Spider’s webs can make lovely photos, but using these tips will make your shots even better! Let me know if I missed anything important, or if this post helps you get the shot you wanted :
1. Fill the frame
In most cases, shots of spider’s webs concentrate on the beauty of the web and the play of light on the delicate tracery of strands. Move in as close as you can and fill the frame with the web.
2. Pick your angle
There are 2 basic angles – straight on, where the whole web is roughly the same distance from your lens, or angled, as in the shot here, where the web moves through the frame from front to back. The choice is yours – either can work well. Look carefully at the shape of the web and whether you can make a more interesting shot with a different angle.
3. Shallow depth of field
A shallow depth if field is easy to do, and makes a huge difference to the image, moving the eye through the picture from the blurry elements to to in- focus ones. If you are using a camera with scene modes, choose the macro, or close-up mode – normally the little icon of a flower. If in Aperture priority mode – A on Nikon, AV on Canon – dial in the smallest f number you can – on many zooms this will be between 3.5 and 5.6. In the shot above, I focussed carefully on the centre of the web, using a small depth of field, so the eye is drawn up to the in focus centre of the web by both the changes in focus and also the lines of the web strands.
4. Off centre composition
It’s generally recognised that good composition places the subject – the key element of the shot which you want to viewer to be drawn to – somewhere other than in the centre of the image. In the image above the centre of the web is in the top left hand of the image, adding depth as the eye moves through the photo.
5. Watch your background
In this type of shot, the background is almost as important as the foreground. Not for what you see, but rather what you don’t. You should carefully position yourself so there are no distracting areas in the background – ideally you want a fairly uniform colour which makes the web stand out and doesn’t draw the eye away from the web itself. Depending on the amount of blur you achieve with your shallow depth of field tiny details will simply disappear, so it’s often areas of brighter light which can be the problem.
6. The right lens
You can get great web shots with any lens, but for really shallow depth of field a macro or close up lens will give you more blur in the backgrounds and enable you to just have very specific elements of your image in focus. However, most people don’t have a macro lens – but they do have a compact camera… If you want really close up shots, a typical compact camera will let you fill the frame and focus in as close as a centimetre – your typical DSLR lens won’t focus if you are closer than around 30 cms, so this is one time when maybe the compact is the better tool for the job…
7. Time of day
If you are not a natural early riser – sorry! The very best time of day to photograph spider webs is in early morning when the dew is still on the web. As soon as the dew disappears the webs literally lose their sparkle, so an early and cold start is best.
8. A spider
Although a beautiful web makes a lovely image, a spider lurking can add another dimension. It draws the eye, and can be threatening, beautiful, fascinating or all three. A compositional tip – remember the rule of thirds and try not to put the spider at the very centre of the image – have it off at one of your intersection points with the web leading the eye to the spiders, and ideally the focus too, with the spider in perfect sharp focus and the further reaches of the web becoming more blurred.
Remember I said you have to get up early? Well, ideally you do, but if you’re anything like me and the duvet often holds you past the dew disappearing, a water spray is a great way to re-vitalise that web with lovely water droplets…
10. Post processing
My top photo is post processed – the web wasn’t really that colour, but I just loved the look. I also darkened off the shadow areas to make the background turn black, and enhanced the contrast to make the web and droplets stand out even more. Don’t be afraid to play – you can get some lovely images which can be far more dramatic than your initial photo.
Joe Houghton Photography runs small group photo shoots, individual 1 to 1 tuition, and photography assignments. You can see some of Joe’s photography on ArtistRising or at The Canvas Works, or on his Flickr site.