Why do my macro shots look blurry?

When I first started taking iPhone macro shots, I was very impressed with the quality of the images. In fact, after seeing the results, I decided to use my iPhone for (almost) all of my macro photography.


Macro shot - white flower

St Johns Wort image

But, then came a problem. My macro shots suddenly became blurry!

So, how did that happen? Well, even in macro photography, if you use a longer lens, you can move further away from the subject.

The iPhone activates macro mode and highlights an icon when you move the phone’s camera close to a subject.

And, because the macro mode icon lit up when I’d selected the 3x telephoto lens, I stupidly assumed that macro mode was activated on whichever lens I’d selected.


image showing macro icon using 3x telephoto lens


To give you an idea of what the macro image quality is like, here’s an example showing a section of a memory module.

The top image is shot in ‘macro mode’ using the ultra-wide lens, the bottom using the ‘apparent’ macro mode with the 3x lens.


Macro shot original resolution


You can see that the bottom macro shot is indeed bigger, even though it was shot from further away. However… you can begin to see the lack of detail in the bottom macro shot.

If we zoom into an area, the difference is much easier to see.


Macro shot at 100%


Anyway, after I’d looked at the images, I knew at once what the problem was.

Despite what the little yellow flower icon tells you, macro mode ONLY operates on the ultra-wide, 0.5x lens!

What that means in practice, is I thought I was taking a macro shot with the 3x telephoto lens. But,  I was actually taking it with the 0.5x lens.

The camera software was then applying 6x digital zoom to my image!

So, now I felt doubly stupid, because I tell my students to read the manual before they begin to use a new camera. Clearly, I should’ve taken my own advice!

Now, I realise that the iPhone camera doesn’t come with a manual. But, at the very top of the ‘Shooting Macro’ page in the online ‘iPhone User Guide‘ it says…

Macro shots - iPhone User Guide

The moral of this story? Don’t use the telephoto lens to take macro shots! 🙂

Still, it’s 100% true that we learn from our mistakes, not our successes. So like every mistake, I’ve learnt something that I’ll never forget.

Hopefully, this post will mean you can learn it, without having to make the mistake first 🙂

Let me know in the comments if this particular issue has caused you problems (or you could boast that you DID read the manual and knew this all along).

Until next week, have fun with your smartphone photography!



Featured image courtesy of Tumisu

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