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Here's how to take fantastic macro shots on your iPhone

Whether you're shooting giant cereal pieces a la "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" or the petals of a flower, you can create fantastic scenes from otherwise ordinary objects. iPhone macro photography is especially exciting: Because your phone is so small, you can get close to objects you might otherwise have a harder time shooting with a DSLR. Here are some of my favorite tips for shooting macro photography on the iPhone 6!

Find your light

As the old theater saying goes: "Find your light!" Without decent lighting, your macro subject will come out too dark and blurry; with too much direct lighting, the subject will end up blown out you'll lose all that great detail.

Instead, shoot for the perfect balance of light and dark: indirect sunlight. The picture above (an Apollo 11 medal given to TRW employees who worked on the launch) is taken next to a sun-drenched window, but out of the way of direct sunbeams.

Don't get too close

Your iPhone has a fixed lens focal length of 29mm, which means that you can only get so close to an object before it blurs. Ever held your finger up to your eye but couldn't focus on it because it was too close to your face? Same principle. You don't want to push your phone so close to the object that it starts to blur.

If it's your first time shooting macro photography, it might take a bit of trial and error to find the perfect distance for a close-but-not-blurry photograph; I've had the best success with keeping my iPhone 6 around 2 inches or more away from the subject.

Avoid messy backgrounds

When you shoot macro, you're intentionally focusing on a foreground object close to you, which means objects in the background are going to be somewhat to heavily blurred. As such, busy backgrounds with multiple colors may still pull the focus away from the object you're taking a photo of, even though they're blurred.

In the photo above, while I liked the general look of the blurred snow scene to the right, the tool shed and multiple trees were pulling focus from my actual goal: shooting individual snowflakes. The second picture I took, on the left, keeps the snow as the main focus and allowed me to highlight their crystalline structure.

Use AE/AF lock for a clear shot

When you get close to that 2-inch mark — especially if you have other items in the background — the iPhone 6 will occasionally try to snap its focus back from your macro image to whatever else is in frame.

To prevent that, tap and hold on your focus point until you see "AE/AF Lock" appear; until you tap the screen again, your iPhone will stay locked to your macro subject's focus point.

Invest in an Olloclip

On its own, the iPhone takes some pretty nice macro photos, but you can amplify those images by adding an Olloclip (opens in new tab) or similar lens system. The $70 system lets you shoot at 7x, 14x, and 21x, and even includes a focus hood to make sure your images are framed at the right distance and come out perfectly clear.

The images above, taken last year with an Olloclip 3-in-1 macro lens, show a container of sea salt at 7x, 14x, and 21x respectively. The lens kit is a fantastic little system if you plan to do macro photography often on your iPhone, quickly snapping on or off an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Any macro tips?

Shot any great macro photos lately? Have other tips that make your iPhone macro photography shine? Share them below.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

6 Comments
  • NBD but these are actually just "close ups" and not "macros."
  • Then how do you define "macros"?
  • Basically, Macro is a 1:1 magnification. Macro photography has more detail. As one of my photography teachers once said to me, just shoot what you want with what you want. Its about the image not the equipment.
  • I agree that pricey equipment doesn't automatically create beautiful images but when it comes to macro photography, I would say that the equipment will matter. I'm not saying you have to buy a $10K lens to get something beautiful because I spent about $400 on mine but if you want to get seriously close to your subject, a macro lens is most likely going to be necessary for you to execute that.
  • I was *just* telling Celeste that she needed to post some of her iPhone macro photography online and this post actually inspired her to do so: http://celestemakow.vsco.co/journal/looking-down-in-vast-locations
  • Just bought some new lenses for my iPhone, though I dont understand why both the wide angle and macro need to be on at the same time..? Anyone can explain please?