Macro Photography: A Guide to Macro Lenses and Tools


Macro photography is one of the most popular photo genres. Mastering the fine art of photographing the minute details of the world does take time. So, don’t think you can pick up your smartphone and take gallery-worthy shots. Like any beginner, you first have to hone your skills. You should first learn the tools of the trade in order to become a better macro photographer.

In the guide, we will explain how to take the best macro shots using your smartphone. Plus we will explore the value of accessories such as the Moment Macro Add-on lens to help make the best close up photos.

What is Macro Photography?

Macro photography is about magnifying objects such as insects, jewelry and flowers one to fifteen times larger. All smartphones have a macro or super macro mode, which enables them to get close to a subject. If you want to get closer, then using an add-on lens is one of the best ways to see small details up close.

Ladybugs on wet leaf

Recommended Tools For Macro Photography

Macro Lenses

Macro lenses are one of the most helpful tools for macro photography. There are many brands of macro add-on lenses available, so make sure you do your research before buying as the quality varies significantly between models. From our research, we found that the Moment Macro Lens was by far the best for smartphone photography.

The solid metal construction of the lens delivers in spades. When you attach the Moment Macro Lens to your smartphone using the Moment phone case, you open up a whole new world of possibilities. Images appear crisp and sharp with maximum out of focus areas in the background of your photos. Bokeh is superb, especially when shooting at the peak of 10x magnification.

Included with the lens is a nifty hood attachment that has three benefits. First, the hood stops any stray light from hitting the add-on lens, reducing the chances of flaring – a must for macro shooters. Secondly, the hood is almost see-through with a slight frost look to it. This translucent appearance allows some light to penetrate the shade, which diffuses the light making it perfect for close up photography.

The final benefit of the hood is most likely the best feature. Moment has made the hood extend as a guide to help you obtain the minimum focus distance from the subject. So if the lens hood is touching the subject, then that’s the closest you can get.

Smartphone Tripods

You can use a smartphone tripod to help steady your camera. If you aren’t using an add-on lens, then you are most likely going to use your smartphones zoom. While this is okay at getting close to your subject, the camera shake quickly becomes a problem. This is one of the reasons why we recommend using an add-on lens in the first place as it bypasses the need for zooming in to your subject.

When looking for a smartphone tripod, considering the following features:

  • Bluetooth Connectivity – Bluetooth is a must for triggering your phone remotely. Sometimes when you press the shutter on your smartphone, it can lead to blurry images. Most modern-day smartphone tripods connect remotely to phones via Bluetooth so you can overcome this problematic hurdle by using the remote control.
  • Ball Head – A ball head is the top section of the tripod that acts like a ball and socket joint. Try to find a ball head that moves freely and has a suitable locking mechanism. The advantage of a ball head over another type is you can quickly adjust the composition by unlocking, moving the head freely and locking the phone back into place.
  • Flexible Legs – If you are planning on photographing outdoors, then most likely you will shoot on uneven ground. Flexible tripod legs cater to individual independent leg movements so each leg can find footing on the ground, no matter how rough the terrain.

LED Lights

We would recommend purchasing an LED light, especially if you are using the Moment Macro Add-on lens. All macro photography requires vast amounts of light to photograph your subject at the correct exposure. If you aim the LED light directly onto your subject, then it can cast shadows. This is where the Moment Macro lens has a huge benefit. If you aim the light through the hood, then you end up with a beautifully diffused light with no shadows. It turns what usually would be an uninteresting image to something spectacular.

Tip: If you want to save money, and you already have the Moment Macro Add-on lens, there is an alternative. Try turning on the smartphone flash instead of using a dedicated LED light.

Reflectors

Another useful way to control intense light from either an LED or the sun is to use a reflector. A reflector is a small round flexible fabric disc that has a silver or gold reflective coating on the surface. When light hits the surface of the reflector, it reflects onto the subject. Reflectors do come in many different shapes and sizes, so make sure you don’t order anything too big. The largest reflector size you will need is around a basketball in diameter.

Clips or Pegs

If you plan on photographing outdoors then having a few clips or pegs with you may come in handy. Photographers use these simple tools to hold branches or stem in place, so the wind doesn’t knock their subject about in the breeze. For something that only costs a few dollars, having either a clip or peg can make all the difference to outdoor macro photography.

Background Cards

Another novel way to use a clip or peg is to hold a background card that can add color to an image. A background card is a colorful piece of paper that you insert between your subject and its background. Macro photographers often use this method while out in the field for showcasing the blooms of wildflowers and even the details of insects.

