Using Macro Mode to Photograph a Spider's Web

Spider webs make beautiful subjects for macro photography.  Luckily, they do not move much, so you can take your time setting up a good shot. 

Photographing a spider's web can best be accomplished in macro mode.  Because there are many factors to finesse when shooting small subjects, you must be patient when setting up the shot.

Step 1 - Identify lighting

The best way to view a spider's web is when the light is behind it.  Everyone knows how it feels to accidentally walk into a spider web because they did not see the tiny filaments that it is made of.  But when back-lit, the sticky substance that the spider uses to build the web will refract the light that hits it, making it more visible.  Use this concept to find the angle that will really make the web pop in the sunlight.  You can trust your eyes to help you track down the best spot to put the camera.

Step 2 - Set up a Tripod

Though the web will not be going anywhere, it may shake a bit in the wind.  There is not much you can do about this. However, you can set up the camera so that it is more stable on your end.  Maximizing stability is crucial when photographing small objects, since slightest movement during shutter release can lead to unwanted motion blur.  On your tripod, fully extend the thicker risers before moving on to the smaller ones.  Avoid using the riser column all together.  If you have a remote shutter release button, then pull that out as well, as even the push of a shutter button can be enough to blur the image.  You can also try using the timer mode.

Step 3 - Depth of field

Depending on the angle that you have set up, you may find that you are only able to get a portion of the web in focus.  If this is unacceptable to you, then try maximizing your depth of field.  A smaller iris will increase your depth of field.  Since you have a tripod, you can risk using a slower shutter speed so that you can close down the aperture.   If it is a windy day, this might be difficult to justify.  Another option is to back the camera up and shoot a wider shot that you can crop later in Photoshop.  This is a bit of a cheat, but will nonetheless increase the depth of field.

Step 4 - Working with the spider

If there is a spider in the middle of the web, he will probably end up being the main object of interest.  Due to the angle of the sun that was recommended in step one, the spider may be slightly underexposed on the side facing the camera.  If you have a white paper or card, use it to bounce some sunlight onto the dark side of the spider.  Take a few shots.  Now if you are feeling daring, use a spray bottle filled with water to get the web wet.  The spider may get mad, so be careful.  Once it has settled down, you may notice that the web sparkles a little more glamorously than before.  Reset the shot if the spider has moved, and click away.

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