Introduction: Water Drop Macro Lens

Picture of Water Drop Macro Lens

In this instructable I will show you, how you can take really cool macro pictures with a drop of water as a lens for your smartphone / tablet.

We are putting water directly onto the smartphone / tablet, so don't do this, if you are worried, that it will cause damages. I am not worried at all, as I have done it a lot of times, but I won't take responsibility if something happens when you do it :)

I was really amazed how the pictures turned out, and I hope you will have just as much fun doing this, as I had making this instructable.

Let's go!

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need
  • A smartphone or tablet
  • A cloth for drying your camera / spilled water - We are working with water and electronics at the same time, so you have to be careful!
  • Headphones with volume buttons OR a bluetooth remote control if you have one - i got mine from a selfie stick... Don't judge me...
  • Cotton swabs or a syringe
  • Glass of water
  • Something interesting to take macro pictures of

Step 2: There Are Two Ways to Do It

I am using my iPhone and my iPad to take these macro pictures.

There is two cameras on most of the phones out there. One on the front and one on the back.

Camera on the back

If you want to use your iPhone, i recommend that you use the camera on the back. The iPhone's front camera is too close to the microphone, so the water drop might run down there, and we really don't want that! The back camera is pretty much isolated from open spaces into the iPhone.

If you want to use the back camera, see next step.

Camera on the front

If you have a phone / tablet, where you are able to put a drop of water on the front camera, or if you think that you can handle a drop of water on the iPhone's front camera, I recommend that you use the front camera.

The water drop macro lens is much funnier and easier to use, if you use it on the front camera, because it is easier to control, and because there is glass covering the camera completely. I am using my iPad to take pictures from the front camera.

If you want to use the front camera, see step 5.

Step 3: Preparing the Camera on the Back

Picture of Preparing the Camera on the Back

Place your smartphone flat, so that you can put a drop of water on top of the camera lens.

You can either use the syringe or the cotton swabs, but I prefer the cotton swabs. You can also use your finger, but you can't control that as good, as with a cotton swab.

Take the syringe or the cotton swab, and put a drop on the lens. Be careful not to put too much water on it. The camera has some sort of "ring" around it, that can hold the water in place. If you make the drop too large, the water will run off the phone, before you can turn it over.

Quickly turn the phone around before the water runs off.

Now we are ready!

Step 4: Using the Camera on the Back

Picture of Using the Camera on the Back

I recommend that you put the phone on the edge of the cloth, so that you can tilt the phone closer to the object. In this way, you get more stability.

You can either use your headphones as triggers, or you can buy a selfiestick, if you don't mind losing your dignity ;)

The first picture is a GIF, where you can see, how I take my pictures. (I had to do it with one hand, because I used the other hand to record..)

Step 5: A Mosquito Larvae

Picture of A Mosquito Larvae

We have a bassin where I managed to catch this small mosquito larvae. I am very impressed, that the macro lens could show such a detailed photo. The 2nd last picture shows, how close the iPhone could come without a water drop, and the last picture is with the water drop.

The first picture is a GIF, and you can even see something moving inside the larvae's body!

Step 6: Using the Camera on the Front

Picture of Using the Camera on the Front

Use the syringe or a cotton swab to put a drop on top of the front camera.

Unlike the camera on the back, there isn't a "ring" around the front camera. This means, that the water won't be hold in place, and you can make a bigger variety of water drop sizes.

If you want to see, how the size of the water drops affects the pictures, go to next step!

This method is easier than using the camera on the back, because you can move the object back an forth, instead of trying to keep the whole camera stabilized. Take your object, and hold it close to the camera.

Another sweet opportunity of using the front camera, is that you can hold a flashlight above your object, and light it up from the back. I turns out to really cool, when you are doing it with leafs, because the backlight reveals the pattern inside the leaf much better. Check out the last to pictures to see the difference between the leaf without backlight, and the leaf with.

Step 7: Size Matters

Picture of Size Matters

The smaller the drop is, the closer you can focus on your object.

When you put the drop on the camera, be sure to put it right in the middle. Especially when you are making small drops.

The bigger the drop gets, the more it flattens out. When the drop flattens out, we lose the effect of a lens, as the drop has to be in a "dome" shape.

Try and see on the first picture, how the size affects the pictures.

Step 8: Please Share Your Photos!

Thank you for viewing this instructable!

I hope you liked it!

Please share your photos, if you try this. I can't wait to see them!

