After more than two years away, I was back at the Apple Store window on Fifth Avenue. The invitation was to join Apple in celebrating a group of amateur photographers who have mastered macro photography with Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro.
Apple finally added macro photography to its iPhone lineup last year, following in the footsteps of newer smartphones like OnePlus, which inexplicably removed the feature from its flagship One Plus 10 Pro.
Standing in the vast underground space, teaming up with Apple customers, fans and, today, photographers, it was like before.
It was, it turned out, one of the first in-person “Today at Apple” events the flagship store had held since before the pandemic, and you could feel the excitement and a slight whiff of anxiety. in the air. So much people.
Ahead of the Wednesday night ceremony, where a trio of Apple executives who mostly deal with camera technology but weren’t available to talk to me, explained why they chose the photos (and talked about the joys of macro photography) and before Apple gave contestants a chance to try macro photography on phones they didn’t (yet) own, I found two of the winners of the Apple macro photography contest and asked them how they had captured their winning images.
One of them is Tom Reeves, a tall, thin man with a broad smile who seemed eager to share with me how he photographed a snowflake on his pup’s back.
The picture was my favorite since I spent years trying to get a decent shot of a snowflake. I’ve used the OnePlus 8 Pro, macro lens attachments on previous iPhones, and a DSLR, all with varying degrees of success. Nothing I’ve done remotely resembles what Reeves captured.
“How?” I asked.
Reeves told me that he and his fiancee were out for a walk in Riverside Park in New York one morning. He explained to me that he discovered the perfect conditions for snowflake photography by reading the story of legendary photographer William Bentley who coined the phrase “No two snowflakes are the same” and wrote about the perfect conditions for snowflake photography. It’s really cold, but the temperature rises just enough to make separate, distinctive flakes. Reeve’s walk day was such a morning.
Reeves told me he watched as his pup “morphed into a little snowflake-shaped Christmas tree” and saw his opportunity. He took out the iPhone 13 Pro with one hand while holding the leash with the other, got very close – which automatically activated macro mode. The camera locked on that perfect snowflake and he took the picture.
We talked a bit about the propensity of the iPhone 13 pro camera system to switch lenses unexpectedly, which can be problematic in macro mode. Apple uses the ultra-wide lens for macro photography, but under certain conditions the wide will take over, ruining the shot. The answer, and this is how Reeves manages its macro mode, is to change the camera setting so that there’s a selectable macro mode that you can lock on or off with a simple tap.
“That’s smart,” I thought, “because I quickly changed the settings on my own iPhone 13 Pro.
This macro setting, but the way, didn’t ship with the iPhone 13 Pro but was added in a software update after users complained. To adjust your settings, go to Settings/Camera and toggle “Macro Control”.
Before talking to Reeves, I took some time with Guido Cassanelli, a charming Italian amateur photographer. Her glass macro shot was one of the most abstract and cheerful images (there were lots of close-ups of flowers). I asked him how he captured the image.
“I was walking on a beach in Italy,” he smiled and I silently wished I could start every sentence that way.
Cassanelli’s details, however, were slightly more crafted than Reeves, as he collected the colored glass from a beach in Zogali, Italy, stitched them together on the sand, splashed a little water on the glass mosaic, then got close enough to capture a macro.
The result is still pretty.
Overall, the winning images, especially those of a strawberry in a soda and a cat looking out the window (probably saw a bird), were beautiful and even striking.
I wasn’t terribly impressed with the macro capabilities of the iPhone 13 Pro, especially the default control settings, but the contest and the resulting images made me reconsider the tool. Away and in the office I tried to capture some of my own macros. They’re not quite as good, though I guess none had as much light as some of these images, which all looked sun-drenched. Apple made no mention of the amount of edits – if any – made to each of the winning shots.
Apple’s macro mode smartphone photography isn’t yet the best I’ve seen, but it shows potential. Maybe I just need to wait for the right moment, get closer and then move away.
You can see some recent unedited examples below.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro macro shot of Lance Ulanoff.