Mesmerizing (or Terrifying?) Macro Photos of Spiders Staring Straight at the Camera


Macro photographs of insects are nothing new; and yet, Malaysian Jimmy Kong‘s photographs of spiders staring straight at the camera are immediately captivating and at least a tiny bit terrifying.

Kong is a retired technician who picked up macro photography only two years ago. Of course, it took quite some time and practice before he was capturing photos like the ones you see here:
















Kong told us that he draws his inspiration from other macro photographers that he finds on websites and forums. To see more of his macro photography — spiders and otherwise — head over to his Flickr account by clicking here.

(via Colossal)

Image credits: Photographs by Jimmy Kong and used with permission

  • Chris Walton

    This used to scare me to death but now I am vege and have made my pact with the universe it’s beautiful!

  • Adam Cross

    Focus stacked shots of dead/frozen spiders aren’t impressive. Notice how the catchlight in their eyes is always identical? these were not shot in a natural setting with live spiders. A lot of this stuff seems to come out of Malaysia and Indonesia; the frogs holding leaves like umbrellas, dancing frogs, dancing lizards, snails riding on the shells of other snails etc. I just find this kind of stuff unethical. no skill whatsoever.

  • Richard

    Wow, fascinating observation. Are you sure about this?

  • wickerprints

    I don’t see how the catchlights show evidence that the spiders are not live. These images show jumping spiders (Salticidae), which are typically very small (even for spiders), requiring at least 1:1 magnification and sometimes as high as 5:1. A typical macro setup for such creatures uses a lens like the MP-E 65/2.8 1-5x, with a macro twin light and custom-built diffuser. As a result, the catchlights *SHOULD* look the same in every shot, because what you are seeing is the reflection of the diffuser. Therefore, your observation does not suggest that these are staged or studio shots. While I too saw the report about frogs strung up by their limbs, these photos simply do not show evidence of what you are alleging, and your comment indicates an ignorance of high-magnification photography. Clearly, it is not something you have extensive expertise in.

  • Chuck Coverly

    The catch lights would be the same because he’s using the same lighting setup. So, he goes out, collects the spiders, brings them back into a studio, and takes his shots. What’s wrong with that? Are we to buy into the fantasy that they are all taken on location in the wild?

    As far as the focus stacking goes, the DOF on these is still pretty shallow, and if you shoot at small apertures, you can get the same result. I’ve shot at f/11 and gotten shots like these that I didn’t need to focus stack.

    I certainly don’t agree with your assessment that he has “no skill whatsoever”.

    So now you’re just going to lump him in and make a generalization about all Malaysians?

  • 7LeagueBoots

    I don’t know if these are staged or not, but as a naturalist and ecologist who has spent a lot of time observing wildlife of all sorts I cannot, for the life of me, see how anyone can capture the 10-50 shots needed for focus stacked deep depth of field macro shots like these. Jumping spiders especially are, well, jumpy.

    If they’re not staged i’d love to know how the photographer got the shots, and if they are staged, getting the limbs and body into the right position seems that it would be difficult to do in a way that looks natural.

  • wickerprints

    Now, I am not suggesting that the shots are *not* staged: I am merely saying that the consistency of the catchlights from shot to shot is not in itself proof of staging. The truth is, it can be extremely difficult to tell if the shot is staged, so I make no assumption one way or another. It is possible to take focus stacked shots of live subjects.

    You don’t actually need that many images to stack. Maybe as few as two or three images can suffice. And there’s a lot of failure involved. I personally have been able to photograph live dragonflies from less than 1 foot away, flashing them multiple times without their movement. It is not a common occurrence, and luck is a big factor, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And of course, one should not assume that all such shots must be focus stacked in the first place. Careful choice of f-number, magnification, and subject-camera positioning can give more depth of field than expected.

    That said, it is equally possible to capture live specimens, put them in a kill jar with a killing substance that keeps their limbs relaxed, and then arrange them in a staged shot. But this almost always looks obviously staged: the limbs of jumping spiders are so small that once they are dead, trying to pose them with forceps would probably snap them right off.

  • Adam Cross

    what I mean is there is no reflection of anything else other than his lighting setup, I’m fully aware that he would’ve used twin lights or something similar, my point is that these are taken in a controlled environment, hence not impressive in anyway. If these were taken in a natural situation you would see trees or something else in the background of the reflection in their eyes, these spiders are not alive or captured and frozen, which I’m against entirely.

