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Razorguts

Photographing for textures - any pointers?

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I was curious about any conventions, or "rules of thumb", that may exist for taking photographs to be used for texturing. I've read THIS tutorial, but it doesn't explain too much about the author's approach to his pictures. I've been taking a lot of pictures while traveling throughout Central America over the past few months in attempt to get a head start on assets for a future project. My approach has been to use 1600x1200 resolution, and snapshoot in as much daylight as possible. I know that the perspective can be transformed in Photoshop, but nonetheless I try to shoot as "normal" to the plane as possible, short of using a tripod and level. And depending of the surface continuity, I stand anywhere from 3 - 5 feet away. I'm doing some more travel in a couple of weeks, and will be taking even more pictures - Does my photography approach seem feasible? Respectively, are there standard approaches to photography for concept architecture? I apologize for my ignorance; I'm not an artist/graphics guy. Any pointers are surely welcome, and much thanks in advance. -Razorguts

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Two quick pointers:

1. Take shots with at least a 50mm lens or you'll face wide-angle distortion issues.

2. Shoot in RAW format - and "develop" your pictures later on in either Photoshop or (more preferably) something like C1 Pro.

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well it depends on what sort of equipment you happen to have.
Salsa's pointers were good, but then again you said you were using 1600x1200 resolution so chances are you have only 2-3megapixel camera. Kinda hard to find replacement lenses or RAW support for those. :P

First rule is to set the resolution to the max. With normal cameras, you can use only a small portion of the image in most cases.

While it is possible to fix the lens distortion / perspective in photoshop it requires you to have a really high res source material since you need to scale the image down when fixing distortion/perspective. otherwise you lose quality.

One way to combat the distortion is to zoom in just a bit. If you have a big screen in the camera, you'll see what I mean. However, this is usually bad idea unless you got the perfect lighting conditions.

Speaking of lighting conditions, that's actually the thing that matters the most. At least to me. When shooting for textures, there really needs to be enough (hopefully non-directional) light so that camera can really capture what you are seeing. Sometimes you have to help it a bit. (dark asphalt tends to come up too bright)

Take a lot of photos. Fill up that memory card and get a new one. Chances are that many of the shots won't be good enough - so it's good to have a lot to choose from. And if you move a bit between the shots, you can use the extra material to stitch up a bigger image.

also, don't stand too close to the target. The edges of your photo won't that useful so keep the part you want in the middle and take a step back. If it's ground that you are shooting, then try to climb up or just raise the camera as high as you can. This can prove out to be a little tricky, though... so you might get better results just holding the camera the normal way.

If you have a small screen or you just want to make sure that the shots turned out good, browse through them and zoom in some of the details. if they look blurry, chances are the image is useless.

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First off, much thanks for the detailed responses thus far. It's all extremely helpful.
Quote:
Original post by las6
...you said you were using 1600x1200 resolution so chances are you have only 2-3megapixel camera.
Unfortunately, this is correct. My travels weren't specifically to capture source material. The idea came to me while there, so I used the only camera available.


Quote:
First rule is to set the resolution to the max.
One comment, followed by two questions: I'm back home now for at least 2 weeks and am heavily considering a new camera specifically to get some reference shots during my next trip. Question 1) this may be out of the scope of my initial post, but are there any brand/model recommendations for an amateur, perhaps in a $300-400 range? Which may depend on question 2) is 5MP/2560x1920 resolution sufficient?


Quote:
Take a lot of photos. Fill up that memory card and get a new one.
Agreed. :)


Quote:
don't stand too close to the target. The edges of your photo won't that useful so keep the part you want in the middle and take a step back.
So it seems a safe assumption is let your distance from the source be contingent upon the source itself.


Quote:
If it's ground that you are shooting, then try to climb up or just raise the camera as high as you can. This can prove out to be a little tricky, though...
I've battled my own shadows and LCD screen glare many times. :)


Thanks again for any input (and double thanks for being patient) :)

-Razorguts

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Quote:
Unfortunately, this is correct. My travels weren't specifically to capture source material. The idea came to me while there, so I used the only camera available.
That's how it starts. ;) After a while, you might start seeing nice textures everywhere. Then you'll start doing trips around places just to get some interesting textures.

Quote:
One comment, followed by two questions: I'm back home now for at least 2 weeks and am heavily considering a new camera specifically to get some reference shots during my next trip. Question 1) this may be out of the scope of my initial post, but are there any brand/model recommendations for an amateur, perhaps in a $300-400 range?
As I'm not american, I can't really say what cameras fall into that price range (they are cheaper over there) - but generally speaking all canon's are good. They are very good all around and even the basic canon cameras (powershot A-line) have had manual controls for all the main features of the camera. The competition has balanced out since a70, so there are other brands out there .. I recommend that you check out dpreview.com for any camera related stuff.

Quote:
Which may depend on question 2) is 5MP/2560x1920 resolution sufficient?
Plenty enough, if the quality of the images is good. so it's about the optical quality too. Most game textures are quite small, and you get better quality when scaling down. I've taken all my photos with 3mp camera (2048x1536) and I usually crop it down to ~1350x1350 then work on it, then scale it down to 1024x1024. If it's high quality photo, it might work, but most of the time I just resize it straight to 512x512 since that's suitable for most games and the texture usually looks tons better. You can see the gradual progress of my work with textures here: limefly.net

Quote:
I've battled my own shadows and LCD screen glare many times.
Well LCD screen glare is something you can't usually do anything about. Just hope for the best.. :) or buy some superkool camera with non-glaring screen. Not sure if there are any out there. Or you could just snap a few pics, then move to shadow to check them out.
Shadow-problem is more tricky - Usually I try to take shots when there is lot of non-directional light... that's why summer days Aren't always the best, despite the high amount of light. (at least around here) Because directional light brings shadows.. and while shadows can be nice, they can ruin the texture you are trying to capture. And then your own shadow will mess up the rest. But if the lighting is really strong, you could try zooming in so that you won't see your own shadow in the image.

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