Introduction: Macro ("close-up") Photography With an IPhone

Picture of Macro ("close-up") Photography With an IPhone

Get much closer to subjects than usual simply by adding a low-cost macro lens attachment to your iPhone's exisiting camera lens -- with no risk of damage.

Step 1: Get a "pocket" Magnifier

Picture of Get a "pocket" Magnifier

Mine was sold as a Jeweller's Loupe. It magnifies 8X. I bought it from an Optometrist. You can also get them in model shops, craft centres and hobby outlets.

Step 2: Cover the IPhone Lens With the Magnifier

Picture of Cover the IPhone Lens With the Magnifier

The magnifier must be right up close to the iPhone lens. My iPhone has a silicone case for better grip. I push the magnifier hard up against the hole in it. Then there's no risk of scratching that slippery phone casing or, even worse, dropping everything!

Step 3: Move the Camera and Magnifier Together

Picture of Move the Camera and Magnifier Together

Go in close to your subject until you see what you want. Take it. Enjoy!

Here you see the business end of the magnifier and, right in the centre, the iPhone's own little lens. I used a mirror for this shot to prove it really does work.

Step 4: Notes

Picture of Notes

Work in bright light. The extra optics lose light, so you don't want blurry shots from camera shake. An app like Gorillacam may help with hand-held photos. Mini-tripods are good too but they tie you down a bit with fast moving things like insects.

Make sure the magnifier is centrally positioned over the iPhone's lens, or you will risk cutting off the corners of your pictures. What you see is what you get.

There's no reason why any phone camera should not give similar results.

If you prefer to work single-handed, use Blu-Tak or simillar to fix magnifier temporarily.

Step 5: Distances

Picture of Distances

frollard suggested I show the kind of working distance this setup gives. As you can see here, it's very close, so take care not to shadow your own shot.

Step 6: Here's the IPhone Shot From Step 5

Picture of Here's the IPhone Shot From Step 5

In Step 5 the iPhone 3GS was "told" to focus on the Roman numerals at twelve o'clock (XII).

Step 7: Alternative Design of Magnifier

Picture of Alternative Design of Magnifier

This is a lightweight plastic design of magnifier. It is easy to fix to the back of the iPhone using Blu-Tak or similar. This kind is sometimes sold as a watchmakers loupe (lupe). They are also used for inspecting printed circuit boards (PCBs) and woven fabrics like fine cotton or silk.

Now you can work with one hand free.

Step 8: Versatile Loupe

Picture of Versatile Loupe

This design from Bausch & Lomb (USA) has two independent lenses. Each lens has a different optical power. You can use them individually or combine them for maximum effect.


RukaY1 (author)2015-02-03

I hate that iphone camera can't zoom and the accessories are so expensive until I found this: the Band in the link is easy to carry and cheap....

peterbryenton (author)RukaY12016-08-02

Thanks for the link.

peterbryenton (author)RukaY12015-02-03

That looks neat, thank you.

RobertD27 (author)2015-08-09

Use Contact Lens.

peterbryenton (author)RobertD272016-08-02

Good idea, thanks.

Bearheat (author)2015-01-27

nice... I can't wait to try this. I hope it works on my Samsung :)

peterbryenton (author)Bearheat2015-01-28

Almost any magnifying lens held close to any smartphone lens will work. Good luck, Peter.

appsman (author)2013-02-01

Finally got the macro lens adapter for the iPhone designed. It ended up a lot cheaper then the iPhone 4 one because it uses less material. $8 for adapter and $4 for lens.

peterbryenton (author)appsman2013-02-03

Good work. One day I'll get into 3D printing.

peterbryenton (author)2011-08-01

An example:

rwlh1950 (author)peterbryenton2011-08-28

Ladybird - that was from Woolworths, if I'm correct. Always liked Ladybird clothes.
The pictures are great.

peterbryenton (author)rwlh19502011-08-28

Thank you. Yes, clothes -- and books too of course.

cmacaoidh (author)2011-08-15

Excuse me for being a noob, but do you just hold this to the phone lens and let the phone do the focussing or do you have to move the loupe in and out to find focus?

peterbryenton (author)cmacaoidh2011-08-21

Yes, hold the loupe really still, right over the phone's camera lens, then let the phone camera do the focussing. You need to get the whole setup near to your subject. Try it with the loupe and your eye first (no phone) to see how this measures out distance-wise. Then phone simply replaces your eye.
Good luck.

ryanhiltonis (author)2011-04-20

I went one better and shot a quick "macro" video comparison.

Here are the results.

cmacaoidh (author)ryanhiltonis2011-08-15

Lens from a flatbed scanner? Nice. Off to the recycling centre!