  • Adam Cross

    what’s wrong with that? well… taking animals out of their habitat for the purposes of photography I find unethical, and it sets a damaging precedent for other photographers to go out and do the same in hope of getting viral attention.

  • wickerprints

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. At the kind of subject distances that are required to take these photos, it isn’t geometrically possible to see the reflection of anything except the camera and the diffuser in the eyes of the spiders. You keep claiming that these were shot in a “controlled environment” but you are ignorant of basic macrophotography. As I pointed out repeatedly, your claims are not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. Just shut up already.

  • Adam Cross

    I’m assuming you take similar photos in a similar fashion, that’s why you’re working so hard to defend this, right? it’s perfectly fine for us to disagree, telling me to shut up isn’t particularly intelligent, though.

  • wickerprints

    I should also point out that you are ignoring the basic principles of exposure in macrophotography. You won’t see any reflected distant objects even in the extreme periphery of a round reflective object because they are TOO DARK relative to the light coming from the diffuser. Almost 100% of the light reaching the camera comes from the flash.

  • wickerprints

    In so far as who is being stupid, I would say that is being borne out by the facts. You have none. You are more than welcome to keep displaying your complete ignorance of basic photographic principles. I’m completely secure in my correctness. Oh, and nice try insinuating that I have taken any “unethical” photos, and then at the same time suggesting I’m being the uncivil one. You are the only one in this entire comment thread that has exhibited trollish behavior.

  • wickerprints

    And for what it’s worth, you don’t know anything about me. I know for a fact that I have NEVER taken ANY photo of a dead insect, even one that was already dead when I found it. All of my photos of animals were taken live, without having manipulated them in any way, and that’s only because I *enjoy* the challenge of capturing them the way I saw them. There’s no challenge in posing them, and no point. And the vast majority of macro shooters would say the same thing. The joy is not in the final product–it’s in the process of waiting patiently and achieving that rare success. But you wouldn’t know anything about that.

  • wickerprints

    You basically decided that, because you probably lacked the skills or
    patience to do it yourself, that these shots must have been taken by
    killing or freezing the organism and then subsequently posing them in a
    controlled environment. Then you worked backwards to find photographic
    evidence to support your belief, without realizing that there are
    literally thousands upon thousands of similar photos by dozens of other
    macro shooters. These jumping spider photos are nice but they are
    HARDLY exceptional. You can go on Fred Miranda’s macro forum or Flickr
    and see this kind of stuff all over the place. Are all of them
    natural? Not necessarily. But are they contrived just because you
    couldn’t do it yourself and you want to be a prat and get on some high
    horse about animal cruelty? There are much more famous macro shooters out there, LordV being one of them, or Orionmystery, and they do NOT freeze and pose their subjects. You are completely ignorant of the specialty.

  • Adam Cross

    pretty sure my own skill isn’t in question, I’m not here saying my work is better, I’m offering my opinion. I can still appreciate good macro work but a lot of what I see falls within the bounds of unethical practice, if people did it with cats and dogs there would be an outcry but people seem to think it’s perfectly fine with insects, the evidence is out there, I don’t need to defend my position on it. And of course there are photographers out there that don’t use dead or frozen subjects, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are plenty out there that do.

  • NewYorkEd

    If you, wickerprints, were so certain of all your statement then you wouldn’t be insulting an opposite viewpoint.

  • Aaron Radford

    After reviewing some of his EXIF data you can see he was shoot at ƒ22.0 @ 1/200 so ZERO ambient light will be hitting the sensor, therefore of course all you can see is the flash setup in the catch light.

  • Toronto Product Photography

    insect photography is cool. I use a Nikon 105mm and D800. Any suggestions to a better lens?

  • Bill

    Fascinating, I wonder could you, show us how it’s done, that is if you have the time to come down from upon high. May we see some real photography wizardry…

  • Bill

    Where ever we take animals is their new habitat, because we are a part of nature, what ever we do is natural. We mine natural, we farm natural, and when we take pictures also natural. These photographs are cool and takes a level of skill that I don’t possess.

  • sam

    from my limited experience …
    judging from some of the leg posture of the spider,
    i suspect some are dead…

  • Steve Johnson

    Does this mean that photographing a human model in a studio is also unethical – after all no one actually lives in a photographer’s studio, it is a fake environment. Your argument makes no sense.

