Free­man on…

When the qual­ity of a sur­face is im­por­tant to a shot, use light­ing, helped by scale and con­trast, to bring it to the fore

NPhoto - - Contents -

Michael ex­plores how the right light en­ables you to cap­ture a sense of tex­ture in your images

Last is­sue’s ar­ti­cle on cap­tur­ing form was about tak­ing a photo that sums up the en­tirety of an ob­ject. This time, it’s all about sur­face tex­ture. If it helps, think of it as the dif­fer­ence be­tween tak­ing a firm hold of some­thing and reach­ing out to touch it. Which gives you a bet­ter sense of what some­thing is, whether it’s river-smoothed stone, a rough-skinned pineap­ple or a leather hand­bag? This is up for de­bate, but pho­tog­ra­phy gen­er­ally con­veys sur­face qual­i­ties well, so long as you make good use of light­ing, scale and con­trast. This trio of fac­tors is more or less all you need to re­fine and en­hance what is es­sen­tially the vis­ual translation of touch.

Tex­ture is above all tac­tile, and so it’s no sur­prise that stu­dio still-life pho­tog­ra­phers tend to have a head start when it comes to work­ing with tex­ture, be­cause cap­tur­ing it is one of the skills es­sen­tial for sell­ing many prod­ucts in ad­ver­tis­ing. Con­sider most lux­ury goods (or any­thing bought for plea­sure rather than out of sheer ne­ces­sity), and you can see that their sur­face qual­i­ties are a ma­jor part of their ap­peal, whether it’s cloth­ing, a hand­bag, a new gad­get or a ce­ramic col­lectible. A sin­gle is­sue of the lux­ury life­style magazine How To Spend It is full of ob­jects that, apart from price and de­sir­abil­ity, have one thing in com­mon: they are all exquisitely lit to show off their tex­tu­ral qual­i­ties to best ad­van­tage, and so to en­hance their de­sir­abil­ity.

In the wider world, tex­ture also plays a role in bring­ing scenes to life, and one of the key rea­sons why the golden hour is so pop­u­lar among land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers is that the low angle of the sun starts to re­veal tac­tile qual­i­ties in the land, from rocks to grass, which can give the viewer a sense of what it was like to be there.

Low-key light­ing in the form of day­light through a door­way in an oth­er­wise un­lit shop just grazes the cheek of this man, bring­ing out the tex­ture of his skin and beard

Our glo­be­trot­ting Con­trib­u­tor at Large, renowned photographer and pro­lific au­thor Michael Free­man, presents a monthly mas­ter­class that’s ex­clu­sive to

N-Photo. Michael has pub­lished dozens of books on pho­tog­ra­phy, in­clud­ing the best­selling Per­fec­tEx­po­sure.

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