Saturday, February 7, 2009


Let's hope you don't have a sensitive stomach, because this one's going to get a little creepy-crawly.

When Jess and I moved to Santa Barbara two years ago from the Bay Area, one of the biggest surprises was the size of the spiders here. They're thick little fellas!

This little beast showed up in our front yard last September.

I usually knock down their webs, but this guy was so big, and his web was so huge, that I decided to leave him there out of curiosity. And to take some photos of course.

I was pretty disappointed with the original images I got. The problem was he spent most of his time sitting still in a little ball, with his legs tucked in. In order to get him to extend those creepy legs, I had to shake up his web by tugging on one of the long threads anchoring his web to the ground, the house, and the nearby tree (there was at least five feet between his web and every thing around him. How do they do that?)

That got him moving and being a more interesting subject, but then I had a different problem. Now he was moving and his web was swaying, and the camera's auto-focus had a tough time keeping up. As a result, none of the images turned out quite as sharp as I would have liked. Also, I hadn't yet learned the lessons that I did from my post on close-up photography, so I was also pretty confused about how to best fill the frame with him with the lenses at hand.

I think I was able to salvage a couple of the better photos with some pretty simple Photoshop work, though.

Here's the original of the first image.

The original looks very flat and almost hazy, and it's painfully noticeable that the spider's out of focus.

I used curves to bump the contrast by giving it a bit of an 'S' curve, and that helped a lot. I lost detail on the spider's body, but I think that brings more attention to his legs, which are more in-focus, and his general silhouette.

I also played with the white balance using a color picker tool. I clicked on the spider's body and got the green cast to the photo which I really liked. I can't claim to know what I was doing there--I was playing around and got an interesting (but not over-the-top) effect. That almost never happens; messing around usually just leads to some interesting, but ultimately silly and unmeaningful effects. I think what I'm learning, though, is that playing with the white balance can be a good way to change the color and tone of your photos while keeping them realistic.

The second photo was a simpler transformation. Applying an 'S' in curves made the colors pop and the web show up with more contrast against the background. Here's the original.

In my past two posts now, I've mentioned the Photoshop tools "levels" and "curves" and haven't said a single thing about what they are, as if I expect that you should know all about them already. Nothing could be further from the truth, though; I'm still learning how to use them myself. I promise I'll come back in a later post to cover what I'm learning about these tools.

If you aren't familiar with them, though, finding some tutorials on them is a great place to start in learning how to improve your photos in Photoshop or any other advanced image editing program. The "contrast" and "brightness" sliders in simpler photo editors are really just levels and curves adjustments.

1 comment:

  1. oooh oooh i'm so glad i found your blog! [thanks chase images] i'm a newbie at photography.. and i do mean NEWbie! can't wait to read through your posts.. :D