Shot with a smartphone: the intimacy of flowers

Can you go from shooting flowers with a 640mm lens on a DSLR to a smartphone and still have fun? You can bet you can. The challenges are huge, but the rewards are filling my hard-drive.

The three examples published here should give you an idea of what’s possible to create with a smartphone, and I am not even talking about those Ultra smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, with a rather appealing 230mm telephoto. No, the images you see here were created with a Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro (yes, it’s a great affordable phone from 2021) that has no telephoto. Still, I was able to create the three photos here, the results of a brief walk in the park, earlier today.

I started the day going to Samsung to check the new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, because I am trying to find out if it makes sense for me. I need some information, about close focus options with the telephoto, and the magnification ratio, something I am used to get from lenses in the normal photography world but seems hard to find out when it comes to smartphones. The information is, apparently, nowhere to be seen, and, to make things even worse, no one from Samsung gets back to me with the crucial data.

By holding the phone and focusing on some objects nearby, I’ve now an idea of how much the 230mm telephoto can reach, but I rather have a sample of the model to try under conditions I control, to photograph the subjects I am mostly interested: flowers shot my own way (or as close as a smartphone allows me) and wildlife and nature. I’ve some ideas I would like to explore, if Samsung is willing to let me have a sample to try.

Now, because I had no long telephoto to use, I left Samsung’s display room and went for a short walk in the park, exploring a new acquisition — a small tripod for shooting flowers, more about this another day — and the Redmi Note 10 Pro I am shooting with now. The images shown here are all from the 30 minutes session; I have others, but these suffice to show what’s possible, as well as document my own evolution shooting flowers in the field… with a smartphone.

Despite the Redmi Note 10 Pro having a macro mode that allows you to get close to the subject, here I am using a different approach, and one of the images was shot with macro converters (or close-up lenses) I found in my toolbox, which are originally from Lens Baby, to use in their system. Because both are 37mm in diameter, I could use them with a lens clip I use to attach lenses to the Note 10 Pro.

There are two good reasons to use the macro converters — or lenses — instead of the macro built-in the smartphone: I get to work further away from the subject and I use the wide lens camera and sensor, meaning I get 12MP images instead of the 5MP of the macro sensor. I am still exploring what the LensBaby macro converters (or close up lenses) can be used for and if they allow for more creative freedom I might consider picking my old close-up set (with +1,+2, +4 and +10) that has been on the shelf for a while and add it to the set of tools participants can try at my workshops. I just need to find an adapter to use the 52mm lenses with the 37mm thread on the lens clip.

I believe the images published here give anyone interested an idea of what’s possible to capture with a smartphone, if you’re willing to learn how to get the best out of the device. The last weeks have been exciting, moving around shooting different subjects and exploring beyond snapshots, which many believe are the only type of images smartphones are able to capture. And I am just touching the surface…

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Photography for me happens within a context, whether it is History, Nature or Myth. These notes reflect my vision when it comes to the craft.

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Jose Antunes

Jose Antunes

I am a writer and photographer based on the West coast of continental Europe, a place to see the Sun die on the Sea, every day.

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