. You can also adjust the opacity or erase parts of the texture that you've overlaid. There are lots of free textures on the internet but I also use my own photographs of things like tree bark or stone. Here's one of my images where I used this method.

    [eimg link='' title='Happy ? Day!' url='']

  • Davin October 20, 2010 12:27 pm

    This is the first time a learn from you about texture, nice article and very interesting.
    The picture give me idea to explore about photograph.
    Mixing color and contrast its look like paint art.

  • Jessica S. October 19, 2010 04:33 pm

    Interesting, I just did a blog post on using textures as overlay, come check it out!

  • Matt October 19, 2010 06:24 am

    thanks for the great article. It inspired me to take this picture from my front porch. The light was perfect to show the texture fo this leaf, I was able to shoot handheld from about 4ft away with my 70-300 zooms in at 300m. F9; 1/400. the contrast was slightly increased in photoshop.

  • RJMang October 18, 2010 12:47 pm

    Light? To me, finding texture is relatively easy, but turning it into a great photograph is the where the fun begins, and doing so is is all about the light.

  • Adam October 18, 2010 05:24 am

    Awesome post thanks for sharing

  • Dominique October 18, 2010 12:58 am

    I love taking photos of patterns, textures, reflections, and zooming in for extreme close-ups of a larger subject to see details in the colors, textures, or patterns.

    I recently visited a "ghost town" in northern Michigan and became enthralled with the patterns I saw on the old buildings there. I thought the beautiful weathering and patinas I saw in the wood there nicely expressed the passage of time and its effects on the old farm structures. I posted a few of those photos and my thoughts about them here:

  • Kirsty October 17, 2010 08:57 pm

    Great article!! the best texture i have ever photographed is skin. Skin is just so diverse from its texture to its colour, from an old mans harsh wrinkled face to a new borns smooth delicate body. Each one tells a story.

  • Matt October 17, 2010 01:53 am

    Another thing to be aware of when shooting textures is the angle of the light.

    If it's too perpendicular to the subject then the texture can be lost. Light at a low angle to the subject gives the best impression of texture.

  • Sarah October 16, 2010 01:07 pm

    Wow. Thank you very much. I am a semi-pro graphics designer and I normally use stock texture/s in my design. I never even had the idea that I can use my own texture. And ofcourse I wouldn't have thought that I could take good pictures of texture before reading this post. Now, you have certainly given me confidence. Next time I will surely try some of your ideas.
    Thanks again!

  • Victor Howard October 16, 2010 12:35 pm

    Great reminders of the wonderful photos in the simple textures that are part of our lives. Randomly, I have been working on collecting textures in one of my sets on Flickr:

  • Roel Vinkes October 16, 2010 07:38 am

    Like this idea of texture. Gives interesting opportunities.
    See my examples of a rusty fence somewhere in the woods in the Netherlands:

  • Scott October 16, 2010 06:11 am

    Great post! I was pleasantly surprised to open this article and find it to be about subject textures, rather than post processing textures. Living in Europe, stone is definitely the one I find the most often.

  • scott detweiler October 16, 2010 04:41 am

    As someone that uses a lot of textures I think you are on the right track.

  • Caroline October 16, 2010 04:05 am

    A shallow depth of field can really make textures pop. The fabric photo is a great example of this... you have the great texture of the purple fabric contrasted against the smooth bokeh of the fabric strips that aren't in focus.

  • Brittany October 16, 2010 03:52 am

    Thanks! But I agree with Dan. I thought that this would be more of an intro to using textures in photographs using photoshop or something. Beautiful reference images, but I think you guys should definitely do a followup post to this. I've been dying to try textures for ages. =]

  • Johnny Lightspeed October 16, 2010 03:22 am

    I agree with Dan- from the title, i thought this would be an article on the power of using textures on images in photoshop. I'm quite confused as to the purpose of this article... plus it's way easier to pick from the thousands of free stock textures found on sites all over the web. :)

  • fortunato_uno October 16, 2010 03:11 am

    I don't often do textures, but I was at a pumpkin patch the other day and saw a pupmkin that I thought had the most alien texture (it's probley more commen then I'm formilliar with). I got what I think is a neat shot of it.

  • Kyle Bailey October 16, 2010 02:50 am

    I've started to amass a collection of textures and once again this article is timely. Thanks and keep up the great work. Here is an image that I took where I was trying to capture the texture but also the colour and contrast of the scene.

    [eimg link='' title='100905 Seattle 7727' url='']

  • Dan Ketcham October 16, 2010 01:40 am

    Thanks for the write up...
    Actually thought this would be more towards using them as layers on photos... but can see where this can go towards that...

  • Mei Teng October 16, 2010 01:32 am

    Love the paint texture. I like photographing textures in the form of urban decay.