Mobile Phone Macro Photography Tutorial – Watch on YouTube
The know-how and expensive equipment needed to get started with macro can often put people off, but it doesn’t have to be this way! With only a couple of inexpensive smartphone lenses, mobile phone macro photography is a fantastic way to get started with macro. (It’s also a pretty fun excursion for seasoned macro pros too!).
Mobile Phone Macro Photography Lenses
Phone cameras are very powerful these days. Flagship phones from Apple, Samsung etc, have multiple lenses and advanced software processing. While the addition of super wide and telephoto lenses is a welcome improvement, none of the manufacturers have catered to the macro photographer yet.
With that said, there are ways. Clip-on phone lenses are relatively inexpensive and a great way to add magnification to your phone camera. We have the Apexel 100mm and 2 in 1 12/24x lens kit.
Using lenses like these for mobile phone macro photography is never going to be as sharp or detailed as a dedicated macro lens on a DSLR. However, the convenience factor is not to be overlooked!
If you need something more convenient than your professional camera, or just want a cheap way to explore the macro world, phone macro lenses might be what you’re looking for.
Do you need an expensive phone?
It’s expected that more expensive, modern phones have better cameras. More megapixels, sharper and better image processing. However, even modest handsets can still be great for macro photography.
We tested the clip-on lenses with the brand new iPhone 12 Pro Max vs an iPhone 7. For Androids, we had a Samsung Galaxy s10+ and a Google Pixel 3a.
Both single-camera phones were able to get great images using the lens kits. The choice between the cameras on the iPhone 12 and Galaxy s10+ added the option for getting closer with the telephoto lens.
Control vs Convenience
The more notable difference between the phones is in the software. Not all of the camera apps allow for control of your settings, or even which camera to use. The unique software processing in each phone handles colour, focus and image processing differently.
For example, unlike the Galaxy S10+ the new iPhone 12 has no way to select the telephoto lens without it trying to auto detect and switch back to another lens when close. The only way we found to lock the camera lens selected, was to select the portrait mode on the native camera app or use a 3rd party app like Lightroom.
The image processing in the native camera apps is naturally a lot better, but sometimes with the trade-off of less manual control. The photos below were all taken using automatic settings decided by the phones. You can see a lot of variation in how the vivid red light is handled by the cameras. The flagship phones seem to take more liberties when it comes to colour processing.
The working distance (the space between the lens and subject) of these phone macro lenses is quite small. It ranges from around 10cm with the 100mm lens to about 5mm using the 24x lens.
This means that it’s quite tricky to get light to the subject. Your hands, the phone and the lens will all start to cast shadows on the subject without additional light. The flash on your phone is not ideal or flattering for the subject. It might be blocked by the lens too, so it’s best to use an external light source.
The flexible Lighting Arms of the Adaptalux Studio the perfect solution for this problem. Highly controllable light, diffusion and colours in a small package.
The continuous light of the Adaptalux Studio is also ideal for mobile phone macro photography. You can’t use flash with a phone, and continuous light lets you see your results on the screen of the phone so you can adjust in real-time.
Depth of field
If you’re new to macro, you might struggle to get your subject in focus. This is because of the depth of field. With more magnification, less of your subject can be in focus at once.
Pay special attention to where you choose to focus. If you struggle with a subject as complex as flowers, try a flat subject like coins or paper notes. A flat subject can be much easier to focus on by keeping the front of the lens parallel with the surface.
Soft focus can work nicely in some photos, so try to pick out interesting features in your photos, like the pollen on these flowers.
If you would like to try some mobile phone macro photography yourself, the clip-on phone lenses are available now on our store.
While these inexpensive lenses will not match the sharpness and quality of a dedicated macro lens, they do make mobile phone macro photography a reality. Shooting macro on your phone is a convenient and expensive way to explore the world close up!
If you enjoyed this first look at mobile phone macro photography, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss out on future macro photography tutorials, ideas and inspiration!