A Spider Observing Tip

I’ve long had trouble taking good pics of spiders. When they are suspended in their web, the camera autofocuses on what is behind them, not on the spider.

I found a pretty good solution: an iphone app called Halide that allows you to manually adjust the camera’s focus.

It’s not perfect. When I used the 3x lens, it wouldn’t let me manually focus when the camera was closer to the spider. But when I use 3x on the normal camera, it autofocuses just fine when up close, but won’t work on a spider, because it wants to focus on what is behind it (which is just the problem you describe above).

Let me know if you find a better solution!

6 Likes

Getting a hand or sheet behind the object will let any camera to focus correctly.

6 Likes

Not always possible to put something behind the web, though. And spiders will startle when a hand comes towards them. And for instances where there is a window I can’t put my hand behind it and the camera always focuses through the window rather than what’s on it, so I can see this app might have lots of applications. I always wished I could manually adjust focus on an iPhone…

4 Likes

Apps like that are nice, but you don’t need them to focus on things like that. Just aim the camera at something that it will focus on and hold your finger on target on the screen until the focus square flashes. That locks in the focus distance and exposure. Then you simply reframe your image and move the camera in and out a bit to get the right focus.

10 Likes

I have the same problem with dragonflies. Sometimes, my inexpensive point and shoot camera just won’t focus on them. So, I have to find a larger object about the same distance away as the dragonfly, and then move my camera back to the subject while holding the shutter release button part way down to hold the focus. It would be so much easier if I could use a camera with manual focus or one that could handle smaller objects.

I feel your pain.

10 Likes

I tried precisely that technique over and over again, and for some reason my Iphone 13 Pro Max stubbornly refused to focus on the spider I targeted with my finger. Good on you if you got better results than I did. But the manual focus app was all that worked for me.

2 Likes

I feel your pain too! Dragonflies are even tougher than spiders since they are so much more mobile.

1 Like

I can not help thinking a modern mirrorless camera like the recently released Canon Eos R10 is available with a compact kit lens for the same prize or less than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The autofocus as well as the image quality for anything than the largest spider is so much better that what can be achieved with iphones. Spiders just do not sit still!

2 Likes

You can set your focus lock on an iPhone (and every android I’ve seen, usually easier on android) by pointing it at your hand at the closest it will focus, To lock the focus, tap and hold on that part of the screen for a few seconds . When you see AE/AF Lock in a yellow box show, release your finger. Viola - focus locked. Move to spider and when it’s in focus that’s the closest the phone will focus. Take photo.

7 Likes

Awesome! Will try. Many thanks!!

I use the iPhone app Camera M for taking pictures of bugs. It lets me manually choose which lens to use, manually control the focus, and it also has focus peaking. Probably very similar to Halide but it’s a one time purchase instead of a subscription.

3 Likes

I have had maybe 50% success with that, and generally only with very patient targets. The other 50% of the time the focus refocuses into the background anyways in spite of it saying that it is locked.

1 Like

Yes. I find that it takes holding the finger there constantly, holding that locked focus. Then play around with getting the subject there. Still having many difficulties with iPhone13 three camera system. At least I don’t have to wait for negatives.

2 Likes

I just choose where to focus on the phone, and if for some reason it focuses further, I move phone where it is in focus, though I just photograph spiders with camera, those that don’t need that can be ided even if blurry.)

1 Like

Don’t target the spider with your finger. Pick something else completely, a leaf, the bark of a tree, your hand, etc. Lock the focal distance in, then move the camera over to take a photo of the spider. Move the camera to roughly the same distance as it was from whatever you used to lock the focus in, and make fine adjustments by moving the camera in and out.

3 Likes

Pick something as your initial target that is big enough that there is no chance of it focusing on something further away (I generally use a leaf, the bark of a tree, or my hand), then reframe (ie. move the camera) to the spider, flower, etc that you want to take a photo of and adjust the distance to get a clear photo.

Don’t try to focus on the final subject first, that’s just going to be frustrating.

4 Likes

Ooh! I’m checking that out. many thanks!

Yes, I do. It focuses on the larger object, it says it is locked, I move the frame to the object I like, and it refocuses on the distant background in spite of saying locked. It’s not even close to the plane of focus that I want. To adjust the camera to where I want focused I’d have to move back 5 meters (@marina_gorbunova).

I’ve lost many observations from trying that tactic… sometimes if the organism stays still long enough I get a second shot at it, but being able to set the focus would be much easier and I don’t think it should be so difficult… but I’m not a programmer so probably that comes with its own bias.
Now I see a post (Thunderhead) that advises keeping my finger in contact with the screen to keep it locked - I have not tried that. but I’m already annoyed by needing one hand to hold my phone, one finger to keep contact with the screen, and one finger to click the “shutter”… Just lock the focus already. really. We are jumping through hoops to accommodate poor programming, programming should exist to make it easier for us.

2 Likes

We’re talking about spiderwebs, if you can’t get hand behind such web, focus won’t be 5 metres away.

You have a web. You can’t get your hand behind it - maybe it is a horizontal web - not all spiders make their webs perpendicularly to the ground. Maybe it isn’t a flat web but something that has many extensions and protrusions and you’d have to rip into it to get your hand behind it. Maybe you’re afraid of startling the spider and it runs away, which happens often. But you don’t want to try to reach around the web and get your hand behind it.
There is a tree behind it 5 meters away. Autofocus refocuses on the tree despite saying locked. If I were to use your suggestion of moving the camera, I’d have to move 5 meters back, of course, impacting quality of the photo.
But I’m not just talking about webs. There’s windows too, which are even worse. There is no way for me to get my hand on the other side of my office window, and the distance background is very, very distant, although at some point it doesn’t matter anymore. But the problem remains the same… observations lost because focus will not lock.

2 Likes