It’s time for a new article concerning macro photography. This time I’m going to present you some of the things I discovered when photographing … spiders!
As mentioned in this post I have a real phobia regarding these creatures. I cannot explain how I got it but I can say for sure that taking macro and close-up pictures with them helped me a lot if not overcoming it at least decreasing its intensity. I faced my fears and got to know the world of arachnids much better than ever! And the truth is that it’s a fascinating world and there is a huge potential for great pictures.
Let’s get to the findings now.
1. First, spiders are mostly static beings. They usually don’t move so much like many insects do (again, they are not insects but arachnids – let me apologise for the confusion if I mentioned otherwise in previous posts). Their behaviour depends on species. The weavers can either stay in the middle of the web or hidden nearby. Flower spiders stay hidden in colorful flowers knowing that their prey will be drawn by the pollen of the plant. Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to spot them, one must pay very close attention to the details of each flower in order to see them. Jumping spiders are usually more dynamic as they jump from place to place in search of their food. However they also have their moments when they stay still on a plant or a tree. The point is that this makes them very accessible to the photographer. You can take your time, try different angles, even mount a tripod. Imagine doing this when you need to photograph a bee which jumps from flower to flower! The situation is 180 degrees different.
2. When I take shots with spiders I usually try to catch their eyes in focus (at least part of them as a spider has 8 (EIGHT) eyes). However there are also other interesting angles, like for example taking a photo with a weaver that prepares its web (see below picture). Also some of the most interesting pictures are taken when the arachnid catches, secures and (last but not least) devours its prey. Some examples are below. Let’s not forget: spiders are predators! This is described in this post too: Capturing Its Prey.To conclude, as in many other photography genres it’s a good thing to take various snapshots that help the viewer get the “story” of these creatures and learn more about their way of life.
3. Best time of the year to get lots of spider photos is in my experience the period May-June. This is when there are lots of flowers from which insects gather the valuable pollen. It’s also breeding time for many insect species. So there is a lot of action! And of course where there are many insects there are many predators as well. However some species of spiders (especially the web spiders) can be active until late autumn. I even spotted some of them in early December but only in milder winters so I would consider this as an exception.
4. As when taking photos with insects wind can have a great influence on the quality of pictures. No matter if dealing with a static creature or not, when the wind blows everything moves. When shooting macro focusing and avoiding motion blur can be a real challenge under these circumstances. So it’s advisable to go “hunting” on a sunny day when the wind is almost inexistent. Or at least be (very!) patient and wait for a timeframe with less wind.
5. Also similar to insect photography, when I take pictures with spiders I try to avoid the distracting elements from the background. It’s best to catch the arachnids above grass level and when applicable take pictures with them from below (see for example the photo with the sky in the background). Sometimes this might be pretty difficult when carrying a heavier macro lens and no tripod is available. I take lots of photos as usually maximum one percent are keepers.
6. The editing of spider photos is similar to the one of insects. Caution must be taken when using selective noise reduction. I only correct the noise from the parts that are out-of-focus (e.g. part of the legs of the arachnid). As mentioned before selective noise reduction is pretty time consuming but it’s definitely worth doing it if you feel a great picture has just been taken. Sometimes I might apply some sharpening to the eyes but I try to avoid this unless necessary. Also if photographing the spider against the light and thus getting a silhouette I might want to choose to either bring light to the shadows (by using the Shadows and Blacks control from Lightroom) or keep the photo like this. This depends on what feelings I would want the photo to express.
I hope you’ll find these points useful. For more details please feel free to check my other posts regarding insects and editing:
PS. If you are a software developer (like I am) you might enjoy this joke: spiders are the only web developers who enjoy catching bugs.