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How to Photograph a Spider Web: 16 Expert Tips

spider web photography

If you’re looking to do beautiful spider web photography, you’ve come to the right place. These fine, glistening structures possess a delicate complexity that’s practically begging to be photographed – plus, spider webs can add an air of mystery and elegance to your portfolio.

While capturing stunning pictures of spider webs can be a challenge, with a bit of know-how, you can start taking outstanding images right away. And that’s what this article is all about: giving you the tools you need to create consistently excellent results.

Whether you’re a casual smartphone photographer or a DSLR enthusiast, the upcoming advice is for you. I’ll cover everything from mastering background bokeh to going full-on abstract with your shots. Sound good? Let’s dive right in!

1. Shoot on a still day

Spider webs are incredibly light, and if there’s even a hint of wind, they’ll sway back and forth as you photograph them.

This causes three major issues:

  1. If you’re using a slow shutter speed (which is often necessary when shooting at close distances, especially in the early morning and late afternoon), the moving web will create motion blur.
  2. If you’re focusing at high magnifications (e.g., you’re using a macro lens), then you’ll struggle to lock focus.
  3. Any movement will shake off moisture and may even break the webs.

So you must take care to shoot only on the stillest of days. Check your local weather forecast, and aim for 5 MPH of wind or less. Also, look for spider webs in the early morning; just after sunrise tends to offer little wind, plus the light is often beautiful and golden.

2. Focus manually (and use your highest-magnification lens)

spider web in the morning

Spider webs are very small, which means that you’ll need to focus close if you want to capture detail.

Unfortunately, the closer you get, the worse your camera’s autofocusing system becomes. So as you approach a spider web, your lens will start to hunt back and forth – and it may fail to find focus entirely.

That’s where manual focus comes in; it lets you achieve sharp photos by adjusting the focusing ring on your lens barrel. Note that, to focus manually, you’ll generally need to flick a switch on the side of your lens or camera (this is often labeled with AF/M).

By the way, all lenses come with a maximum magnification, which is the level of detail you get when focusing close to your subject. If you’re after magnificent, high-magnification images, you’ll want to pick a lens that’s capable of high-magnification focusing. The best magnifiers are macro lenses, but if you don’t own one of these, that’s okay. Just check the spec sheets of all the lenses you do own, and figure out which offers the highest magnification.

You might also consider purchasing a close-focusing filter or extension tubes, which will increase your lens’s magnification capabilities.

3. Be an environmentally friendly photographer

Remember: Where there’s a web, there’s a little (or not so little!) creature that made it.

So take care not to touch or otherwise disturb the webs you come across. You might be tempted to reposition a web with your finger, but resist this inclination; instead, if you’re unhappy with the way a web looks, try getting ultra-close with a macro lens for an abstract composition, or change your perspective for a different result.

4. Find a plain background that makes the web stand out

Beginners often fail to think about the background of their spider web pictures – yet the background is incredibly important.

A good background enhances the image, while a bad background harms (and often ruins) the final result.

But what counts as a good background? For spider webs, I recommend a plain, preferably dark background. In the right light, a dark background will highlight the translucent web, creating a gorgeous, eye-catching photo:

spider web with dew drops

At the very least, make sure the background is non-distracting. Keep colors to a minimum, and aim for large subject-background separation.

5. Carefully choose your aperture (and depth of field)

Spider web photography is all about emphasizing your main subject – the web – while ensuring the background remains unobtrusive and (ideally) complementary.

And one of the easiest ways to emphasize your main subject and de-emphasize the background? Widen your aperture to create a beautiful background blur.

(Notice how the pictures of spider webs throughout this article all feature smooth, blurry backgrounds? That’s deliberate!)

At high magnifications, as long as you have decent subject-background separation (i.e., the background is more than a few inches from the subject), you can achieve a blurry background anywhere between f/1.4 and f/5.6 or so. But if you zoom out for a more environmental image, you’ll need to keep your aperture as low as possible (f/2.8 is a great starting point).

By the way, a wide aperture creates a narrow, or shallow, depth of field effect. This may sound complex, but it simply refers to the amount of the shot that’s in focus; a shallow depth of field keeps a sliver of the scene in focus, while a deep depth of field keeps lots in focus, potentially even the entire shot.

