Every year, we reach a point where we need to find that special gift. Normally my wife looks at me and sighs. I either have grand designs on some shockingly extravagant pressie or no clue at all. Either way I’m no help. iPhone photography changes all that. I have a long long list of things I would like. Things that I imagine for most people fall in the realistic price bracket.
Olloclip 4 in 1 please!
This year what I really wanted was an Olloclip 4 in 1 and Santa was happy to oblige.
So I’ve had it for a while now and played with the fisheye and wide angle lenses and yes they’re great. If I’m honest they are what I wanted it for and they deliver exactly what I expected. At some point I will spend a little more time discussing them.
Macro though I was a bit less bothered about. However, when you see how the Olloclip is put together you can understand that the macro lenses form part of the structure of the fisheye lens and wide angle lens and so really they are essential elements. Giving access to them is a bonus of great design.
This iPhone photography article discussed my first experience of Macro photography with any camera, let alone an iPhone with an Olloclip. These are therefore the thoughts of a complete Macro newbie learning on the job and I welcome any ideas, suggestions or corrections.
What I learned
I spent a couple of hours playing across 2 days. On day one I had fun but when I looked at the images I was unhappy with them. They were just a bit soft. I spent some time thinking about what I had done right and what I could change to improve the process. 24 hours later I had a second play implementing some of my changes. These learning points are a combination of original ideas and ideas I changed and I apologise to any Macro experts I may offend if my comments are incorrect or overly simplistic. They’re just what worked for me.
Use a tripod of some description
Image stabilization is built in to many camera replacement apps and the iPhone 5S native iSight Camera app has some sort of multiple frame stabilization feature built in. However, I mentioned in my article iPhone photography – 10 must have iPhoneography apps that there is a general rule to avoid camera shake blur that the maximum exposure time should be equal to the focal length. On an iPhone the full frame equivalent focal length is around 30mm and so an exposure time of 1/30th of a second as a maximum should be aimed for to avoid blur.
That’s great except the Olloclip Macro lenses are either x10 or x15 magnification with a focal range of millimeters. Therefore using the x10 macro lens as an example, imagine trying to both frame and focus something accurately that close and at the same time avoid shake at a simplistic equivalent focal length of 300mm.
Arty blur and texture creation
I think there is lots of fun to be had with hand held Macro shots. If you enjoy blur and textures (which I do) then there’s a whole new world to experiment in (which I will). If you want clear magnified macro shots you’ll need stability.
I knew this would be an issue and originally I thought perhaps some sort of Gorillapod would be the answer but instead I happened across the Lollipod. The Lollipod is a very lightweight portable tripod absolutely perfect for iPhoneography especially indoors or in sheltered areas (although it does have a stabilizing kit to add ballast and make it more stable in windy conditions). Please take a look at their website for more information if this is of interest.
Use a timer or remote shutter release
The slightest tap of the screen to take the shot creates shake. Whilst that shake is barely noticeable to a bystander when viewed in real time through the magnified Olloclip and the iPhone screen it is a very significant movement and certainly enough for blur.
The solution will depend on the camera replacement app you are using and is likely to be either:
Use the timer (in the case of ProCamera7 for example), or
Use the headphone volume control (in the case of the native camera app or a replacement app such as 645 Pro Mk II for example).
I grabbed this shot with my iPad to show how I set up to take my Macro images with my iPhone.
The key points I think are:
Lollipod or appropriate support to provide stability. Normally the iPhone is fully gripped by the Lollipod mobile phone holder which has rubber grips and size adjusters. As you would expect you can tilt the Lollipod mobile phone holder as necessary but for my purposes I loosened the grip slightly and manually moved the iPhone within the holder. This wouldn’t be the recommended approach but I was in a carpeted indoor area and it made things that little bit quicker.
In this shot I have the headphone cable attached and so was using the remote shutter release (volume up button).
I normally use soft natural light and by setting up with a thin curtain to defuse the side light I was able to avoid heavy shadow but provide enough light for both exposure requirements and to provide enough contrast to provide definition to the smallest details of the magnified image.
Since publishing these images ProCamera7 has undergone a couple of major upgrade and now includes volume shutter control.
Look for maximum file quality
I know this is an area close to many iPhone photographers’ hearts. File quality gets constantly eroded by app stacking (something I normally enjoy). App stacking creates multiple saves, each one compressing what is often an already compressed JPEG file. Some apps are guilty of reducing resolution so not only does the quality of the image suffer but so does its size. That is just background information really.
The whole point of a Macro image is to magnify a subject and at the same time provide the ability to see detail more clearly than with the naked eye. There is little point following my recommendations to create a good stable environment if it just results in a poorly defined blurry mess.
It is this area that I changed when I had my second session.
JPEG – The native iPhone camera saves in JPEG format as do many camera replacement apps. JPEG is a lossy file format which compresses image data into a small file. It is true that many will allow the level of JPEG compression to be adjusted.
ProCamera7 is set at 88pct JPEG quality level so there is scope to increase that to 100pct and improve the image.
There is a pay off though. Reduced JPEG compression means increased file size, reducing the volume of images that can be captured from both a storage capacity and battery life perspective (bigger files take more processing power).
TIFF – Some iPhone camera replacement apps allow images to be saved in TIFF format. TIFF format is lossless – files may use lossless compression or none at all. This means the image saved to the iPhone is as identical as it possibly can be to the image captured by the iPhone’s sensor.
645 Pro Mk II captures in TIFF format. It will also save both a ‘RAW’ unprocessed TIFF and a second TIFF processed in accordance with app settings such as various film emulations and color filters.
