A few months back, the wife and I had to give our cats up for adoption. As sad as it was, they went to a loving home, and for that we are very grateful. In the five-plus years we spent with them, they, like most cats, didn’t seem to do much other than sleep, eat, wrestle and break things while doing so. It didn’t occur to me until their departure that aside from the ever-present love and affection, those two were providing us with a great service: They were spider hunters. I hadn’t seen a spider in years while those two were patrolling our nooks and crannies, but now it appears as though the arachnids are here to stay.
So goes the old saying, “If you can’t beat them … photograph them.”
In addition to the intricately designed webs, spiders are rather inviting subjects in that you can get relatively close before it’s splitsville. If you spook them out of the center of the web, you can usually coax them back in the right direction with a light brushing from a small twig. Be careful — I’m definitely not a spider expert.
With the accompanying photo by Kevin Anderson, he used three strobes; two on the sides at 90-degree angles from the lens and another underneath and slightly behind the web to illuminate the web and the spider without spilling light all over the background. The effect helps to create a separation from the background.
Not everyone is going to have three strobes to work with but even one can do the trick if positioned carefully. If no strobes are available and you’ve got a wicked web hanging from your front porch, consider waiting until the morning or evening light is hitting it in such a way that the web is highlighted.
If the web doesn’t quite have that “pop” that you’re looking for and the spider looks like it could stand a few more minutes of the portrait session, you might try carefully misting the web with water from a spray bottle to help the highlighting. A gentle mist is preferable and nothing that is going to annoy your patient subject to the point of storming off the set.
With that, good luck and don’t get bit.