You’ve probably seen incredible close-up photos – aka macro images – of snowflakes and thought to yourself: how did they do that? In many cases, photographers are using special microscopic cameras to capture these extreme close-ups of Mother Nature’s fluffy white stuff but it’s not essential.
In fact, you can capture gorgeous macro images of snowflakes with your smartphone. You just need to know a few do-it-yourself (DIY) tricks. Charlie Engelman of World by Charlie explains how in the below video, noting that all you need is a bobby pin, some tape, a pair of pliers and a cheap laser pointer.
For the laser pointer, Engelman recommends buying one of those inexpensive pet toy laser pointers for dogs and cats. He found one for just $3 at his local grocery store. Once you’ve gathered everything together, here’s his step-by-step process for the extreme macro lens hack.
Step 1: Unscrew the top of the laser point and locate its tiny plastic lens
Step 2: Use pliers to break away plastic casing surrounding lens so you can remove it from laser pointer
Step 3: Insert lens onto end of bobby pin
Step 4: Feel surface of lens to find side that curves/bubbles outward
Step 5: Place laser pointer lens over smartphone lens with the curved/bubbled side facing up
Step 6: Tape bobby pin to phone so it keeps laser pointer lens in place
Once you’ve completed those steps, you’re all set to start shooting snowflakes. Engelman offers a few tips to help you get the best close-up shots with this smartphone lens hack.
Tip 1: Line up lens on top of a snowflake
Tip 2: Snap a batch of photos of the same snowflake: many will be blurry, but a few will be sharp. Keep the sharp ones and trash the rest
Tip 3: Buy two laser pointers in case you lose one of the tiny lenses in the snow
Tip 4: For best photos, clear a surface, sprinkle snow on it, and steady smartphone camera on surface before you shoot
Engelman’s short tutorial is both instructional and educational. He gives good background info on the different types of snowflakes you will find including plate-type snowflakes and dendrite flakes and explains how they’re formed.
And, of course, no two snowflakes are exactly alike so once you master his technique, keep shooting and shooting until the snow melts. If you’re looking for more winter photography advice, check out these five tips for photographing snowy scenes.