I tried something new today…photographing spiderwebs. It’s always been something that I’ve wanted to shoot, but just haven’t found the right time. So this morning after my run, the light was great and I found a nice web, so I shot for a few minutes.
I used what was close at hand. The camera was a Nikon D300s and I had my 55mm f1.8 on it. I did NOT use a macro lens, although if I had a lens or extension tubes handy, I would have used them too.
Photographing spiderwebs is not easy. Strike that, its easy to shoot the images, but it’s not easy to make them look like you visualize. So with that in mind, here’s what I learned today.
- Create a shallow depth of field. It is critical to cause the spiderweb to standout from the rest of the image. Also, since the spiderwebs are so delicate, you are going to want to position yourself so that there is something dark behind the spiderweb so that it stands out from the background.
- Allow for some “wiggle room” in terms of depth of field. I know this might seem a little contrary to what I just said, but hear me out. When I was shooting the gentle breeze kept moving the spiderweb as I was shooting. Since I shot @ f1.8, that changed what part of the spiderweb was in focus. If I had instead shot @ f3.5 I might not have had that problem.
- A tripod is important. I shot hand held today, and the entire time I was thinking about how far away my tripod was (~20 miles). I didn’t think about it at first, but using a tripod will steady the camera, and since you are shooting with such a shallow depth of field, any camera movements will corrupt the focal point of the image.
- Set your camera to manual focus. Because the spiderweb is so delicate, your camera may spend a lot of time going back and forth between focusing on the spiderweb or the background. Bypass that by setting your focus to manual, dialing in the correct focus, and then leaving it. And if you have your camera on a tripod(see above) you won’t have to think about it again.
- Bring a spray bottle with you and use it to lightly mist the spiderweb with water. If you don’t do that we won’t be able to see the spiderweb or focus on it. Don’t go crazy though, or you’ll scare the spider away with all the water!