There’s a certain thrill in shooting objects up close with a macro lens. One snap and suddenly a coin, a chess piece, a drop of rain, or a caterpillar seems larger than life.

Traditionally, macro photography required a SLR camera and a specialized lens that could cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars up into the thousands. But recently, smartphone add-on macro lenses have come on the market, and they are affordable enough to serve as a holiday gift or spontaneous splurge.

Now, a new option from Olloclip provides multiple magnifications that let smartphone owners push further into macro shooting.

The company is one of several that arm photographers with a range of easy-to-use lenses that clip onto their smartphone cameras. (Competitors include Photojojo and Moment.) Olloclip has already offered macro photography in two magnifications in its 4-in-1 lens kit, which also includes wide-angle and fisheye options.

But now the company has expanded its arsenal to include a $70 Macro Pro Lens kit that triples down on this kind of photography. The package provides three magnifications: 7x, 14x, and a truly powerful 21x. 

This is a composite photo of four views of a dime.
I shot the top photos with Olloclip's 21x magnification lens and the bottom ones with the 14x. Note the shallow depth of field.
Photo: Terry Sullivan

Tips for Macro Photography

When you use macro lenses, you get a very shallow depth of field. That means only a thin section of the photo will be in focus. But you can use this to create some dramatic effects. For instance, if you’re shooting someone’s face with a macro lens, you’ll want to make sure the most important features—like, say, the eyes—are in focus. You may need to experiment to see what works best with different shots.

In the days of 35mm-film cameras, a 1x magnification (or 1:1 ratio) meant the resulting image would be the same size as the real-life object. If you shot a dime, it would look just like a dime. As you moved up to 2x or 3x magnification, you doubled or tripled the size of the object. Suddenly, the word LIBERTY really begins to stand out.

This is a composite photo of four views of a dime.
The top two photos were shot with Olloclip's 7x magnification lens. The bottom two were photographed with no clip-on lens.
Photo: Terry Sullivan

Instead of a standard 35mm frame of film, though, camera phones capture images on sensors of varying sizes. So one phone may produce different images than another, even with the same Olloclip lens. But regardless of the phone you use, you’ll end up with a dramatic effect.

This is a macro photo of a blue M&M candy.
I shot this blue M&M candy using the 14x magnification lens. Again, there's a very shallow depth of field.
Photo: Terry Sullivan

Of course, the big benefit of shooting digital is that you can fire off hundreds of photos at a time. Take your time and experiment a lot. Just be sure to back up your smartphone photos—preferably after deleting the ones you don't like.

This is a photo of an Apple iPhone 6s, an Olloclip Macro Lens and M&M candy.
The Olloclip also comes with a diffuser—a small, white, translucent tube that fits around the lens and lets you evenly illuminate small subjects.
Photo: Terry Sullivan

Shooting with a macro lens outside can be a challenge, particularly if you’re shooting flowers on a windy day. The slightest hand movement or breeze can alter the focus. So you'll want to keep your phone stable, ideally on a tripod. Sometimes it's better to bring your subjects indoors. In a pinch, though, you can try to block the wind with a large sheet of cardboard.

This is a macro photo of a leaf.
I shot this brown leaf using the 21x magnification lens.
Photo: Terry Sullivan

Overall, I found the Olloclip kit to work very well. The Macro Pro Lens features an updated design that lines up with the phone’s front- and rear-facing cameras so you can quickly shift from one to the other. The kit also comes with a light diffuser that fits around the lenses and illuminates your subject, which is another nice extra.

The Olloclip is compatible with most iOS phones and tablets. It's also compatible with some Samsung Galaxy S phones.

For more tips like these, check out our pieces on how to take great photos with a smartphone and smartphone camera apps.

This is a photo of an Apple iPhone 6s and an Olloclip Macro Lens
This accessory lens fits easily over the edge of your phone. All you need to do is make sure you line up the accessory lens with your phone's lens.
Photo: Terry Sullivan