There is a massive price to pay when using TIFF though otherwise we would all be using it all the time. In the context of Macro photography and the images in this article, all images were captured as a resolution of 3,264px x 2,448px. A TIFF file would typically be around 23Mb whilst a JPEG file would be 2.2Mb.
Macro has to be TIFF
For day to day purpose it is my choice to capture images in JPEG using ProCamera7 and that remains the case. I have to balance file size, storage capacity, processing times and battery life on the one hand with image quality on the other.
For every TIFF file I could capture 10 JPEG files.
In most cases I believe the quality difference to be insignificant in the context of the image. Whether viewed on screen or in print I have never experienced any quality issues. However, this is very much a personal choice and is something to consider on a case by case basis. For me, Macro images will have to be captured in TIFF format.
Since publishing these images ProCamera7 has undergone a major upgrade and now includes TIFF file format in both uncompressed and lossless compression formats. Excellent news.
Take care with settings and ISO
This is an after the event observation. The shutter speed and ISO settings were not the same for the JPEG captured in ProCamera7 and the TIFF file captured in 645 Pro Mk II.
ISO settings and noise
The higher the ISO the more grainy the image will be. This is another trade off between capturing a well exposed image in the available light and the quality of the image.
In general there is very little that we can do with the iPhone to force it to lower the ISO and increase exposure time. However, I only noticed when looking at the EXIF data that:
ProCamera7 JPEG was captured at 1/15th of a second at an ISO of 400.
645 Pro Mk II TIFF was captured at 1/20th of a second at an ISO of 800.
On that basis the TIFF is likely to contain more noise. I realised that I have 645 Pro Mk II set to force shutter priority with a minimum shutter speed of 1/20th of a second. Therefore in the available lighting conditions it could not gain more exposure through increased shutter time and so increased the ISO instead.
645 Pro Mk II and ISO
I covered this functionality in my 10 must have iPhoneography apps article.
Normally this feature is brilliant for avoiding or reducing motion blur but in the sanitised situation I was shooting my Macro in I would have been very happy to forgo shutter speed for a lower ISO and therefore minimise noise.
At the time the TIFF is captured in 645 Pro Mk II it is possible to save both an unprocessed untouched ‘RAW’ TIFF and also a TIFF processed by one of it’s film emulation actions together with an overlying virtual colour filter. This ability to potentially avoid post processing outside of 645 Pro Mk II and give some artistic choice at the point of capture is I think very valuable.
645 Pro Mk II and filters
I covered black and white conversion and the effect of filters in my black and white photography article.
That said, I have noticed that although most apps will only save in JPEG a little processing of a TIFF file in an external app and subsequent save to JPEG has little impact on the quality of the image. The key issue is to get the best quality image at the outset and then monitor it’s clarity if post processing is carried out.
Get the iPhone photography Macro equipment
I hope you enjoyed my iPhone photography musings and thoughts on the joys of Macro iPhoneography. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you again.
I was honoured to allow Andy Butler of the iPhone, iPad and Android magazine Mobiography and Joanne Carter of The App Whisperer to republish my article on Macro photography using an Olloclip.
To coincide with the republishing I thought I would take the opportunity to add three more Olloclip Macro images to my article.
These images were textured and distressed slightly in Mextures and then processed using the Pinhole camera preset in CameraBag 2. I therefore add those iPhone photography apps to this article.
Skipology – iPhone Macro photography using an Olloclip republished by Mobiography
Mobiography, the digital magazine specific for mobile phone photography reaches its first anniversary this week.
The niche bi-monthly magazine, which has featured leading iPhone photographers, Dilshad Corleone, Jennifer Bracewell, Sarah Jarrett and Richard ‘Koci’ Hernandez, has built a loyal following and consistently achieves a five-star rating in the app store.
Mobiography first launched onto the shelves of the Apple Newsstand 12 months ago and at the time was only available to iPad users. Since then increasing interest has prompted the magazine to release an iPhone version and more recently onto Android. This makes the magazine available to everyone with a keen interest in mobile phone photography.
We’ve had some pleasing results in the magazine’s infancy and have witnessed a growing demand for the education of this style of photography.
The multi-platform launch has enabled Mobiography to reach a wider audience and create the highest quality of content by tapping in to knowledge of experts.
Publisher, Andy Butler
Thank you Andy. I’m honoured to be part of this special edition.
Mobiography Magazine – competition
To mark Mobiography’s first birthday, the magazine has launched a competition for one lucky reader to win two detachable mobile phone lenses, one fish-eye lens and one wide angle/macro lens. To enter, simply download Mobiography from the app store or Google Play, install the app and complete the entry form inside the anniversary edition.
Skipology – iPhone Macro photography using an Olloclip republished by TheAppWhisperer
We’re delighted to publish this fabulous tutorial by Paul Brown. Paul takes us through his first steps and discoveries with macro photography using the Olloclip 4 in 1 lens. He explains and shares eloquently all that he has learned during the process. He talks about additional hardware, supports to aid sharp images as well as file formats and apps, we’re quite sure our readers will find this invaluable. We have included links to all the products within this post.
Thank you Joanne. Read the article in full at TheAppWhisperer here.
Joanne Carter is the Founder and Editorial Director of TheAppWhisperer.com. A Professional Photographer and Associate of the British Industry of Professional Photographers, BIPP, as well as a Professional Journalist, specializing in Technology. A contributor to National and International publications, including DPreview.com, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Professional Photographer, NikonPro, Graphix, Digital Arts, Readers Digest, Popular Photography & Imaging and Which? consumer magazine and ePhotozine.com. Joanne was also a Lead and Group overall Judge for the Mobile Photo Awards.