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Photographing Your Spiders

In the warmer months, I receive several emails every day with pictures of spiders attached, asking me to identify the spiders. Not only do I NOT mind answering these emails, I am always glad for them as I am always looking for new pictures that are of good quality. Unfortunately the pictures of real quality are far and few between, so I thought I would write an article that may help people get better pictures.

Now believe me, I understand that not everyone has a good camera. If all you own is a phone with a low level camera, and you cant get a clear picture of the spider, that is fine. If you want a spider identified and cannot find it for yourself on Michigan Spiders, then any picture is more helpful than no picture. The very worst that will come from a bad quality picture is that I wont be able to give you a good identification and will only give you a guess.

#1) rule in sending me a picture of a spider - Please send it as an attachment in a JPEG or BMP format. If I can open the picture as an attachment, I have the opportunity of zooming in and seeing more detail that I cannot get when it is pasted in the body of the email. Plus, if it is a good clear picture and you paste it in the body, I may not be able to copy and save it with enough quality to use on my site or book.

#2) Lighting - No I am not going to get all techical on you here. I am no photographer myself. One thing I have learned is that there are different types of light. The very best for taking pictures is real daylight light. Pictures taken in real daylight will often come out clearer than any other lighting. The next best is florescent lighting and the worst seems to be from standard light bulbs. I have found that with florescent lighting, my pictures even with a cheep low quality camera will be much more clear and detailed than with standard bulbs. Standard lighting (known in the film industry as "yellow" light) gives a picture a very grainy quality.

#3) Be Calm - I know you may be scared of spiders and this will make you a little more shaky. It will tend to make you afraid to get too close. Keep in mind that most spiders do not jump and will not launch themselves at you or your camera. The Jumping spiders we have in Michigan are not dangerous. The only spider you need to genuinely fear in Michigan is the Black Widow. If it is not a Widow, you do not need to be afraid of it. If it is a Widow, it still wont jump at you, so just dont touch it. But if you can calm your fears long enough to get a closer picture without shaking the camera, you will get a much higher quality picture.

#4) If you are using a real camera and not a simple phone camera, there is a good chance you have the Macro option. It will have a symbol of a flower. A tulip I think? This function allows you to focus on an object that is much closer to the camera. I am talking even less than an inch away. It will limit your zooming function but still allow you a much closer up shot of a spider than you would get without it. This is awesome for helping you get a picture of a spider's eye pattern and that is awesome for helping me identify the spider.

#5) Use a Quarter - If you can get a picture of the spider on or next to a quarter, it helps others who see it have a good idea how big your spider is. You can use other items as well, like a ruler, a bottle cap and so on. As long as it is something that is always one size and people are familiar with it. That is why I like to use quarters if I think of it. Everyone is very familiar with the size of a quarter. This will not help me identify it much, but it will come in handy for the viewers if I should use your picture in my site or book.

As I mentioned. I am no professional photographer. There may be some tips others can give that I am not aware of. If you have anything to add that will be of help to others (especially the novice), please add to this in the comment section.