Photographers: how do I take a picture of a spider web?

We have a Garden Spider that builds a magnificent web in our backdoorway every single night (we've named him "Webster". HEHE!!). The patterns he makes are really interesting, plus he keeps our deck bug free!!

I want to take pictures of him and the webs. But the problem is, he doesnt start until after dark, and in the morning the web is gone. I've tried everything I could think of, but the web just doesnt show up in the pictures.

Any tips/thoughts/hints/ideas?


I have a digital Canon Power Shot S80

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Spider webs are notoriously tough to photograph, even for experienced nature photographers. Spider webs it night, even more so. The spider web, and the spider at night? You have to work for this one. You probably won't get it in only one shot.

    I looked at the specs of your camera and you have manual controls so you should be able to pull something off. You also have manual white balance and you'll be using that. You'll also need to use the iso-400 setting on your camera and you will use the the close-up or macro setting of the camera. If your camera has a tripod mount and you have a tripod, you absolutely should use it. If not, you'll need to brace yourself for stability and practice the smoothest shutter press you can.

    Spider webs are transparent to translucent, with a very high index of refraction. If you've ever taken a pencil and placed it in glass of water and look at it from the side, the pencil looks suddenly bent. That's what index of refraction is, a measure of the ability to bend light. The individual spider strands concentrate light inside themselves and the translucency makes the web standout as the light exits the strand. This is why the preferred method of lighting for spider webs is backlighting. That's what you should do.

    Depending on your deck arrangement and where the spider's located, you can backlight it from the bottom or the side at an angle of about 45°, it's not critical, but keep the light outside of the image. A good way to do this would be with one of those utility floodlights that can clamp on to things. These are pretty cheap and often handy around the house anyway. You can use a ladder as a support and clamp the lamp to it. Adjust to show the web at its best. Since you'll be shooting at night you can effectively forget about the background.

    The hardest thing to photograph is going to be the web and that's what you need to set your base exposure for. To get the best color rendition you'll also need to set your white balance manually. You can do both at the same time this way. Set your camera to manual and take close-up reading of a piece of typing paper angled to reflect the most light towards the camera using what the camera says is the correct exposure. Go ahead and set your white balance manually according to what your manual tells you to do. Open up the exposure by a 1 1/2 stops using your aperture setting. You want to use the aperture setting the cause that will keep you shooting at the highest shutter speed and help reduce blurring from camera shake. This will give you a starting point to experiment with exposure. Take several images, adjusting exposure up or down, until the web shows well.

    Write down the f stop, ISO setting and shutter speed for the best exposure you get. Also make a diagram about how the light is placed, including notes on how high it is, the angle it's at and how far away from the web a light is. You'll probably have to take several shots, maybe over several days, and you don't want to have to remeasure everything every time.

    Now, you'll need to light the spider because you're using back lighting. There are two ways to do this, including using your on camera flash, but only one that probably won't drive you crazy. If you have another utility lamp you can use with the same wattage bulb, have someone hold it a couple of feet away from you somewhere to your left or right and at about the same distance away from the spider as the lamp doing the backlighting. Take a test exposure. If the spider is over exposed, have the person holding the lamp move back 1/8 of the original distance from the spider. Moved back that way until the spider is more or less correctly exposed. If the spider is underexposed, have the person move 1/8 of the original distance distance towards a spider. Again, repeat until spider is correctly exposed.

    If there is the slightest breeze, you won't get a good picture. I hope the auto focus of your camera using close up can focus on the spider.

    Here's a spider picture I took at night. I don't want to tell you how many pictures over how many months it took to get this one. The backlighting in this shot came from a fluorescent light up and behind the spider. I used a flash to light the spider, but you can do the same with a lamp.

    Source(s): Professional photographer/photojournalist
  • gery
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Pictures Of Spider Webs

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago


    Source(s): Make Better Pictures
  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Actually, selective color would probably lead to instant rejection even if it wasn't a violation of the rules. While popular with inexperienced photographers, newcomers to the craft, and schlocky wedding photographers, it is generally regarded by those in the know as a tacky substitute for effective composition and framing.

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  • 1 decade ago

    i got lucky once and caught a spiderweb early in the morning with dew droplets coating it and the sun at just the right angle and got a marvelous shot...

    then there is the old tried and true spritzer...and hoping to get a good angle on the light so it shines through the web not from my back but at a good angle to reflect off the web...

    practice practice practice.

  • 1 decade ago

    Either obscure the background by using a really big aperture for a short depth of field (if you can manually control your camera's settings) or consider placing something of a plain contrasting color (i.e. black) behind it.

    Another fun thing you can do to capture the web (though not in a photo) is to coat a piece of dark paper or poster board with spray adhesive and then press it against the web. It'll stay in perfect shape and stick to the paper. It looks really impressive, kids love it. haha

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Take a water spritzer thing. mist the web with water. This will make it much more visable. Then make sure the autofocus is really locked onto the web and give it a try.

  • 1 decade ago

    Try setting up a light, to the side of the spider web.

    If the light is too bright, move it back a little, or shine the light off of glossy white paper (8.5x11 photo printer paper works), to diffuse the light.

  • 1 decade ago

    I would try spraying it with a fine spray of water ,webs always look good in the morning after a dew

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

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  • Antoni
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I dont know the answer but hope you get some good discussion going. I will give some things to try, best I can do.

    You need more light, but webster might not come out if you have a big spot light on the web.

    Flash may do it, what colour is the background? or is it a shade - black or white? Can you put a background up behind the web? Like say black paper or something - this may help the web and webster stand out more while forcing your camera to work a bit harder (tries to make the black brighter) your exposure might be out a bit, might be able to save it in the computer later?.

    Try also a white background?,

    you could do a daylight shot of the web - somehow, practice it, then do a night one of webster and put them together in photoshop or something.

    Light source is the key but Im not sure how webbywebster will like that if hes a creature of the night.

    If I get inspired by other answers or get a "brain wave" will edit it in.

    always use a tripod if you can, even if you have to put it on a (sturdy) table or something

    Focus is going to be an issue here, tripod would help alot, as would manual focus - if your camera has it.

    Ryan has it with side lighting, the water is a good idea if you can get a good mist going on. Bounced light maybe quite effetive also. get a touch and try diferent angles of lighting, then try bouncing the light off a white piece of paper at different angles. the angles are the light source and the cameras view point.

    Also try different coloured background with the light if you can, best with two people, one on camera one on light, then see if you can get it, end of the day your tool is quite limiting, a good learnin exercise


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