P. S. if you liked this instructable, I would be so happy, if you would vote for me in the Photography, Tips and Tricks Contest or / and in the Phone Contest.



pachytrance (author)2016-10-12


Nazkter made it! (author)2016-06-18

I used the nib of pen to change the size of the water drop and this are my results:

Purukr997inst made it! (author)2016-02-06

Cooool! I tried this technique with a more viscous liquid like hand sanitizer and got pretty good results :-D
First one is nib of pen , rest are close up of a spider.

Doc Penguin (author)2016-01-12

my skin looks wierd......

Znaffi (author)Doc Penguin2016-01-12

Haha, you'll discover a whole new world!

InsomniCAT made it! (author)2015-08-10

(Sorry this comment is split, I've never done this before!)

I mounted the lens in a collar trimmed down from a Sonicare toothbrush, and found a right angle of just the right width in a piece of hard plastic packaging. This way it fits snugly on the corner of the iPad, right over the camera. These are some pictures I took, first the normal size, then the macro view. The last shot is the clock icon on my phone showing the pixels.

Znaffi (author)InsomniCAT2015-11-14

You should make this into an instructable! :-D

Znaffi (author)InsomniCAT2015-08-11

Coooool! They are very good! Thank you very much for sharing! :)

yosanatanm (author)2015-11-01

i love it, thanks four your idea

Linkin_J_Knex (author)2015-09-29

This is so cool!! favourited!

Victor Does (author)2015-08-31

Great work! :)

punkmonkeyart (author)2015-08-28

Love this!

Znaffi (author)punkmonkeyart2015-08-28

Thank you! :D

punkmonkeyart (author)Znaffi2015-08-28

you are welcome! keep it up!!!

volkvanmyn25 (author)2015-08-13

This is very cool but you can get a better effect using a laser lens from an old dvd or cd player/drive or laser pointer pressed into a hole into a piece of plastic with the phone camera on top of that.

Znaffi (author)volkvanmyn252015-08-28

It's a good idea for a lens, but I think the water drop can "zoom" much closer to the object. But thanks for the tip :)

schabanow (author)2015-08-21

Great! Ben Krasnow on YouTube shows how to control the water drop curve (!!!) in order to take several pictures (each one like a frame in video footage ~ 10 .. 20 fps) of the same moveless object (mosquito's eye as far as I remember) with different focuses (consequent values with a step assigned). Then all pictures are to compose into one (PhotoShop) that represent just HUGE range of sharpen depth.

This way he solves the main disadvantage of macro pictures - tiny sharpen depth, here you are:

Znaffi (author)schabanow2015-08-28

Coooooooooooooooooooooooool!!!!!!! That is really amazing!! Thank you for sharing!

easy94 (author)2015-08-24

very nice. I've a samsung note 2 and an ipad. I will try it on both this week.

Thank you very much.

Znaffi (author)easy942015-08-28

Thank you too :) How did it turn out?

schabanow (author)2015-08-21

That trick is called 'focus stacking' means combining several macro images of short sharpen depths shifted with a step assigned into one super image of the whole macro object of perfect sharpen.

Liquid lens allows you to do that VERY quickly, as far as I could hear - near a thousand times per second. In other words you can not only take an amazing macro pictures - PORTRAITS - this way, but macro VIDEO of premium class, or even high speed macro video (many hundred fps).

schabanow (author)2015-08-21

It's me again... Here is the exact video of Ben Krasnow I just mentioned:

InsomniCAT made it! (author)2015-08-10

I made something along these lines a few weeks ago using a glass lens from a broken pair of binocuars. I wanted to use the rear facing camera on my iPad Air both for its higher pixel count and for the zoom option, not accessible from the front camera. I also wanted it to be hands free for greater flexibility.

Znaffi (author)InsomniCAT2015-08-11

Whoa that is awesome! You should definitely make an instructable about how to make this step by step!

InsomniCAT (author)Znaffi2015-08-11

Thanks Znaffi! I'm really new to Instructables, haven't ever thought much about the stuff I make - I just do it as the idea comes upon me, with whatever I have to work with at the time.

