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[Tips & Tutorials] MIUI Photography Classroom Lesson 3: Macro Photography, the Smartphone way Pt. 1

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20:40, Aug-20-2014 | From PC
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Macro Photography,
the Smartphone way Part 1

A good day to all! Before the start of today's lesson, I would like to introduce a guest writer for the MPC series. He is non other than @jenz1! I'm sure many of you have be enthralled by his photographic skills using just a puny smartphone. In the spirit of sharing, Jenz1 will show us unselfishly, how he makes the photos happen. So without further ado, read on for the fantastic Macro Photography, the Smartphone way Part 1!

If you're interested in sharing your expertise with us, feel free to contact me!

- allakazoo



Of all the photography styles, I enjoy macro photography the most. Macro photography has a way of making ordinary things look extraordinary. It shifts our perspective on the world and the subjects we shoot, it makes mundane things seem fascinating and amazingly cool. You will never run out of subjects when you favour macro photography.

What is Macro-Photography? Simply put, they are images taken from a close distance, with a very shallow focal length, showing great detail and often isolating the subject from the background.

Here’s a sample:
IMG_20140807_074715.jpg
(All photos in this thread is taken by @jenz1 with his Mi 3.)

Got you interested? Let’s take a closer look, shall we? Pun intended : )
There are two ways we can take macro photos using our mobile phone. The first, is by using the macro mode on our phone setting and the second, is via a macro-lens attachment. Both can be used interchangeably while shooting a subject and will definitely turn-up some interesting photos for you.

In this 2-part tutorial, I hope to pass along not just my technical knowledge, but also my passion for macro photography.

There are some basic rules when shooting macros, this is true for both with and without macro lens attachment.

Keep it steady
In macro mode, your slightest movement is amplified. You’ll need to prevent camera shake as much as possible. Here are 3 suggestions to keep your photos nice and sharp.

1. Before pressing the shutter button, inhale and then exhale slowly till your lungs are empty. Hold still. In that moment before your next inhale cycle, release the shutter.
2. Prop your elbow or finger on something sturdy so your arms don’t move from the weight of your phone. Tucking in your elbows against your body also helps.
3. Get a Tripod. There are now tripods being sold with mobile phone holders or mounts and are relatively cheap. This is the best and steadiest solution.

The Best Time to Shoot
As a rule of thumb, (for outdoor settings) it’s always best to shoot during early morning, around 6 – 8 AM and afternoon, 4 – 6 PM. During this time, insects are at their most calm state. They are less agitated and would almost always welcome you to take their photographs. For indoor settings though, you should be more concerned with lighting than anything else. Macro shots works best with good lighting conditions and there’s no problem with that outdoors, but indoors, such is not the case.

Places and Objects to Shoot
There is a certain feeling to macro photography that is zen-like and intimate. It gets you close to your subject and lets you see all the details and makes you appreciate small wonders all around us. A garden is a good place to start and flowers are a good subject. They offer great colors and variations. Plus, they keep absolutely still!
IMG_20140726_063147 (Large).jpg
macro mode only
IMG_20140726_063320 (Large).jpg
with macro lens attachment

Macro Photography via Macro Mode (no lens attachment)
Before we dive into macro-photography, let us first understand some basic features available to us on our phone. To get started, Launch you camera app, hit the menu key (3 horizontal stripes) and go to Settings>Advance settings and turn off simple mode. Hit the back button twice and you are back to the view finder. You will now notice a few changes when you hit the menu button. Find the [+] icon, that’s where you’ll find Macro Mode. Tap on that and you’re ready to go. I usually keep other settings at auto and just post-process after.

Macro mode has a limited range and can only focus on an object around 5-3 inches away from you. Closer than 3 inches IS possible but the camera would have a hard time focusing. But you’re welcome to try ^__^
One thing good about the MIUI camera is that it has a 6.06x maximum zoom. Which is actually quite rare for a phone. Needless to say though, it really not advisable to use digital zoom, but in some rare cases this can be an advantage. I will discuss this later.

Macro Mode Outdoors
Shooting outdoors is the most ideal since you won’t lack for subjects, (insects, flowers, dew drops, leaves, twigs, grass, soil, everything is fair game) and above all, there’s sufficient light courtesy of the sun ^__^

Here are a sample of a macro mode only shot (no zoom. cropped via Pixlr)
IMG_20140807_072128_1 (Large).jpg

There’s no particular skills necessary here, just get up close, focus on your subject and shoot. Of course, there is still composition, but I’ll save that for the next tutorial (teehee). Right now it would be best to just shoot whatever you fancy.
Shooting Indoors
Now this is where It gets a bit challenging. Indoors lacks sufficient light. But there are things you can do indoors that would still be quite fulfilling like these sample images:
IMG_20140706_122456 (Large).jpg

IMG_20140804_114730_1 (Large).jpg

Of course you are not limited to just office objects, you can also shoot food using macro mode and get some pleasant images. Just don’t forget. When Indoors, good lightning is imperative.
As you may have heard countless times, digital zoom IS crap. I would loosely quote Uncle Ben here: “With great zoom, comes great noise.” Hehe. But as I’ve mentioned earlier, there are rare cases where you can actually use it. Here is a shot of a jumper spider, it just dropped on my work station, moseyed around like I wasn’t there. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my macro lens handy so I did what I had to do. I shot with a digital zoom.

Surprisingly, here’s what I got:
IMG_20140710_133349.jpg
Macro Mode and 6.06x digital zoom

My Mi3 exceeded my expectations here. For an indoor shot with low light and at 6.06x zoom, It turned-out pretty well.

By now, you would have figured out that you can touch the part of the screen where you want to focus. This works great for large subjects like flowers or animals but can be pretty tricky if your subject is thin like vines or very small insects.
IMG_20140807_072154 (Large).jpg
You would find it difficult to focus on object this thin.

The trick is to first focus on a leaf or a large object which is at a distance similar to your subject. In this case, I would first focus on the leaf on the left, then slowly shift the camera to the spider’s web. It takes a while for the camera to change focus, so we can use that to our advantage here.

Well, that’s about it, for this tutorial. Next week, I’ll talk a little about composition in macro photography and shooting with a Macro Lens attachment (Yey!). This is where it gets really amazing folks, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading!

Just to whet your appetite, here are some samples of macro photographs with the macro lens attachment. Enjoy and stay tuned for Part 2! ^__^
IMG_20140808_073433.jpg

IMG_20140208_133638_3452481283_2 (Large).jpg

jumper 062502 (Large).jpg

IMG_20140708_071352.jpg

Previous Lessons:

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nomatchoftome Really Nice tips I am getting pro in photography  02:53, Aug-22-2014

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16:01, Aug-21-2014 | From PC
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This post was edited by jenz1 at 12:15, Aug-22-2014

After making this tutorial, I've been experimenting a lot with my Mi3 and learned more about its capabilities.I tried using it at high noon with very bright sunlight and got these images. (I' find myself using my macro lens far lesser these days hehe)

Settings: Manual Focus / 3x Digital Zoom / ISO at auto and exposure at auto (NO macro lens attachment)





The good thing about using macro mode / manual focus only is that your camera doesn't have a "circular focus" rather, it keeps the full frame focused and sharp. This is specially useful if you have two small subject that's far apart and want both to be in-focus


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12:07, Aug-21-2014 | From PC
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Super! Thank you @jenz1 and @allakazoo!!!

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nice one

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12:11, Aug-21-2014 | From PC
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Its a bit tough but worth learning

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nice share
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12:17, Aug-21-2014 | From PC
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Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you for this series! I sure did learn more about unleashing the power of photography.

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haha nice info very good shots as well

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