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Tilt Shift Photography Tutorial and Showcase

Tilt Shift Photography Tutorial and Showcase

Written 5 years ago by Mark Evans

Contrary to popular belief, tilt shifting is actually not the process of making a scene look like it is miniature. This is only one of a few effects that can be produced by using a tilt shift lens, which actually has some practical applications other than producing cool mini worlds.

How 'Shifting' corrects perspective

How 'Shifting' corrects perspective

Tilt-shift usually refers to the tilting of the lens, relative to the film, or sensor, while using a large aperture to produce a very shallow depth of field. In other words, the lens can be tilted such that, only a small portion of the image is in sharp focus. Usually the lens rotates, which is called Tilt and can also move parallel to the film or sensor, which is called Shift.

Shift is used to alter the perspective of an image, and is frequently used in architectural photography to correct ‘converging lines’ (try looking up at a tall building and you’ll see the sides converging together into the distance) so that buildings look more upright. In fact there are many other applications that use Tilt-shifting for aspects other than making a scene look like it is miniature. Although, that one particular effect is what has made Tilt-Shifting so prominent in todays photography, and who wouldn’t love to feel like a God and create their own little world!

Tilt Shift Photography: Miniatures

Tram by teppistella

Tram by teppistella

Tokyo by pinboke

Tokyo by pinboke

Serpentine by harald_kirr

Serpentine by harald_kirr

Machu Picchu by elkenoda

Machu Picchu by elkenoda

Football by fadeddays

Football by fadeddays

Eiffel Tower by arnarbi

Eiffel Tower by arnarbi

Construction by WatchinDworldGoBy

Construction by WatchinDworldGoBy

Cars by karmajaxx

Cars by karmajaxx

Cape of Good Hope by elkenoda

Cape of Good Hope by elkenoda

Harvard Book Store by azripal

Harvard Book Store by azripal

Tilt Shift Photography: Architecture

Venus over GOMA by Lumiere

Venus over GOMA by Lumiere

Spirits of the New Year by WarzauWynn

Spirits of the New Year by WarzauWynn

Just a Dream by markhadden69

Just a Dream by markhadden69

Goma by NRG Smith Photography

Goma by NRG Smith Photography

Photo by jeffreywithtwof

Photo by jeffreywithtwof

Photo by sgrais

Photo by sgrais

Faking Tilt Shift Photographs in Photoshop

Do you want to know how to create your own miniaturisation in Photoshop? Here’s a quick and easy tutorial explaining how to do that.

Step 1

Open your image in Photoshop. Some images work better than others here. Generally, images that look down on a scene from a height work better, because it gives the viewer the feeling of looking down onto a created model, which is a good starting point for the effect we want to achieve.

Step 2

Select Quick Mask Mode by pressing Q on your keyboard and select the Gradient tool. Make sure your settings are the same as here:

tutgrad

In particular, make sure the ‘Reflected Gradient’ is selected.

Step 3

Now draw out a vertical line for the width of your gradient. You may have to experiment a bit here to get it right, or you could try a gradient on angle for a different effect. This area should turn red, and this will be the part of your image that is in focus.

Step 4

Hit Q to exit quick mask mode. Now two areas should be selected on your image. These will be the areas that we are going to blur. Click on Filter->Blur->Lens Blur. Make sure ‘Invert’ is NOT ticked and that your settings are similar to this:

blurset

Increasing the radius setting increases the blur, tweak it until you are happy and click OK.

Step 5

Now let’s get rid of those selection areas by pressing Ctrl-D. At this point your image should be looking vaguely like a miniature world, but I usually find that adding a Contrast layer and increasing the contrast makes it look better. You can also try adding a Saturation layer and increasing the Saturation. After adding these layers and tweaking the settings a bit you should have your very own mini world!

Here’s a tip for you – Try miniaturising your own home by finding it on Multimap, and clicking on the ‘Birds Eye’ button, which gives a nice perspective for miniaturising your house. Turn off road labels, take a screen-shot, paste into Photoshop, follow the instructions above from step 1, then when your miniature is finished, send it to us and we’ll showcase the best of them!

