Texture shooting tips
After some months of practice and tests shooting textures with a ‘serious’ camera , here are some tips about cameras and lenses :
Click to read more !
The camera :
I picked the model balancing budget and quality , a decent compact is ok for textures : considering that today’s resolutions of 12-18mp will give you images with an height of almost 4k pixels , you can crop and rescale that to a nice 2k texture and that will hide most ‘cheap’ lenses defects.
it’s quite more expensive to get a camera with the idea of getting 4k tileable textures out of a single shot, so i settled for a 16mp camera.
It’s about your budget .. a 100-300€ compact can do, but from 300€ and above you could get into exchangeable lenses cameras , and some are definitely worth the price.
I picked a sony nex5n, a mirrorless camera, similar/equivalent to an entry level dslr.
I chose a mirrorless instead of a dslr , because it means about the same image quality, has detachable lenses too, and i don’t care about the viewfinder (that’s the difference by definition : dslr have optical viewfinders)
Too bad there’s still some hype about this ‘new thing’ of mirrorless , so prices are sometimes higher than comparable dslr , but in practical terms , lacking the mirror makes them simpler , smaller .. and eventually should make them cheaper.
So a mirrorless is great for textures : you need ‘high quality’ images , as in technical/optical quality : sharp, noise free , little distortions and CA … but not necessarily all the fancy stuff a ‘full’ photographer needs (like super-zooms or a great bokeh)
After some research i picked a Sony , the 5n model was already 2 years old so i got a good deal, and the sensor and features are better than most similar models , even if some others have more lenses options.
The lenses :
Above is a round-up of the lenses i got so far (and basically more than i need for my textures.. except for the fact that lenses are great toys, and you soon want .. one more )
center : a Vivitar 24mm , vintage manual focus lens, nothing special but cheap for such a wide angle old lens.
Left : a Minolta Rokkor 28mm 2.8 … great , sharp lens , cheap at 60€ with adapter .. vintage lens can cost a fraction of a modern lens and have superior build and optical quality , and for textures you won’t really mind them being manual focus only.
Right : a Sigma 19mm lens , modern , specific for nex cameras … best of the 3 in the end, i got it very cheap at 99€.
Has autofocus and probably the best contrast and sharpness.( The rokkor is a close 2nd).
Of course i also have the kit 18-55mm lenses : not the same quality at all , but still pretty good.
Below : 100% crop samples (Vivitar 24, Rokkor 28, Sigma 19 )
Below 2 samples of the Sigma 19mm , if you think (like i used to) that your decent compact makes nice textures .. check these and see how clear and sharp they are.
You could do even better with more expensive hardware of course , but a solution like this is a great balance.
A key aspect is all these lenses being ‘prime’ : so fixed angle, no zoom . It’s a good way to get a better price/quality ratio (and just like autofocus, zoom is not your primary concern for textures)
Shooting settings :
This would be a huge topic of course, but i’ll just mention 1 hardware aspect of the camera i got , the ‘hdr’ shoot.
Note i’m not referring to bracketed or manual shoot of multiple exposures to create a .hdr or .exr file on your pc .
I’m talking about the in-camera ability to set ‘modes’ that will open the shutter 3 times and combine the results , for .. 2 different effects :
The base effect is properly called “hdr” (in my Sony) : and it does something quite useful for textures : it flatten lights and reduces shadows .
Left pic is definitely nicer , with more contrast , but the right one will make a better texture source for a diffuse map , without unnecessary/wrong shading ‘baked’ into the colors.
The 5n also has a ‘creative’ mode called ‘paint effect’ .. it’s a more extreme version of the hdr process: it too shoots 3 times at different exposure and combines the result, but this mode does an aggressive sharpening and detail enhancing .
Often it’s too ‘destructive’ of the image quality, but sometimes quite useful : the sample below is a typical case : at the naked eye , that metal garage door is a uniform brown paint over metal .. but shot with this detail-enhancing hdr mode, i got clearly visible paint strokes and hue variations .. you couldn’t get this from post-effects ( unless you take multiple photos and do some tedious work)