5 Great Tips to Photographing Jumping Spiders

Greetings everyone, did you miss me? 🙂

Looks like the rainy season is here and has really brought about much problems to Malaysia 🙁 Hopefully the rain will stop soon so that things can go back to normal. Today I will be writing an article on Jumping Spiders (Salticidae)- a group of eight-legged arachnids that is most popular among Macro Photographers around the world.

Semi-coppered Heavy Jumper- Hyllus cf. semicupreus ♀

A female Semi-coppered Heavy Jumper (Hyllus cf. semicupreus), one of the most popular Jumping Spiders of Malaysia, thanks to its tame and cooperative nature.

I suppose Jumping Spiders (locally known as JS) need no real introduction due to their unique appearances and behaviour. Jumping Spiders are generally small spiders (<1.5cm) which, as you might have guessed, love to jump around. Blessed with 8 eyes- where the largest two are located on the face of the spider, these spiders not only excel at vision, but serve as excellent and impressive photographic subjects as well.

Yellowish Black Jumping Spider- Stagetilus cf. opaciceps ♂

A Yellowish Black Jumping Spider (Stagetilus cf. opaciceps?). Not all Jumping Spiders are brownish to black in colour. Some can be extraordinarily colourful, and some may even do amazing courtship dances!

Apart from the mesmerizing eyes, these spiders tend to come in a wide range of forms and colours too, thanks partly to their sexually dimorphic nature- males and females of the same species may look entirely different from one another. Some Jumping Spiders are also known to perform amazing courtship dances to impress their partners. The wonderful diversity and interesting behaviour have enticed the curiosity and determination of Macro Photographers from all over the globe to photograph each and every one of these amazing spiders. Learn more about the amazing Jumping Spiders here: Wildlife Malaysia- Jumping Spiders.

Cookie Jumper- Ligurra sp. ♂

A curious Cookie Jumper (Ligurra sp.). Some spiders don’t mind staying awhile and posing for a few shots, but some simply can’t stand the sight of humans!

That said, photographing these Jumpers can be as easy as a piece of pie, or a horrible nightmare depending on the type of Jumping Spiders you are shooting- some are cooperative and will lie-still or even pose for you, whereas some are just interested in fleeing! Apart from that, your resulting photos depend also on amount of Macro tricks you have up your sleeves. This article aims to make your life easier photographing Jumping Spiders of the family Salticidae with these 5 useful tips:

1. Start with cooperative Jumping Spiders

Cooperative Jumping Spiders don’t move around much, so it will be easier for you to focus more on the photographing process. This will eventually help you build up the necessary skills and confidence needed when shooting challenging subjects later on. To learn more about improving your Macro skills, please read Taking Better Macro Shots Series; to pick up some basic post-processing skills, please read: Basic Post-processing Techniques For Macro Photography.

Unidentified Jumping Spider (Ptocasius sp.?) ♂

A Ptocasius Jumping Spider. This particular Jumping Spider is easy to recognized and photograph, thanks to its willingness to stay put and look at your camera lens. Be warned though, it likes to jump onto your camera too!

Unfortunately it would be impossible to even start listing down the species and names of Jumping Spiders that don’t mind being photographed, especially so when the spiders found here may not be available elsewhere vice versa. The trick here would be to observe the Jumping Spiders you find and see whether they stick around. If they do, then the next step would be to remember how they look like: chances are the same types will behave similarly even during different encounters. The patterns of the “tail” (abdomen) are a great way to recognize a Jumping Spider, although it should be stressed that some Jumping Spiders closely resemble one another even though they are of different species. Take a photo of the Jumping Spider from the top as a record and reference for use next time.

Long-Patella Ant Mimicking Spider (Agorius sp.?)

A Long-Patella Ant Mimicking Spider (Agorius sp.?). Taking a photo of the Jumping Spider from the top will allow you to remember and recognize the spider during the next encounter. It can be used for ID purpose as well.

2. Get upclose- use the right tools

Jumping Spiders are not exactly the largest spiders out there, making them a tad more difficult to photograph, even when they are not busy jumping around. In order to better portray your Macro Shots, you need to be able to get photos of higher magnifications without having to get too close and scare away the spider (regardless of its cooperativeness).

Electric Blue Banded Phintella- Phintella vittata ♂

A male Electric Blue Banded Phintella (Phintella vittata). Although strikingly beautiful, this common Phintella Jumping Spider is known to be exceedingly sensitive, you just can’t get close to it without it running away. This is the closest ever shot I have of this paranoid Spidey.

Therefore, the gears, or combination of gears you use for photographing Jumping Spiders are important. In general, any macro lens capable of (just) 1:1 does not offer enough magnification for Jumping Spiders: You need to get higher magnification than that to really capture the details.

The following are my two favourite combination of Macro Gears to photograph Jumping Spiders. I totally understand that there are many other methods to gain magnification, and would love to hear from you. Who knows yours might be better than mine? 🙂

Outdoor Jumping Spider Setup 1

My Macro Setup for Jumping Spiders 1. This setup consists of 2 (36mm + 20mm) to 3 (36mm + 20mm +12mm) levels of Extension Tubes to increase magnification beyond 1:1. A long macro lens is used to allow a good working distance. *Light diffusion system not shown.

Pros:

  • Comfortable distance between camera and subject.
  • Decent amount of zooming and magnification possible.

 


 

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Using more Extension Tubes will reduce the amount of light detected by the camera sensor, thus making focusing challenging (can be avoided by shining the subject with torchlight)
Wide-Jawed Jumper- Likely Parabathippus sp. ♂

A male Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus sp.). This shot was taken with Setup 1. Setup 1 offers more zooming and magnifying range.

