Consumer Reports recently ran an interesting article on creative photography using mobile camera lens kits . The lenses reviewed ranged in price from $30 to $100. Curious, I decided to see if I could cobble together my own camera lens kit from odds and ends we had lying around - old magnifiers, loupes, and even some drinking glasses and cellophane.
The experiment was fun and instructive, and the results heartening, suggesting you can hack together some auxiliary mobile camera lenses from any number of items.
Step 1: Materials
For this proof of concept effort, I scavanged up a couple of different types of jewelers loupes, an old magnifying lens, a couple of drinking glasses and some saran wrap.
Then I got a few sample items to try the lenses on: shells, trinkets and flowers
Step 2: Watchmakers Loupe
The Loupes were by far the most effective for macro style photography. The watchmakers loupe is designed to be a handsfree magnifier that can be placed over , well, originally a watch, but also functions well as a handheld magnifier.
You can use the lens in either direction for different effects, leave the lens edges framing images or get creative with cropping.
Step 3: Jewelers Loupe
The jewelers loupe is a little more powerful and allows you to get closer to your subject, angle for different lighting effects and hone in on specific visual elements. I like the effect of showing the lens frame in an image, particularly helpful for some instructive materials we develop.
Step 4: Magnifiers
Standard magnifying lenses create a really narrow depth of field which can produce interesting effects. Offsetting the lens, angling the phone camera and manipulating your tabletop subject around provides a wide range of views .
Step 5: Glasses As Lenses
On a lark, I decided to try shooting through a standard drinking glass. I used two different types, one with a sort of cut glass border and the other smooth. Point and shoot through the bottom of the glass, or through the sides, for varied effects.
Step 6: Plastic Wrap
In the old days, we'd sometimes put petroleum jelly on a camera lens for a soft focus effect. You can get a similar effect with plastic wrap (since I totally wouldn't recommend putting petroleum jelly on your camera!).
You can shoot through crumpled cellophane, or stretch it over the lens, or define a portion of your image to shoot through the cellophane while leaving the rest open.
Try some different colored plastic wraps for different types of effects.
Step 7: Get Creative!
The loupes would be my choice to keep handy for some added functionality to your mobile camera unit anytime. But don't stop there!
Your imagination's the limit with just about anything you can think to shoot through - reading glasses, wine glasses, plastic cups.
Get creative, and share back your DIY mobile lens hacks here, and let us know what you used to get your shot!