  • Vin Weathermon

    I’m not going to jump into the fray of who is skilled or faking or stack focusing or freezing bug bodies or diffuser lighting or plundering spider habitats or analyzing catchlights. These images are bitchin. I like them. I am glad they are here.

  • Jonathan Pearson

    they don’t look stacked …possibly a strobe (macro) f8

  • joey

    stacked or not. its not impossible to do with jumping spiders.
    Jumping spiders are the most photogenic because they stand there and stare at you. literally. just stare directly at your eyes or your camera lens. its not hard to take multiple shots of the same spider. they are rather patient.

    IF you guys had any experience in this field you’d know that. but because its beyond your comprehension you crap on these images.

    And a second point. The eyes of a spider will go opaque almost immediately when they are dead. These spiders are alive.

  • Gabriel

    In some pictures he uses a blitz, in others the light is natural. You can see it in the spiders’ eyes.

  • Andy D

    Cool and spooky at the same time. Great work !

  • imajez

    I’m curious, are you a strict vegan? If not, then your argument will seem a bit like Stalin saying Idi Amin was unethical.
    There is certainly an issue with some photographers posing critters for wildlife photography, but your reasoning with regard to catchlights is no proof at all of that. It just shows that you don’t understand how macro photography is done.

  • Norshan Nusi

    In case of frozen spider, I won’t agree with that. I’m living in Malaysia and the climate changes from time to time and as for now it was quite hot (but never snowing).

    He’s probably using a strobe which gave the spiders similar catchlight everytime…

    If you want to bash a photographer’s ethic of shooting spiders, just go for that particular person.

    If you wanna bash photographers from 2 countries however, seems stupid because they’re probably much better photographers than you.

  • 4dmaze

    For those concerned with the treatment of the spiders, please visit this site: Shahan’s photos are incredible and he clearly states that no spiders are harmed or frozen or moved from their habitat. He also provides a great video showing how he takes the photos and the relatively inexpensive equipment that he uses.

    It’s all about patience when shooting these little guys..

  • spencerselvidge

    Go look at this person’s actual photo stream (with exif data) on flickr before making a judgement. As best I can tell these are all legit, shot at f22-f32 with the same lighting set up of live spiders. I think it is just a retired person executing his hobby very well.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    I am not a bug photographer but I know a lot about reflections. Take a minute and think about it, the eye of a spider is tiny. Then there is a macro lens shooting set up very close to the bug effectively blocking out all the trees and sky that you are expecting to see. Inside or outside you won’t be seeing much reflected in his eye(s).

  • Lightspeed Johnny

    I am amazed at the number of people claiming these spiders are dead. The only spider that even somewhat approaches the posture of a dead spider is the photo of the spider in the yellow-orange petal.

    Spiders don’t have muscles like other animals – they basically use a hydraulic based system to extend the legs and use muscle like structures to retract the legs. Therefore, when a spider dies, its legs curl up rather tightly under the spider.

    Secondly, next time you get a chance to hang out with a Salticidae (jumping spider), I would highly recommend the experience. It is not at all unusual for them to just stare at you as is seen in many of these photos. They are extremely curious little creatures.

    Most spider species have really poor eyesight, and don’t really use their eyes for “seeing” as you might expect. The exception, of course, is the Salticidae family. They have excellent eyesight, as is suggested by the ratio of the size of the eye compared to their body.

    If you can gently approach one of these spiders without scaring them, they will most likely turn straight towards you and just stare. As you move side to side, they will track your movement by rotating their body. Its quite amazing to watch.

    Also, there are tons of other amazing macro photos of these (and other) spiders – certainly not everyone is killing these guys just to get good shots.


    Spider enthusiast, tarantula breeder, and dude with a yard full of Salticidae spiders in the summer.

  • Lightspeed Johnny

    I wholeheartedly disagree. See my rather lengthy post below…

  • Powerweave Studio

    What a sharp & macro shots!

  • Chris Walker

    Go to his website, it shows shot-to-shot movement of the spiders moving their limbs. I don’t think there frozen. And i understand the sentiment you have not appreciating the photographs as much because the spiders may have been captured or in a controlled environment but saying they are not impressive in any way comes off as pretty arrogant.