Have you ever seen a tilt shift photo or video? It’s a fascinating photography niche whose effect can be achieved both with a specialized lens and during the editing process. 

Seeing a tilt shift video or photo makes you feel like a giant overlooking a miniature world. Even if you’re seeing a real photo with real people, it almost feels as though someone created a tiny scene. Get ready to take the plunge into the world of tilt shift photography.

tilt shift photography

What is the tilt shift effect? 

Tilt shift effect is the method of taking full scale real life scenes and making them look as though they are miniature. The tilt shift effect can be created on an editing program like photoshop and within the camera itself. When created in camera, the tilt in the lens angle creates a depth of field wedge where specific parts of your scene are in sharp focus and this area of focus drops off quickly to a blurred perspective. Tilting the camera gives you more control over where your plane of focus starts and ends.

Why does tilt shift make things look small?

Tilt shift makes things look small through the plane of focus. Ordinarily when you take a photo of an item, your plane of focus (the part of your image in focus) is perpendicular to your camera.This allows a pretty large portion of your image to be in focus all at once. With tilt shift photography, you’re narrowing the part of your image that stays in focus. It creates a narrow line of focus across your image from right to left. Anything above and below this line of focus is blurred out. It essentially mimics the way our eyes would view something smaller than us, like a mini action figure or a tiny sculpture. 

How do you take a tilt shift picture? 

tilt shift lens

 

 

There are two methods to tilt shift photography, and how you take your photo gives you a vastly different result. To start with you’re going to need a tilt shift lens in order to create the photo in camera. 

Architecture photographers use tilt shift lenses to take photos of buildings without the perspective distortion. When you take a photo of a taller building, you’ll notice the upper part of the building looks narrower to the eye than the lower part of a building. The tilt shift lens gets rid of this distortion by leaving the camera sensor level and only shifting or tilting the lens. The lens can essentially move vertically up and down independently from the camera body. The tilt effect allows the camera lens to tilt up or down, again independently from the camera body. Let’s say you’re trying to take photos of a city skyline at ground level. To avoid making the tops of buildings look narrower than the bottom you would shift the lens vertically up while keeping the camera body in place.

5 tips to take your architecture photography to the next level.

On the other hand, if you’re taking tilt shift photos of a real life cityscape, your camera body is facing forward with straight horizons, but your lens gets tilted downwards. You’re going to want to be higher than ground level to make this effect come true. Think about a giants view, they look down on everything. So if you’re in a city, head to a higher floor to capture these photos. If you’re in the country find a large hill, or cliff to help you gain the necessary height. You’re also going to need to open up your aperture as wide as possible to help get that shallow field of depth.

What is the point of a tilt shift lens?

tilt shift sports

As mentioned earlier, tilt shift lenses make a real life scene look like a miniature world. This look can be fabricated in editing software but the point of the lens is to save the time it would take to edit the photo. If you only want or need a single photo to look like this then the lens is not a worthwhile investment. In contrast, if you want many photos to have this effect, you’ll save yourself many hours of editing multiple photos by buying the lens. The same goes for architecture photographers. You’ll save yourself many editing hours of fixing the perspective distortion by taking it in camera with the tilt shift lens. Not everyone enjoys editing or is good at editing, so this lens is for those kinds of people. 

How do you tilt shift on an iPhone?

Getting a tilt shift photo in an iPhone is the same as getting one with a regular camera and an ordinary lens. The tilt shift effect is achieved in editing. However, taking the photo from the right perspective will make or break the editing. The point of a tilt shift photo is to make your scene look miniature, as though you were a giant looking down at the world. Therefore you need to take your photo from a higher elevation looking down. This might be from a higher floor of a tall building, in the topmost section of a stadium or rink, or even on a mountain side. If you took the photo on an iPhone, then there are apps dedicated to editing your photo with the tilt shift effect. Look for iPhone apps like TiltShiftGen2 or TiltShift Generator to do the work for you.

Get more tips for iPhone photography here.

How do you get the tilt shift effect in photo editing?

When you’re converting a standard photo to mimic the tilt shift effect, a photo editing program like photoshop is going to be essential. Make sure to complete any desired edits to your photo before applying the blur that mimics tilt shift. For regular edits you can use any editing program you wish and save the edited photo on your computer. If you are using lightroom to edit your photo, click on Photo > Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop. This embeds the camera raw data within the photoshop file and allows you to edit that data at any point of the photoshop process. In other words, this allows you to edit you image in a non-destructive way.

tilt shift nature

After opening the image in photoshop, create a copy of the original (background) layer. Use the keyboard shortcut ctrl+J (cmd+J on mac) to duplicate the layer. Next go to Filter > Blur Gallery > Tilt-Shift. You can adjust the placement of the blur, as well as changing how much of the photo is sharp and how much is blurred. You can also move the slider to control the amount of blur and distortion.

Should you edit in Lightroom or Photoshop?

Now you have a photo that looks like it was taken of a miniature world! We can’t wait to see what you do with your newfound knowledge! Your creativity is boundless!

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