It seems a week doesn’t go by without discovering a new (to me!) capability of my Smartphone camera. I’ve had my iPhone 7+ for just about two years, and I am still amazed by what the camera can do. Not that I believe these capabilities are just limited to the iPhone. I use it as an example simply because I have one.

I believe one of the camera’s most amazing capabilities is the ability to take close-up photos. I first got a feel for this by taking photos of appliance model and serial number tags. They seem to be located in the most difficult places to read. I found I could hold the camera over the tag and take a photo from a distance as close as just a few inches! I’ve also found the camera very useful in taking photos of hard to reach areas, looking for leaks, etc., around engines or appliances.

So this led me to look at how well the camera would do on close-ups that might be “suitable for framing,” or at least, posting on the internet. The answer, at least for me, is it works very well! I’ve taken photographs of flowers, bees in flight, butterflies, a wasp floating on the surface of our pool and even a video of a spider spinning a web at night!

Taking close-up photos can be challenging, even when using a conventional digital camera. My first recommendation is to take lots of photos. When photographing moving subjects, such as insects, many images will likely be out of focus. At these close distances, your depth of sharpness may be as little as 1/8”. Be sure your subject is well-lit and sharp, as you will likely want to crop your photos to bring out more detail. Don’t use the digital zoom to enlarge your subject. It is much better to use the crop tool in your in-phone photo editing software.

On the subject of cropping, smartphone cameras designed in the past few years have image sensors large enough to allow cropping your image to ¼ to 1/6 of the original size. If your image is very sharp and well-lit, it’s possible to crop an even smaller part of the photo. Again, having a sharp and well-lit subject is key to getting a useable image. Do not expect to have a cropped image as sharp as the un-cropped photo, however you will likely be surprised at how well the result can turn out.

As I have said many times before, the key to getting really good photos is, practice, practice, practice. This is especially true with close-ups. Take lots of photos with subjects that are well-lit, preferably outdoors, and then review these photos on the larger screen of your computer. Taking closeups with your smartphone can be challenging, but I’ve found it can also be a lot of fun!

Space constraints make it difficult to include detailed info in these articles. If you want more info on any of the topics covered in this column, have general questions or comments, or an idea for a future column, please send me an email at I want and need your feedback to make sure this column is relevant and worth reading in future issues of Saddlebag Notes.

Jim has a Fine Arts degree with a major in Photography and more than 50-year’s experience in a wide range of photographic disciplines.