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How to Use Your iPhone for Macro Photography

Jonathan Wylie is a digital learning consultant who has a passion for helping others get the best out of their technology.

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Are You Ready for Your Close-Up?

Macro photography used to require a DSLR and a set of expensive lenses and lighting equipment. However, you can now use your iPhone for macro photography. This makes close-up photography so much more accessible because it uses the camera that you always have with you—your iPhone! So, if you are ready for your close-up, here's how to get started.

Macro Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro

Apple included a macro photography mode on the iPhone 13 Pro. However, it doesn't appear in the camera app as a specific mode, at least not in the same way that Time Lapse, Pano, or Portrait does. That's because macro mode on the iPhone 13 Pro is an automatic feature.

All you need to do is place your subject within 5 inches of your iPhone, and the camera will automatically switch to macro mode. Once enabled, you can move your iPhone as close as you want to your subject. In fact, you can be as close as 2cm, and your iPhone will still focus on the subject in front of it.

That's all there is to it. There is nothing to turn on, no settings to enable—just point and shoot. As you can see in the video below, the results are better than you might think for a smartphone.

Sample Shots: Macro on iPhone 13 Pro

how-to-use-your-iphone-for-macro-photography
how-to-use-your-iphone-for-macro-photography
how-to-use-your-iphone-for-macro-photography

Tested: iPhone 13 Macro Photography Mode

Macro Mode on the Halide App

If you don't have an iPhone 13 Pro, macro photography is still within your reach. The developers of Halide (a pro photography app) were able to engineer a macro mode for their camera app. Best of all, it works on iPhones as old as the iPhone 8, and as new as the ones in the store today.

The technology is fascinating. The developers take advantage of the neural network on your iPhone to crop and upscale an image so that it is still sharp and smooth. The final result is a 4K JPEG that is bound to impress.

When using macro mode in Halide, you can choose the automatic tap to focus or switch to manual mode and use the slider to dial in your focus. The manual option is particularly useful because of the depth of field you are working with for close-up photography like this.

Macro is just one of several pro-level features on offer from Halide. If you are serious about iPhone photography, then this is an app you should definitely investigate. You can try Halide for free for seven days. After that, it costs $2.99 per month or $11.99 a year. If you want to bypass the monthly subscriptions, $49.99 will buy the app outright and ensure you have free updates for life.

Sample Shots: Halide Macro Mode

Shot with Halide on an iPhone 12 Mini

Shot with Halide on an iPhone 12 Mini

Shot with Halide on an iPhone 12 Mini

Shot with Halide on an iPhone 12 Mini

Shot with Halide on an iPhone 12 Mini

Shot with Halide on an iPhone 12 Mini

Tested: The Halide Macro Feature

The Best Macro Lenses for iPhone

Another option available to iPhone owners is a third-party macro lens. These lenses typically clip onto the back of your iPhone or attach to a case you are already using. Examples of these include the Moment Macro Lens, a 10x lens with high-quality glass that lets you shoot as close as 1-inch from your subject. It's not a cheap accessory, especially when you add on the cost of the dedicated case you need, but it can deliver some excellent results, and it is cheaper than upgrading your phone to a new device that you may not need yet.

The Moment Macro Lens Demo Reel

Macro Photography Tips

Regardless of which route you take for macro photography on your iPhone, there are a few things you should take into consideration before you press that shutter button. For instance, you may not realize this, but most macro photography is shot indoors. There are a few good reasons for this.

Being able to have more control of the light is perhaps the most important factor. Macro photography works best when you have a really well-lit subject. The iPhone won't let you control the shutter speed to let more light in so you can compensate for that with your own lighting and maneuver yourself so there are no unsightly shadows.

The wind is another thing to consider. When you are doing macro photography outside, your images may not be as sharp because your subject is being blown around in the wind while you are trying to capture that perfect moment. There is no wind inside.

Another advantage of shooting indoors is being able to control your background. You can use a simple piece of cardstock to change out the color you want in the background to give you the look that you want.

Making Macro Photography Matter

Macro photography might not be something that you do a lot of, but that doesn't mean it isn't a useful option to have. Close-up images like these are somewhat unique and often give a perspective that few people would otherwise be able to appreciate. So, regardless of which method you explore, it's incredible to think that this much creativity rests in the palm of your hand.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jonathan Wylie

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