If you want to emphasize texture, use side lighting. In fact, you can use light from above or below as well. If you want to reduce texture, use front lighting.
If your subject would look best smooth and even, use front lighting. Portraits are most often done with front lighting. Have you ever seen a behind-the-scene shot of a fashion shoot? If so, you have probably noticed the huge beauty dish, bank light, or massive soft box pointed right at the model. This kind of light reduces wrinkles and flaws. In contrast, landscape photographers wait for the “golden hour” just before and after sunset. The sun is low in the sky, providing side lighting that casts long shadows and brings out texture in rocks, sand, and buildings.
Look at the landscape photo. This is an area called The Sinks in Orange County California. It is an open space not far from the ocean that has numerous hills, valleys, and slides. I have seen this slide in the middle of the day when the light was straight on it. Nothing very interesting because there was no definition on the rocks and trees. In addition, the colors were washed out. Going back at the end of the day was a different story. The sun was low in the sky creating a beautiful side lighting. Look at how much texture there is in the dirt, rocks, and trees. Texture appears when one side of an object is lit and the other is not. The shadows are long and deep. You can tell which way the sun was throwing light by comparing the right and left sides of crevasses. The left sides are in the light, while the right sides are in shadow.
Let’s compare the two lily photos. The top one was photographed with front light. There’s only a small amount of texture in the petals. The light is pretty flat. Pay attention to the stem. See how even the light is? Take a careful look at the second lily photo. This one uses side light to enhance the petal texture. The texture is more prominent in here. It pops more because the light hits the high parts of the petal, and doesn’t reach the low parts. The interior of the lily is darker because the side light does not get inside it. Compare the stem to the front lit lily. See how it has a defined highlight on the left side where the light hits? As you can see side lighting creates drama, while front lighting creates softness. Think about how your subject will look best the next time you choose the angle of light.