Outdoor Jumping Spider Setup 2

My Macro Setup for Jumping Spiders 2. This setup consist of just a single Extension Tube (36mm or 20mm) plus a Macro Conversion Lens (Raynox-250 in this case). A long macro lens is used to allow good working distance. *Light diffusion system not shown.

Pros:

  • Relatively lighter.
  • Macro Conversion Lens do not decrease the amount of light falling onto the camera sensor- easier focusing.
  • Photos taken with Macro Conversion Lens appear to be sharper.

 

Cons:

  • A Macro Conversion Lens reduce significantly the focusing distance and focusing range.
  • More expensive to buy a set of Extension Tubes and Macro Conversion Lens.
Jumping Spider ♂ (unidentified)

An unidentified male Jumping Spider. This shot was taken with Setup 2. Setup 2 allows a slightly higher magnification than Setup 1.

There are of course, no fixed way of gaining magnifications for your shots, thus the different combinations of accessories I use to photograph subjects. For example, for larger or uncooperative Jumping Spiders, Setup 1 works better than Setup 2 vice versa.

Personally I would recommend getting 90/100/105mm or longer macro lenses for a farther working distance- less chance of scaring sensitive subjects away. They may be quite expensive, but definitely worth the money if you are serious about Macro Photography 🙂

3. Subject displacement

Although considered as partially “cheating”, moving a subject from one place to another (within the same habitat) will ensure greater chances of getting proper shots. This is because some Jumping Spiders can be very “jumpy” and sensitive, and will flee at the first sight of danger- YOU!

Portia Jumping Spider (Portia sp. ♂)

A male Portia Jumping Spider. This particular spider just wouldn’t sit still, so I moved it onto a lichen-rich rock and took my time photographing it there. It still took me quite a lot of tries to get this one T___T Always remember to put your subjects back to where they belong!

Some spiders may be found among thick bushes or foliages, where it is near impossible to relocate them once fled; it is better to move the spider to somewhere more isolated, preferably a lone plant before you start shooting away- that way the spider will have less chance of slipping away. Try to place the spider at a height where you can comfortably shoot from while kneeling to reduce hand-shakes.

Please ALWAYS REMEMBER TO PUT THE JUMPING SPIDER BACK to where you found it after you are done! Please be a responsible Macro Photographer!

4. Make them stop

Point 3 may prevent Jumping Spiders from escaping, but it doesn’t really work in calming them down. As a result, some may resort to cruel techniques to “immobilize” Jumping Spiders or any other insects; often resulting in unnatural photos (yes, it is not hard to tell whether the subject is tortured, dead or alive). I, on the other hand, prefer a more gentle and natural approach which, unfortunately doesn’t always work. The trick is simple, feed the spider! This method will work so long as the spider is hungry. I am happy to see that a handful of Macro Photographers are also using this technique instead of using the easy way out, kudos to them!

Heavy Jumper (Hyllus sp. ♂) with blowfly prey

A male Heavy Jumper (Hyllus) feeding on a blowfly. Feeding a Jumping Spider is one of the best ways to stop them from running around!

Spiders don’t get food that easily in the wild, and because of that, they will often hold onto food for dear life- almost all will stay put and enjoy their meals, allowing you to happily snap to your heart’s desire! What’s more, a shot of a spider eating is definitely more meaningful and attractive as one without.

Jumping Spider with prey

This particular species of Jumping Spider is known to hold onto its food very stubbornly. This feeding technique is not only applicable to Jumping Spider.

I always bring a butterfly net along for my trips, and I often use it to catch blowflies (or any other flies) to feed these Jumping Spiders, especially uncooperative ones.  Consider the meal a reward for keeping still~ Try not to worry about the flies either, as most are pests.

5. Focus Stack to overcome shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF)

Since Jumping Spiders are small in general, you will most probably need to get close to gain magnification, and increased magnification will result in shallower Depth-of-Field- the amount of things in focus within the frame becomes less. Learn more about Depth-of-Field here: Overcoming Shallow Depth-of-Field in Macro Photography.

Jumping Spider ♂, ready to jump!

Note that only the eyes and a few of the legs of this male Jumping Spider are in focus, this shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) becomes more obvious the higher magnification you go.


Great Wide-Jawed Jumper- Parabathippus magnus ♂

A male Great Wide-Jawed Jumper (Parabathippus magnus). This shot was taken using the same setup as the photo above; but note that more of spider’s body parts are in focus. This is the result of focus stacking using 4 separate photographs.

Focus stacking basically refers to a technique where several photos, each focusing at different parts of the subject, are combined to form a whole picture. For example, the shallow Depth-of-Field (DOF) in Macro Photography disallow the capture of a whole Jumping Spider: If the eyes are in focus, the front legs and abdomen (tail) will likely be blurred out. We solve this problem by Focus Stacking, one photo focusing on the eyes, one on the fore-legs, and the last one on the tail prior to “stitching” them up and resulting in a photo where all 3 are in focus. Learn more about Focus Stacking here: Using Focus Stack to Overcome Shallow Depth-of-Field in Macro Photography.

Focus Stacking can be done handheld and outdoors, but may require some getting used to. However, once mastered, you will be able to take great shots without compromising on details or the  livelihood of subjects.

Okay! That’s all for today folks! Thank you very much for reading! I hope that the information here will be able to help keen photographers snap better photos of their favourite Jumping Spiders!

Heavy Jumper- Hyllus sp. ♂

A male Heavy Jumper. We hope that you guys will have a greater experience photographing Jumping Spiders from now on! Have fun!

For those who are interested, please check out our galleries of spiders here: Wildlife Malaysia- Spiders

Before I go I would like to wish all of you A Happy New Year 2015 in advance yeah! Take care and Happy Shooting!

 

** Flash powers are mere estimates. I apologize for not being able to recall the precise settings in many of my photographs.

** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.