Znaffi (author)InsomniCAT2015-08-14

You should really make an instructable, whenever you make a project. I don't usually come up, with a lot of projects, but I really wanted to write an instructable so I sat down and thought about what I had tried before. It sounds easier for you, if you actually MAKE a lot of projects in advance :D

psezulfe (author)2015-08-09

Hi, it's great that sometimes something very simple like this has such a fantastic result! But this method is not very practical, it would be great to have some kind of lens reproducing this method.

dpinkston (author)psezulfe2015-08-13

psezulfe, Go to your local home improvement store and get a peephole/doorviewer. One of the lenses in the peephole will act as a macro lens and can be affixed to the phone. ( You can also use the lens from an DVD drive.

psezulfe (author)dpinkston2015-08-14

Great idea!!! I have a bunch of CD/DVD drives in work laying around, I will try one! Maybe I make an instrutable if I get good results! Thank you

Znaffi (author)psezulfe2015-08-09

Yes it doesn't take very much to do it :) And yes you are right, but it's very quick and easy, which I think is very nice :)

ChocK1 (author)2015-08-13

Oooor you can use the lens of a laser pointer. Simply dismantle it, secure the laser pointer lens on the camera lens, make an adjustable platform for the phone if you want to adjust the magnification and just like a microscope you can put a light source behind sample to be magnified. Enjoy. Interesting project tho. Thanks!

hacker-cycle (author)2015-08-07

Distilled Water doesent fry electronics

That is incorrect, distiller water can still conduct electricity. You are thinking of deionized water.

3366carlos (author)hacker-cycle2015-08-08

you mean distilled water doesn't conduct current? otherwise, it could create a short and fry components.

distilled water would not conduct at the low voltages used in most of the phones/pads. However, the back lighting systems of the various screens out there might have a high enough voltage component to spell trouble if any liquid makes its way to it. Refer to the highly technical information out there in "dataland" about your particular device. This said, I just returned from a rather sunny walk outside with my digital mini camera in my breast pocket. Screen totally covered in, blewah!, SALTY sweat. No explosion, crackling noises, sparks, or premature shutoff of the said device when used during the walk. They DO seal these gadget...

I will try, and enjoy the results, this instructable. Now, what happens if I install a small tube over the lens and fill that up with water?... What if I put food coloring in the water?...

Znaffi (author)SoakedinVancouver2015-08-09

I am not very into how the electronics work, but yes most of the smartphones / cameras out there are rain-proof, so I am not scared of putting a little drop on it :)
And wow! Really good ideas! If you try it, please share the results. I wonder if you could magnify it even more, by installing a layer of glass above the camera, and the put another drop on it, so that you get two "lenses" on top of each other.

SoakedinVancouver (author)Znaffi2015-08-09

Mmmm... let me dig out my old Edmunds Scientifics optic notes to refresh my memory about the relationship between the distance to the lens and whatever results one wishes to achieve... Do we really need a tube or positioning the drop on a scaffold good enough?

Thanks for the inspiration!

Znaffi (author)SoakedinVancouver2015-08-11

Haha :) Thank you too!

mkarvonen (author)2015-08-13

Wow. This is really good :D I made similar years ago with a video scope lens.

Keep up the good work!

cheapo (author)2015-08-10

This works really well with my Samsung Jet S8000! From 5cms the hotwheels car is blurred and I have to pull back to about 200cms to get focus. But with the water droplet, I get extreme close up focus at 15mm !!

Thanx Znaffi. Added to favourites. :¬)

cheapo (author)cheapo2015-08-10

I used previously boiled water by the way.

Znaffi (author)cheapo2015-08-11

How come?

cheapo (author)Znaffi2015-08-12

About the water you mean? I just thought of it as I always have some stored, because my cat won't drink tap water until it's been in the dish for half a day.

Znaffi (author)cheapo2015-08-11

Nice! And yes, you can discover a whole new world with it :D You are welcome, and I am glad you liked it :)

youcantoo (author)2015-08-09

Excellent instructions for looking at the micro world - I am wondering how well something like a jewelers loupe would work for taking photos.

Znaffi (author)youcantoo2015-08-11

Thank you very much! I think you could take incredible photos with one of those :o

Antzy Carmasaic made it! (author)2015-08-10

Easy and effective instructable. I've tried this with a lens from an el-cheapo laser pointer but this has zero parts requirement except the phone camera. The first image is of a printed text. The drop was big but still the DPI resolution of printer is visible. The second is an onion peel. Thanks for the instructable!

Znaffi (author)Antzy Carmasaic2015-08-11

Cool! I really like the onion peel :) Thanks for sharing!

Richontheroad (author)2015-08-10

You can also use glycerin (available inexpensively at your local pharmacy) it wont evaporate and has more surface tension so is less likely to slide off the lense.

Znaffi (author)Richontheroad2015-08-11

Yeah but the phone would become sticky :)

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Christian, and I am an 18 years old Dane. I like gaming, cooking and experimenting. I also like the small, cheap and ... More »
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