Tips and Tricks for Creating Textures From Photos

By:  Elizabeth Gallagher
TRU Graphic Solutions Ltd

T
here are plenty of tutorials and articles on the internet covering the subject of general photography and a hand full on the subject of texture photography, so rather than going over old ground, I would like to share a few personal tricks and tips I have developed when taking photographs for purpose of texture creation.

Equipment

With the acceleration of technology and the current economic climate, now is a good time to purchase your first digital camera and gain some control over your creative destiny by taking your own photos.

These days, you can purchase a 10 Mega Pixel digital camera for around $200 – $300 and this is perfectly adequate for the creation of textures. But just like any hobby or creative pursuit, there is always a learning curve. Expect to make mistakes, learn from them and know even the most seasoned photographer has to go through some post correction process before his/her photos are suitable for the purpose of texture creation.

Sun and Shadow

For the same reason the sun works well for Sun Dials, it can often work against the process and purpose of texture photography. Bright sunny days are perhaps ironically conditions to avoid when taking photographs for texture creation. The sun casts shadows on just about every type of surface and even small shadows can make a photograph very difficult to work with when attempting to create a seamless texture later.

This is a bad image to create a texture because it has shadows.

Architecture Texture with Shadows. This is a bad image to create a texture because it has shadows.

Additionally, shadows on game textures will be in conflict with many game engines that use Dynamic Lighting to simulate natural weather and light environments. When shadows and light move in “real time” within a game scene, static shadows displayed on game textures will look “out of synch” or artificial, even to the untrained eye.

For example, compare the two window photo textures. The  photograph to the left ( the window with the arches and shadows) demonstrates perfectly the negative impact that shadows have on architectural photography. As you can probably see, it would be practically impossible to fix or use this photo for any type of digital artwork.

Now compare with the photograph below, which was taken on a typical overcast day in December. Notice that there are no visible shadows at all and this would be a perfect candidate for the creation of a good game texture.

So, for the purpose of texture photography, overcast or cloudy days offer the best lighting conditions for texture photography, as shadows are subdued and subtle.

This is a very good image to create a texture because it does not have shadows.

Good Architecture Texture. This is a very good image to create a texture because it does not have shadows.

Missed Opportunities

I cannot tell you how many times I have driven past a fantastic opportunity for texture photography and I didn’t have my camera with me. It’s the most frustrating feeling and once in desperation, I tried to use my phone camera, which perhaps inevitably, resulted in a waste of time and effort.

After doing this several times I decided to leave my camera in the boot of my car along with a fully charged battery so now if I see an interesting building on my travels, I am good to go.

Try and get into the habit of taking your camera with you wherever you go, even if it’s just a trip to the shopping mall.

The environment we live and work in is ever changing and opportunities may pop up one day and disappear the next. This is especially true with old historical buildings that are being demolished and replaced by new and quite often uninspiring and clinical looking architecture.

More Is More

What may appear like a perfect shot from within your camera LCD screen can sometimes prove to be less than perfect when finally viewed in full resolution on your PC monitor.

There is nothing more disappointing than realizing your “perfect photo” is actually out of focus or over/under exposed when opened up in your Photo editor. Whilst these imperfections can sometimes be fixed, it’s always better to get the shot right in the first place.

To reduce the chances of this happening I take 3 or 4 shots of the same subject therefore increasing my chances of obtaining at least one good quality photograph that requires little to no post correction editing.

Move Closer

When I first stated taking photos for texture creation I would only see the obvious. The front of an ornamental building, the Baroque window on the face of a castle wall, or the beautiful stone relief work on a church building.

Eventually I discovered that if I looked “beyond the obvious” I was able to get about 20 more textures from the same object.

Whilst building and architecture may have initially caught my eye, I began to notice areas in more detail and discover the beauty in age and imperfection. The rotten wood in a window frame, the corroded decay on the surface of a metal industrial container, cracks and exposed brickwork in a plaster wall all have potential for fantastic grunge textures.

Learn to see beyond the obvious. There are often two very different types of textures you can shoot from the same subject, the architecture on the whole and the surface material it’s actually made up of.

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