Monday, December 31, 2012
Lighting for Texture
Two keys to create light that will enhance texture (or hide it)
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
The two main elements that impact the appearance of texture in an image are the quality of light and its position. That means it doesn't only matter where you place the light relative to the surface of the subject you're illuminating, it also matters whether it's a specular, hard-edged source or a large, diffused softbox type of source. Each of these factors has a huge impact on shadows, and its shadows that create texture.
A frontal light source—one that's positioned very close to the lens—is not going to create many visible shadows. That shadowless on-axis illumination will flatten the appearance of texture because the shadows aren't visible from the camera position. Move that light 90-degrees in any direction, though, and suddenly you're creating a lot of strong shadows courtesy of light raking across the subject. It's those shadows that equate directly to enhanced texture.
Once you've got your light positioned, however, you've still got to address the quality of the light. As a larger, softer source, a softbox creates a wraparound illumination that creates—rather than the hard-edged well-defined shadows of a specular source—soft-edged shadows that aren't as dark or well defined. And that means a soft source is going to minimize the shadows that tip the viewer off about texture. Sound familiar, portrait photographers? There's a reason soft light sources look so pleasing on skin—they minimize the texture caused by bumps, blemishes and pores.
So what have we learned? That you should choose a hard-edged, bare-bulb style light source and position it closer to 90 degrees from the surface of the subject if you want to maximize the appearance of texture. To minimize it, use a large, soft light source positioned close to the lens axis. It's not an especially complicated procedure, but it makes a huge impact on the look and feel of texture in any picture.