Macro photos on a budget: what you'll need to shoot with your iPhone

Pen nibs, features, textures... all of these things look way better under a microscope so to speak... or "macro"-scope?... Bad joke, but hey.

I really like to see macro shots of various fountain pen nibs and inks, but how do you get REALLY close without spending an arm and a leg for a decent camera and macro lens? Better yet, how can you do this with your iPhone?

Photo taken with Nikon DSLR (non macro lens)

Photo taken with Nikon DSLR (non macro lens)

For most of my reviews I have a Nikon DSLR that I work with which allows for nice depth of field and clear shots, but sometimes I want to take some quick macro shots with my phone, but traditionally, most phones are total garbage if you want a nice, crisp, really good close up.

Photo taken with iPhone (with loupe)

Photo taken with iPhone (with loupe)

What about in the dark? What do I do then because the picture will get all gritty, but if I use a lamp then I'll get reflections?

I really enjoy sharing these shots and wanted to put together a little tutorial for anyone that may want to take a stab at this themselves.

What You'll Need:

- desk lamp (preferably the kind that you can bend in close)
- "daylight" bulb around 75w which is the pure white spectrum... no yellow incandescent stuff
- a piece of "smoky" vellum around 12"x12" or so (Hobby Lobby sells bigger sheets)
- jewelers loupe at least 10x (10x is good)
- your favorite fountain pen
- simple photo editing app on your phone (Aviary, PhotoToaster...)

All in all, this stuff might cost you around $30 (not including the pen), so wont really break the bank, but will be fun. And, a loupe and lamp are good to have anyway, so easy justification!

Using the Loupe

The loupe acts as our macro lens as many of our phones don't have the best macro features. Some newer phones are progressing in close up type shots, but my phone (those dang contracts...) is lacking.

The closest "clear"-ish shot I can get with my phone

The closest "clear"-ish shot I can get with my phone

It'll take some practice, but you'll get it. And, try and keep your fingers out of the shot as they will reflect off of the nib...

Whats with the Vellum?

The vellum is used to act as a diffuser of the light hitting the nib. Without it, reflection city.

You'll need to either attach or prop up your small sheet of vellum directly under your lamp so the light bulb isn't "visible" to the nib or pen. The other reason we tape or prop up the vellum is so we can hold the loupe with one hand and the phone with the other.

Also, turn off any other lights in the room. 

With and Without Vellum Examples

So what does the vellum really do?

Unedited no vellum

Unedited no vellum

Unedited with vellum

Unedited with vellum

Even without editing the photo, the vellum creates a uniform reflection over the surface, allowing the stamping, tines, and any scrolling to be more visible. Pretty sweet, right?

Editing App

Editing photos is not bad, but overly doctoring them CAN be a bit awkward. #nofilter right?

Even though our photo with the vellum turned out pretty good, a little touch up in the photo editing app can improve the sharpness, shadows, saturation, contrast, by just a smidge to make it better.

No edit

No edit

Slight edit

Slight edit

Easy as that!

I hope this post gives a little direction on how to get fun macro shots on your favorite pen, and I'm excited to see what you come up with! Tag me on Instagram @clickypost so I can see your work.

Big Giveaway WINNER! And 10% off Promo for ATELEIA, Doane Paper, and Dudek Modern Goods

We had a great response for the ATELEIA, Doane Paper, and Dudek Modern Goods giveaway and thanks to all that entered! And the winner of is:

Congrats, Tyler! Connect with me through the Contact page to claim your prizes.


Also, ATELEIA, Doane Paper, and Dudek Modern Goods wanted to run a special short term promo for 10% off goods in our stores using the promo code CLICKYPOST.

Offer is good for 10% off any pens or pen sleeves through ATELEIA and anything in the Doane Paper or Dudek Modern Goods stores through September 27th! 

Blok Notebook - Grid Blok by Blok Books

I was contacted recently by the folks over at Blok Books about reviewing one of their products and I'm looking forward to sharing some thoughts.

A neat fact, Blok Books is actually a company local to me and the books are produced right here in Phoenix by a small bookbinder which is pretty cool. Small business is awesome.

The Blok products are centered around design and experience. The owners of the company, David Rengifo and Steve Smit, are both artists and designers so they seemed to know what they wanted.

The first noticeable features are the sharp edges and orange accents. The cover of the books are a thick laminated card stock with a matte finish with an embossed "BLOK" logo. Orange looks great as an accent. A bit flashy, but fits the overall style and branding of the books so well. These look like they are produced by a company much larger than they are which is a compliment. When a smaller company can produce locally made products as sharp as these, that is a huge win and accomplishment. 

Rather than the binding being glued like most comparable books on the market, these are sewn and bound in a process called "Smythe Sewn" which allows the book to lay completely flat and the pages won't fall out.

When I say "flat", I mean flat. I don't think I've used a notebook that actually fulfills on this claim as well as Blok. 

The book also comes with an elastic strap to keep it closed which is similar to that of a Moleskine or Leuchtturm 1917 books, but without the "faux" leatherette type of material on the covers. It doesn't feel quite as soft as these others, but the book begs to be used.

There is a small square in the spine section of the cover that allows for a clicky pen to accompany you with the book. There is even a space between the pages and the edge of the cover so it will fit and not bend anything.

The book comes with 128 pages that are just about an A5 size. 

I opted for the "Grid Blok" which is a dot pattern. The dots are a subtle grey and easy to follow. I went directly to fountain pens for my initial tests and the book did fantastic.

I've used three different pens with different inks in the book and all performed well. Dry times were considerably long...


Most of the lines were crisp and sharp, but there were a couple of spots that barely feathered.

These books are a bit pricier than some others on the market at $25 apiece, but dang they are nice. The paper is great, the lay-flat design, good looks; lots of great features that push our buttons. I would definitely recommend them to try to a stationary junkie or someone who appreciates a nice notebook. Visit to see their selection and thanks again to Blok for sending this sample for review!