Taking Tilt Shift Photographs Without Cheating

Canon TS-E 24mm

Canon TS-E 24mm

Real Tilt-Shift photography requires, not surprisingly, a Tilt-Shift Lens. Nikon produced the very first Tilt-Shift lens in 1961 and is still a major player in todays market, along with Canon, which produces TS-E 24mm, 45mm and 90mm lenses, and Nikon producing its ‘Perspective Control’ lenses at 24mm, 45mm, and 85mm.

Using these lenses are pretty straight forward, all you need to know is what effect you want; use the lens’ Tilt function and large aperture to get a very small area in focus for creative shots, or alternatively if you’re photographing trees, or buildings or anything tall that you have to angle your camera up at to get in the frame, make use of the lenses Shift feature to bring the perspective back into line and have the subject looking upright and not like its about to fall over! Granted, these lenses are definitely not cheap, but if you’re into photographing buildings, getting creative with your focus/creating miniature scenes, or just serious about getting your perspective right, then a Tilt-Shift lens is for you.

Buy Tilt Shift Lenses

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Comments
Ilan  5 years ago

Great examples and fun read.
I should try it myself…
Glad to find your blog :)

Lee Milthorpe  5 years ago

Hey Ilan, good to know you enjoyed the post!

I’ll be interested to see your tilt shift attempts :)

Abhilash  5 years ago

Hi,

This is a nice and simple article. I have recently started paying more attention to my photos and tilt shifting is something that I have been trying for the last few weeks.

A few on my sample are in my profile link.

T Edwards  5 years ago

I have ALWAYS wondered how those “miniature” pictures were done. I never even knew what they were called. This is a really cool post and I tried out the Photoshop “cheater” method. I’ll send it in.

Very cool post!

Vivek  5 years ago

Brilliant. I am loving your blog. It’s a great resource.

Mark  5 years ago

Great Topic!!!!!!

Steph  5 years ago

Fantastic – can’t wait to try the ‘cheat’ – just wish I could go out and buy one of the lenses!

tanya25m  5 years ago

Will have to make do with the cheat — until I can affort the lenses!!

Niklas  5 years ago

Thanks for the insight! I’m thinking of buying a shift-lens for my Olympus OM4. Will that help me at all making good looking miniature scenes or could I buy a cheaper wideangle-lens just as well?

Mark Evans  5 years ago

Hi Niklas, a tilt-shift lens will give you that ‘miniature’ look you’re after, while with a wide angle lens, you cant get the same effect unless you cheat a little bit, and put the effect in afterwards in photoshop.

Eva  4 years ago

love the cape of good hope one… been there so many times and it is still stunning.

great post, keep up the good work.

cheerio eva
@friendsofdesign

Susan  4 years ago

Uniqlo.com has a calendar app that features a short stream of tilt-shift movies of daily life in Japan. The scenes are often captured in time lapse as well as tilt-shift, and I find the results fascinating. Requires Flash to view though. I found it as a gadget for iGoogle. http://www.google.com/ig/adde?moduleurl=http://www.uniqlo.com/calendar/sns/igoogle/xml/yUjppRR31Alziy1wnpWR.xml&source=imag

Phil  3 years ago

Stumbled across these “miniatures” while browsing Flickr looking for tilt-shift correction photo’s and was mesmorized.
Great tutorial, many thanx

jason  3 years ago

just bought a lensbaby 3G (control freak) It’s pretty awesome Cheaper alternative to the canon tilt-shift

Evangeline  3 years ago

Saw Gulliver’s travel last night and the into was cool. The video was captured in time lapse tilt shift effect similar to what Susan said. Pretty cool. I tried the cheat and like what the author said only works on certain images. I used my 70-200mm lens and did the cheat…wasn’t bad but of course its not as effective as using a true tilt shift lens. It was fun to try though. Great post!

Giant  3 years ago

Wish I could tilt-shift my innards.

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