6. Try to create background bokeh

Bokeh is that beautiful, blurry background you often see in professional photos. Why is it so appealing? It draws the eye to your subject—in this case, the spider web—by blurring out distractions. A well-executed bokeh can make your spider web pop like the centerpiece of a painting.

To achieve this, you’ll need to dial your aperture setting to its widest. On your camera, this usually means selecting a lower f-number, like f/1.8 or f/2.8. If your camera has a dedicated “aperture priority” mode, that’s a handy setting to use. With your aperture wide open, the depth of field narrows, which in turn creates the bokeh effect.

Once you’ve set the aperture, it’s time to find the right backdrop for your web. Look for small points of light behind it. Sunlight filtering through leaves, for example, can work wonders. The trick is positioning yourself so those points of light appear behind the web.

Now, getting close to the web is crucial, but be cautious. A narrower depth of field means less room for error in focusing. You want the web crisp and the background blurred, not the other way around. Don’t hesitate to take a few test shots to make sure your focus is spot-on.

The combination of wide aperture, correct positioning, and precise focus will make that bokeh sing. And when the background bokeh works in harmony with your spider web, you’ve got a shot worth framing.

7. Shoot from a head-on angle

Photographing spider webs from all angles can leave you with interesting results. But when you’re just starting out, try positioning yourself directly in front of the web and shooting straight on.

This will enable you to keep the full web in focus, as the distance from your lens to all parts of the subject will be similar – preventing the shallow depth of field effect (discussed above) from blurring out part of the web.

beautiful spider web morning light

Of course, you don’t always need to keep the entire web in focus. You might also like some shallow depth of field shots from different angles to achieve interesting abstract effects.

8. Don’t forget a tripod (or shoot with a fast shutter speed)

At high magnifications, camera shake is increased – and this can lead to blurry photos.

So you have two options:

  1. You can bring a tripod into the field, which will keep your camera stable, even at low shutter speeds. This does come with several drawbacks – for one, sturdy tripods can be expensive, plus they can be cumbersome, and at slow shutter speeds you’ll need a truly motionless subject.
  2. You can shoot handheld and use a fast shutter speed. Here, you’ll want to keep the speed above 1/125s or so (and potentially above 1/160s or 1/200s, depending on the level of magnification and the steadiness of your hands).

Which method is best? That really depends on your preferences and your shooting style. Some photographers like the slow, deliberate nature of tripod shooting, whereas others like the flexibility of handholding. However, if you plan to shoot in low light, you’ll probably need to take the tripod route, unless your camera is capable of low noise at high ISOs.

9. Look for webs with dew

Many classic spider web photos include dew or rain droplets, like this:

spider web with droplets

As you can see, the dew looks beautiful, plus it creates interesting bokeh effects in out-of-focus areas.

I mentioned above that the best time of day for dewy webs is mornings, though you can also venture out after a rainstorm (assuming it’s not windy, of course!).

10. Shoot into the sun

Many professional photographers swear by this technique: shooting into the sun. Don’t worry, it’s not as risky as it sounds if you take the right precautions. The results can be spectacular—dramatic and rich with character.

The timing matters a lot here. Try capturing your spider web images in the early morning or late afternoon. That’s when the sun is low in the sky, offering softer light and intriguing angles.

Let’s talk about positioning. You’ll want the sun behind the spider web. It acts as a powerful backlight, illuminating every intricate detail of the web. It transforms the strands into glowing threads of light.

Safety first, of course. Never look directly at the sun through your lens. The concentrated sunlight can damage both your eyes and your camera sensor. Instead, use the live view function on your camera’s LCD screen to compose your shot.

Another trick is to position the sun just outside your frame. This way, you capture the web bathed in sunlight without risking your equipment. It’s a win-win.

11. Fill the frame

Here’s a simple piece of compositional advice:

If you want to create original spider web images, don’t shoot from so far back that the web only covers part of the frame. Instead, get in as close as you can to the web – either physically or via your lens’s zoom mechanism.

And if you own a macro lens, make sure to use it; it’ll let you fill the frame much more easily!

Of course, you can capture amazing images that don’t have a frame-filling web. But by filling the frame, you emphasize the main subject, plus you can highlight abstract patterns and even capture images veering into fine art territory.

Also, spend time experimenting with different angles (and test out different aperture values, too, for abstract depth of field effects!).

