In this tutorial, I am going to share twelve useful tips & tricks that will help you to shoot great textures. I have been photographing textures for over two years and have learned from many mistakes along the way. I decided it would be helpful to share my knowledge, and help show what goes into shooting a great texture. We'll also have an exclusive texture pack available to download for Photo Premium subscribers!
Always Use Auto Focus
One of the most important things to consider is the focus. Make sure that all of your images are in perfect focus. No matter how good you are with manual focus, it's probably a good idea to employ the use of your camera's auto focus. Even a small focus shift can make the image useless.
Shoot at the Right Distance
Another important consideration is to shoot your subjects from the right distance. There is no rule or fixed distance from which to shoot textures. It all depends of what you're shooting, how much detail you want in the picture, for what the picture will be used, and what kind of lens you are using.
There are a few general guidelines to suggest, though. For example, if you are shooting a small, regular pattern (e.g. a brick wall), try to get the shot as wide as you can. The more details you have in the picture, the better the texture will be.
Shoot details in close up so you have more information to edit later on. For example, if you are shooting a window or similar object, try to fill the frame with it.
Another potential subject is a type of fabric, cloth, or clothing. You need to get really close up to this type of material, to really capture the details of the fabric in enough detail for the texture.
Choose the Best Possible Angle
When you photograph textures, you need to shoot them at a ninety degree angle so they face straight to the camera. That is required to get the flat "texture" look, otherwise you need to post process the textures in Photoshop trying to fix perspective issues.
Try to shoot all your textures at close to a ninety degree angle, because there's a limit to what can be achieved with even the most advanced post-processing software.
Avoid Shadows, Glare, and Reflection
The key to successful texture is to get an evenly lit image. When you shoot textures, the best time is when the weather is cloudy and there is no direct sunlight which lights the surface you shoot. The clouds work as a big natural soft-box making the light very soft. This time is great for shooting textures.
You may need to check the weather forecast from time to time when you plan to shoot textures. Alternatively, if you don't want to be controlled by the weather, you can always purchase a diffuser kit and block the direct sunlight to make the surface nice and evenly lit.
Avoid any kind of shadows. If you're seeing shadows across the surface, don't press the shutter - it's as simple as that! These can't be fixed in post-processing, and will lead to an unpleasant and unusable texture.
Do your best to avoid glare as well. This can be helped by using a lens hood, and you could also consider picking up a UV filter. It will filter part of the light and improve the look of your final image.
A final aspect to take care of is any reflections. The hardest surfaces to shoot are the reflective ones. If you shoot glossy surfaces like shiny metal, glass, reflective plastic or others, you'll find the process tricker than usual.
First, you can use a polarizing filter to avoid the reflections. Another alternative is to shoot your textures in a dark room using a few soft-boxes to light up the surfaces.
Avoid Shallow Depth of Field
We all love shallow depth of field, but when it comes to shooting textures, this is one of our worst enemies. If you use a prime lens with a narrow aperture (for example, the Canon 50mm f1.8), the depth of field will be very shallow.
Make sure that you shoot with an aperture of at least 2.8 and above. Otherwise some parts of the image can be out of focus - this is not what we want.
Getting the Right Exposure
When you shoot textures, it is very important to get the right exposure. We already talked about aperture values, so we have to take a look only at the ISO and shutter settings. Try to keep your ISO setting as low as possible. If you really need to increase the ISO, try to keep it below 800 to avoid any noise that will affect your texture when viewed at a high resolution.
Setting the Shutter Speed
The next thing we are going to take a look is the shutter speed. It all depends of the light conditions and your equipment. If you shoot mostly handheld, try to use shutter speeds that start from 1/60th of a second and above.
Remember that you need a proper exposure for your textures. Try to avoid any blown out areas - any white areas can't be corrected in post, as there's no information to fall back on. My advice is to shoot your textures just a tiny bit underexposed, because it is easier to brighten up the images instead of trying to fix blown out areas.
Always Shoot in RAW
Another very important thing is to shoot in RAW format. It gives you a lot more control and flexibility with the images later on when it comes to post processing. This format takes several times more storage space then a regular JPG file, but it's well worth it.
If you don’t have a big memory card, a good tip is to turn off JPG + RAW mode and shoot only RAW. This way you can save some storage for a few extra textures!
Use a Tripod
If you shoot in dark environment and want good results you need to decrease your shutter speed, which as you already know will make your images blurry if you shoot handheld. Here comes our best friend, the tripod. Get a good tripod and make sure your images are rock solid and steady.
Use a Remote
When you shoot in low light conditions and use a tripod, you'll probably need a remote trigger to activate your shutter. This will help you to avoid any movement or vibration on the camera body while pressing the shutter button.
Another alternative which will save you some extra money for the remote is a built-in setting in most DSLR’s called self-timer. Set this to two seconds delay, and step away from your camera while it takes the shot automatically.
Avoid Wide Angle Lenses
One of the key things to avoid when shooting good textures is wide angle lenses. As you may know, wide lenses cause what is called "lens distortion". In some cases it can be fixed easily in Photoshop, but that is just additional work that can be avoided by using a longer lens.
I personally prefer to use a prime lens for shooting textures - especially the 50mm lens which works great for both full frame cameras and those with a crop factor.
There are some really strong advantages to using a prime lens to shoot textures. They don't cause lens distortion, and are extremely sharp at f2.8 and above. However if you don’t own a prime lens, or don’t want to spend extra money for such, you can use whatever lens you have. Just make sure you shoot your textures at 35mm and above to avoid any wide angle distortion.
Explore Where You Plan to Shoot
My final piece of advice is to explore the area where you plan to shoot your textures. Go there a couple of days before the actual date for the shoot to see what is there, and what equipment will can be useful. Make a list of the things that you are going to shoot, as this will save you precious time when you return with your camera.
I hope these tips were useful for you, and look forward to seeing a few of your own textures in the comments!