Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The appeal of textures (an improvised tutorial)

Memories © EEG
Reaching for the Sky © EEG
Gratitude © EEG
I just got back from a trip to Europe, where I definitely re-bonded with my camera. One thing I discovered in this trip are textures. I'm really grateful for photographers like Karen Waters (I used one of Karen's textures for the image in the middle, Reaching for the Sky), Joel Olives and Brooke Shaden, who are so generous to regularly share their textures (check their websites to see what awesome textures they have!), and I've been thinking for a while now to start making my own library of textures and sharing it. And this trip gave me the opportunity: you wouldn't believe how rich in textures old Europe is! But before we get into that, I wanted to also share a few things I've learned about textures.

What are textures?

A texture is a layer that you overlay to a picture to give it a special mood and/or vintage feel. In my experience, old walls are the best candidates for textures. A texture also helps blending when compositing several pictures together.

Why use textures?

I personally use textures when I want my picture to convey certain emotions. Another super talented photographer I follow is Sairam Sundaresan, who teaches a G+ mentorship titled "Storytelling through Landscape Photography." While I haven't been able to attend his mentorship (shame on me!), the title has always intrigued me. (On a side note Sairam shares lots of tips on landscape photography in his blog). How do you tell stories with just a landscape? Over this last trip I learned that in order to make an image that is not only beautiful, but also tells a story, you have to shoot your subject in a way that it poses a question and/or captures a particularly emotional moment. I also learned that textures can definitely add, and even change, the emotional appeal of the image.

The pictures I posted above are an example. Each image above is trying to convey a sense of suspension in time and, hopefully, raise a question in the viewer and a bit of wonder. I believe the same images, without the overlaying textures, would not achieve that.

And now to the key point: How do you use textures?

I am a self-taught photographer, so I'll share the textures I've shot and my own way of using them. You can download a set of 30 textures I collected from various parts of Italy and Scotland from this public album. Please use the textures for your own work and, like all of my images, keep in mind that these images too are to be used in agreement with a non-commercial creative commons attribution.

These textures are "raw" and minimally edited. This is because I like to edit them after I overlay them on the image I'm working on, not before. Every image is different, and the same texture can be edited in different ways according to the image I'm making. Specifically, here's what I do: I pick a texture that I believe will work with my background image. I make the decision based on color (I choose a palette that enhances the base image; for example a pink/orange for a sunset, green for foliage, etc.) and lighting (I ask myself: where do I want the highlights to be?). Because my textures are quite rough, once I overlay them (in Photoshop Elements, just copy and paste the texture as a new layer, then choose blending mode "Overlay"), I usually add some degree of gaussian blur to smoothen them and make them blend onto the base image better. This is done by clicking on Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Next, I look at the overall feel of the image. If the texture is too much, I decrease the opacity a bit. If there are areas that are too patchy or where the texture feels like it's adding noise, I blend it down with the clone stamp. And if the image doesn't feel quite done yet, I add another texture. It's all really about playing around with your image until you get a result that you like.

What about you, do you enjoy using textures? And if you do, how do you use them?

Feel free to download the textures from my album and if you do use them, come back to show me the result! :-)

1 comment:

  1. Hehehe I do love a good texture and I try to remember to capture them when faced with a lovely wall or cracked paint :-)
    Mostly these days I'm to lazy to use them... just collecting them for rainy day editing :-)


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