Reveal Texture when Photographing in Full Sun - dummies

Reveal Texture when Photographing in Full Sun

By Thomas Clark

Because direct sun is a hard light source, it works great for revealing texture in macro and close-up photographs. Direct sun can emphasize the coarse characteristics of a stone, or the systematic pattern of the scales on a snake.

To best reveal texture, choose a time of day when the sun is lighting your subject from the side. Sidelight casts shadows along the surface of the subject based on what type of texture the surface has.

Traditionally, photographers wait until the sun is going down to have a side-lit scene. In a large scene such as a field of flowers, the sun has to light the entire field from the side to achieve an image that reveals the overall texture.

In macro and close-up photography, however, you can often find side lighting at any time of day. In macro and close-up photography you concentrate on just one (or a few) of the flowers in your photo. Each flower in the field may bend and twist in its own direction, and so one of them might be lit from the side even though the entire field itself is not.

If you bring some handy grip tools (equipment that enables you to reposition things in a scene) you often can manipulate the position of a subject in order to create side lighting on it. Just be sure to use grip tools that are appropriate for your subject and not to damage anything in nature simply for the cause of getting the shot you want.

The figure shows an image that was side-lit from the direct sun. The light shows off the texture of the teapot and the loose tea leaves inside it. The high contrast between the shadows and highlights works well to emphasize the texture that’s revealed by this type of light. Had the shadows been filled in with more light (creating less contrast), the texture would still be visible, but not as blatantly.


100mm, 1/8, f/8, 200

If you want to show a subject’s texture, but prefer to do so with less contrast than direct sunlight naturally provides, simply use a reflector or a fill flash to balance out the brightness difference between the shadows and highlights.