Using textures to enhance photographs is a creative technique that is often overlooked. The best part is that it can be achieved completely free and usually in a matter of seconds. A texture is essentially an image of anything with a relatively continuous surface. Examples include brick, scratched wood or metal, dirt, or even older film image like in my first example. It doesn’t need to be entirely uniform but the texture should be relatively consistent throughout to avoid being noticeable once it has been applied. Ideally you’ll want to create your own catalog of textures to refer back upon when it suits your edit. Anytime you see an interesting surface, take a shot and save it for later by tagging it with the keyword “texture” so you can search for it in your catalog. Below are two examples where I decided to use textures as a way of enhancing the mood or drama in my final image.
Using Textures in Portraits
Here is a shot taken last week of a Wesley Johnson, a model from my home town of Austin. The shot had a contemplative look to it and I felt that by adding a texture it would make it seem a bit more timeless. I opted for an old film photo found at a vintage store, an odd choice that ended up working well.
Using Textures on Landscapes
This next shot was taken in southern Colorado as a massive storm approached. The scene already had a ton of drama and I thought adding a texture would enhance the timeless feel of the aging building. The texture I decided on was a rocky patch of dirt that I literally stepped outside to shoot 20 minutes prior to writing this article.
Using Textures in Google Nik Analog Efex Pro 2
An alternative to shooting or downloading your own textures is to use Google’s free plugin, Google Analog Efex Pro 2. This plugin has an incredible array of surfaces to choose from including libraries of dirt and scratches, light leaks, and photo plates. Furthermore, you can control the intensity of the effect as well as where it appears in the image using Google’s control points functionality. A quick free and very effective way to achieve the same results.
Often times it’s easy to forget this technique even exists but when used sparingly and with caution, it can create some amazing results that will help your photos standout from the occasional snapshot. Next time you’re editing, give it a shot and see what happens. You may be surprised.