Recommended Editing Tools to Enhance Your Macro Photography

When you first take a macro shot and look back on the phone, you may think the image looks fantastic. But, did you know your macro photography job is only halfway done?

Something many smartphone photographers forget to think about is the editing. By adjusting some sliders, you can quickly turn your excellent photo into something better. Here are two apps we recommend using for editing your macro images.

Adobe Lightroom CC

The only other application we recommend is Lightroom CC. We find Lightroom superb in being able to handle images that don’t require much editing. For this reason, we recommend using the simple tools found under the exposure adjustment tool known as ‘Light’. In this mode you can adjust options which include;

  • Exposure – Adjusts the over brightness or darkness of the image.
  • Contrast – Punches a definite difference in contrast between the black and white tones.
  • Highlights – Targets specific pixels that are closest to white. Lowering the highlights brings back some detail.
  • Shadows – Reveals lost detail which remains in shadow areas.
  • Whites – Think of using this tool for adjusting the mid-range tones of your image. Increase for a brighter look.
  • Blacks – How black do you want black? In other words, you can adjust the slider to introduce more or fewer grey tones.

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Snapseed

This editing application is more of a powerful creative editing tool. Within the app, you can adjust standard settings, but Snapseed is more recognized for the ability to adapt to specific areas. For instance, for macro photography, you may like to use any of the following tools:

  • Details – If you manage to use your smartphone to take a macro photo, you can add structure and sharpness to the image. We recommend using this tool first before exploring other options.
  • Crop – Cropping is highly recommended for macro photography as long as the photo was taken at the highest quality (RAW file). Think of cropping as a digital zoom. The advantage lies in the fact that you can magnify your subject to fill the frame. It is a way of getting closer on top of using a Moment Macro Add-on lens.
  • Selective – Select a small area of your image and mask careful adjustments that only affect the space you have selected. Once you have chosen an area, you can control brightness, contrast, saturation, and structure. We have found tool especially helpful in adding light to a subject.
  • Healing – Dust and imperfections in an image are distracting. Using a useful healing tool, you can remove any areas of concern. The AI in the app replaces the part you are healing with surrounding pixels. For those macro photographers interested in photographing jewelry, then this is a welcome tool for removing dust.
  • Drama – Want to add some ‘punch’ to your image? The Drama tool is an excellent option for photos of insects and flowers. When you select the tool, Snapseed’s AI boosts up all areas in the image to add some extra punch to the picture. Adjusting this tool alone will make every difference to your macro shot and the level of detail in the picture.
  • Lens Blur – Using post-processing to add in lens blur is a creative tool worth exploring. For instance, if you would like your audience to focus on a select area in the image, you can select all other regions and blur them out. When combined with the Moment’s Macro Add-on lens, the results often appear surreal.
  • Vignette – The ultimate tool in Snapseed we would recommend using is the vignette tool. Make sure this is the last effect you use across all of your editing applications. Similar to the Lens Blur tool, the vignette is perfect for helping draw in the viewer’s attention to the center of the frame. Vignette darkens the outer edge of an image. By making this ever so slight change the center part of your image appears brighter and creates a pleasing look to your macro shot.

Macro Photography Tips

We have two macro photography tips to share with you. These tips relate to your technique as a photographer. Master them, and your macro photography will reach a higher level.

Tip 1: Turn Your Smartphone Upside Down

This might seem strange at first, but when you think about the orientation of your phone, it makes sense. Practically all phones are made the same. Each primary lens is positioned at the top of the device. How you then hold your phone camera makes all the difference to the outcome of the focus. Let us explore this further.

If you are photographing a macro shot of your subject, we encourage you to get on the same level as the subject. For instance, if you are shooting a flower on the ground, physically lie down and photograph the flower. By doing so, you increase the depth of field in the photo. Meaning you have the subject sharp and the background even more blurry.

So, therefore, if you are photographing macro shots of food on a plate, you should turn the phone upside down to get the lens on the same level as the food. If you were to keep the phone in the normal position (lens at the top of the phone), then you would be photographing the food from a higher level. The background would be closer to the subject, and the image would not look as good.

Tip 2: Don’t Use Your Zoom To Get Close

We see so many smartphone photographers start their macro journey by using two fingers on their device screen to dial in the zoom. While this will get you closer to the subject, it is not ideal. Instead, we recommend physically moving your device close to your subject. Then moving the phone back and forth, you will be able to find the ‘sweet spot’ of focus. Breathe slowly and then hold the phone with two hands to steady the shot. If you find the photo blurry, turn on the flash as this may help. Better still, we highly recommend using this method with an add-on lens, such as Moment Macro Add-on lens.

Before you leave you should check out my article on Portrait Photography

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