12. Go abstract

You might be surprised to hear this, but a spider web doesn’t always have to look like a spider web in a photo. It can be an abstract work of art. A dance of lines and light. To achieve this, you’ll need to zoom in. Way in.

That’s where your macro lens comes into play. Zooming in allows you to focus on a single strand or a small cluster of strands. What was once a web is now a fascinating pattern, or maybe even a single line cutting across your frame.

Getting the focus right is crucial. To make one strand really stand out, focus with pinpoint accuracy. When you nail it, that strand will be tack-sharp, making the rest of the web look like a soft, hazy backdrop.

If you stumble upon a web adorned with dewdrops, consider it a bonus. Dewdrops can act like miniature lenses, refracting light and adding a touch of magic to your composition.

Lastly, remember to use a fast shutter speed. At these high magnifications, even the slightest camera shake can blur your image. Capture lots of shots to maximize your chances of getting at least one that you love.

13. Photograph the spider web from both sides

Sometimes, a spider web can look quite dull and lifeless from one side, while the other side looks gorgeous – either because the light is falling upon it in the right way, or because the background looks far better.

For instance, the image below features morning dew with a beautiful rising sun in the background. This wouldn’t be possible from the other side of the web!

spider web dew

In fact, when you find a good spider web, I recommend always checking both sides of the web before shooting. Also, don’t be afraid to get down on the web’s level, even if it means lying in wet grass or mud. You’ll get a more intimate perspective, plus a low perspective often provides the best backgrounds.

14. Photograph with and without spiders

Spider webs can tell two different stories: one with a spider and one without. An empty web speaks of mystery, perhaps abandonment or a lurking predator. On the other hand, a spider proudly centered in its web could be the showstopper.

When you find a web with a resident spider, you’ve got options. Experiment with various angles and distances. Capture some shots where the spider takes center stage, and some where it’s just a small part of the web’s design.

Play around with your camera settings. Depending on your composition, you may want to change your focus or exposure to highlight the spider as a focal point. A well-focused spider can give your image a whole new level of depth and detail.

If you find an empty web, that’s an opportunity too. Try capturing it from angles that emphasize its structure or the way it interacts with light. You may find that the absence of a spider adds a moody or enigmatic quality to your photo.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to take plenty of shots. You can always decide later which ones best capture the mood or composition you’re aiming for.

15. Experiment with flash

Here’s your penultimate spider web photography tip:

Bring a flash into the field and use it for interesting images.

Personally, I find that shooting with natural light tends to work best. But sometimes adding artificial light via a flash can illuminate the web nicely and create some good catchlights. This can be especially effective when the light is low; a flash will keep the web sharp (no high ISO necessary!).

If you do grab a flash, consider a ring flash (which mounts to the front of your lens and illuminates the subject evenly). You also have the option to use an off-camera flash, which you can hold in one hand while shooting with the other (or you can hold while positioning your camera on a tripod).

Bottom line: Have fun with the flash, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

16. Include the environment

Don’t get me wrong: As I emphasized above, filling your frame with a spider web is usually a fantastic idea. It emphasizes the intricacy of the web, putting the spotlight right where you want it. But what about context? Ever wonder where the spider calls home?

There’s a whole world around that web. Sometimes showing that environment adds an extra layer to your photos. Imagine a spider web strung between rusty fence posts. Or maybe it’s spanning the gap between two wildflowers. These settings can bring a narrative quality to your images.

Switch it up a bit. Use a wider lens to capture more of the environment. The setting becomes a character in your photo’s story. From a dewy meadow to an urban setting, where the web is makes a difference.

Now let’s talk settings. To include both the web and its surroundings, you’ll want to use a deeper depth of field. This keeps more elements in focus. You don’t want a fascinating background turned into a blurry mess, do you?

Last but not least, be mindful of your composition. Including more elements means more chances for distraction. Keep an eye on the corners and edges of your frame. Make sure everything adds to the image rather than taking the focus away from the web.

Spider web photography: final words

Hopefully, you now feel ready to take some beautiful spider web photos of your own. From background bokeh to abstract lines, the creative possibilities are endless – and while it’s easy to get caught up in the technical details, the magic really happens once you start experimenting and having fun.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your camera and head out. Find those hidden webs that most people walk past without a second glance. Turn them into your next masterpiece.

Now over to you:

Which of these spider web photography tips is your favorite? Do you plan to go out and shoot spiders soon? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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