Tilt Shift Photography

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

There isn’t anything particularly special about tilt shift photography, but ask a discerned, professional photographer and you will see their eyes light up!
The real purpose of the tilt shift lens is to extend the depth of field in the genres of architecture and photography. Also known as miniature faking, tilt shift photography is a photographic genre that has gained popularity in the last few years only. Basically, it means taking pictures in a way that miniaturizes the subjects or objects being photographed. So it looks like that the photograph taken is that of a miniature model even though it is actually an image on a life-size, full-scale object.
Tilt shift are actually the type of lenses used to take picture with this effect, and hence the name tilt-shift photography. Although, these days many are using web-based picture editors as well as Photoshop to create the same effect in their photographs mainly because tilt-shift lenses aren’t affordable for everyone. Adobe Photoshop along with some internet based picture editors also perform a decent enough job of producing the tilt-shift effect on photographs.
Using Photoshop to create this effect in photographs is easy enough for a novice to pick up. And iPhone even has an app for those who want to do some tilt-shifts on the go! But all the various options inspire one question: can they do it as good as the lens itself?

Vacation SpotThe answer to that is quite complicated. The quality of the ultimate product also depends on the photograph. And once photo is finalized for the effect to be applied, the tilt shift must be applied at the right place to create a beautiful miniaturized effect. Here are some characteristics of a perfect tilt-shift photograph:

1. The photo should be taken from above, but not directly overhead. This is something that a photographer would do when taking the photo of a miniature. Overhead shots don’t provide the depth of field required for tilt shift photographs.

2. Choose a simple scene to shoot. There aren’t many tilt shift photos of densely packed city blocks. Miniatures are simple, with a very few people or cars up-close in the shot, if any. And since the idea here is to replicate that forlorn feeling, it is important to find scenes that have very little going on in them.

3. Make sure that the photo is lit perfectly and sharpness is good as well.

4. Photo sharpness is a must, as well as good lighting. The tilt shift effect will add blur in the photo as it is, so it is very important that your focal point is sharp for the photograph to turn out perfectly.

5. If, by chance, there are people in your scene, make sure that they are really far away, obscure and small. Remember the concept of miniature photographs and make sure that there aren’t any well-detailed people or animals in your photo.

6. Try to avoid wide shots and instead, concentrate on the details of the “things” in your scenery.
City View
If you haven’t used the lens to take the photos, it is time to apply some Photoshop tricks to create tilt-shift affect on the photograph. Once you have usable, tilt-shift worthy photo here is a brief overview of all this involved in making it surreal and dreamy. More detailed tutorials are available online but putting one here is out of the scope of this post.

Determine a point of interest, i.e. the focus of the photo. After that, create mask and use the gradient tool to select what is to remain in focus. Then the lens blur filter is applied. Do these steps a couple of times till a satisfactory blur effect is achieved. When done right, the miniaturization effect becomes evident. Increase Master Saturation by 30% selecting the colors you want to pop out of the picture. And lastly the Curve tools can be used to enhance the contrast of the tonal highlights in the photo.
Tilt shift photos can be mesmerizing and creating them can provide hours of fun. Practice to get perfect and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

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