Good job. I see your steel rule has been well used ;)

marcintosh (author)2011-07-03

If "The best camera in the world is the camera you have with you" is true then you've just improved the Best Camera In The World. Nice work! Congratulations and thanks.

peterbryenton (author)marcintosh2011-07-04

Thanks very much :)

I'm still exploring the photo apps, as you may see if you visit my blog from :

TabbyDeAnne (author)2011-06-16

THANK YOU!! This will save me $26.00!! I almost bought a macro lens for my iPhone4 but decided to check here first! Glad I did ! I'm gonna tweek this idea a bit and post my finished project. Lettme know what you think. Thanks again!

technoguy94 (author)2011-02-15

I don't know about the 3GS, but my iTouch 4G has some sort of manual focus thing where you just touch where you want to focus and it focuses. Could that be used for this, or world I still need a lens?

See how close you can get with the touch focus setting. If you need to get closer or make a bigger close-up picture, try adding the lens. You may need to let the camera focus automatically or you may need to tell it by using the touch focus. Good luck.

DJ Radio (author)2010-10-31

Would it work on an iPhone 4?

peterbryenton (author)DJ Radio2010-11-01

I can't see why not. This should work on any phone camera with a similar design of lens.

Good luck with your iPhone 4 photos.

bclinton (author)2010-09-12

I have that same case!

Bartboy (author)2010-08-30

I bought an 8$ iphone case from that had a built in 20x magnifier, that is PERRFECT for taking macro pictures.

peterbryenton (author)Bartboy2010-08-31

Good find.

Bartboy (author)peterbryenton2010-08-31 if you're or anyone else is interested.

farzadbayan (author)2010-07-28

Yes , nice and fantastic !

Thank you.

sidthecat (author)2010-06-19

My husband's 15X1 geologist's lens is overqualified, but a little magnifying lens for reading menus works a treat.

peterbryenton (author)sidthecat2010-06-20

Good idea thas -- and those little business cards with teeny fonts too. On an iPhone the Evernote app searches the photos for text, which really helps.

3gfisch (author)2010-04-05

 were to get basch & lomb 2in1 loupe???? plz

peterbryenton (author)3gfisch2010-04-07

May I suggest that you ask your local jeweller where he or she buys them?

Regards, Peter.

nwlaurie (author)2010-03-05

 I can't believe I never thought of trying this!  I've often wanted a real close-up from my iPhone and just settled for cussing it. Thanks to you and all the others who actually go out and TRY things so that the rest of us idle lot can benefit!!

seedjar (author)nwlaurie2010-03-06

 ROFL... ain't that the truth...

peterbryenton (author)nwlaurie2010-03-05

Thank you.

cardigan (author)2010-03-04

I'm delighted to see that macro shots are possible with a magnifier. I managed some heavily vignetted zoom shots by lining up a binocular lens with my iPhone camera lens. A loupe looks far easier to hold steady!

peterbryenton (author)cardigan2010-03-05

Good optical thinking, cardigan. Lining up makeshift optics is always the tricky part.

karl-petter (author)2010-03-05

Have you tried the water-droplet-lens? Just put a small water drop on the iphone and you get an incredible macro lens:-) Its not tech-sharp but you can get really close. I have not used it much but did some experiments and posted it on my blog. Take a look at if you are interested!

Thanks Karl-Petter. i psted a reply on your blog:

MjPadfoot (author)2010-03-04

this is excellent! i/ve been wanting to try out macro photography for so long, but forked out a bit for a 50mm prime lens for my nikon d90, which left me with no extra cash for a macro lens:P
kudos to u!

maxjus (author)MjPadfoot2010-03-04

 You could always get a macro reversal ring.  That's what I did, and you can get some FANTASTIC shots.  Only downside is that you have to put the camera in manual mode.

MjPadfoot (author)maxjus2010-03-05

i thought of that, but someone told me it wasnt good for the lens. so, u just buy the ring and, um, reverse it?

maxjus (author)MjPadfoot2010-03-05

Pretty much.  I don't see how it could damage your lens, as all it does is screw onto the filter mount and the other end just clips into the camera like any other lens.  I'll post some photos to this thread tonight.

Ninzerbean (author)2010-03-02

 Wow! Thank you!

peterbryenton (author)Ninzerbean2010-03-03


bustedit (author)2010-03-01

focusfinder - i think we were seperated @ birth.
though your face is partially hidden by your phone, i thought I was looking @ myself in the mirror.
good 'ible, too!

peterbryenton (author)bustedit2010-03-01

Good job I shaved off my beard, eh?

"Good 'ible" --  thank you.

frollard (author)2010-02-27

Only thing I'd say to add is a side view showing the approximate distances required for a decent macro shot :D

Great writeup!

About This Instructable




More by peterbryenton:A Safer Rotary Cutter Edge Guide for SewingPhone camera macro setupSmartphone  eCards
Add instructable to: