Fake Miniatures with Tilt Shift Lens

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I love to take photographs of miniatures but often I find myself not being able to locate suitable subjects that are not only found in a miniature size but that are also rich in color or have elements that would make a nice interesting photographs.

During these times I turn to a rather easy photography technique that simulates miniatures. This is done by taking a shot of a regular normal sized subjects and either digitally making it look like a miniature or using what is commonly known as a tilt-shift lens. The technique is commonly referred to as "miniature faking."

Either technique produces similar results. If using a tilt shift lens you need to take a higher angle than that of your subjects; you must appear to be looking at the subject from a high vantage point.

Optical faking with a tilt-shift lens: A tilt shift lens is a special type of lens for photography which allows the user to tilt the lens in relation to the film plane or digital sensor.

By tilting the lens, the depth of field; things that are in focus, are made to appear to be very small, which is similar to what you get when you do macro photography.

Because images of very small objects have a shallow depth of field, we tend to perceive these photographs that are taken with a tilt shift lens as being very small objects.

So bottom line, play with tilting the tilt-shift lens until the center of your scene is in focus and everything that is not in the center becomes gradually blurry as you go away from the center.

You still should be positioned at a higher plane than that of your subject since this is how most of use look at miniatures anyway.

Miniature faking with Photoshop or other digital editing software: Lens blur gives the perception of a narrower depth of field; some areas of your photographs stay in focus, and other areas become blurred. This along with an alpha channel that marks areas of blurriness, gives you a good way to create masks and make other alterations to photographs possible.

First open an image you want to apply the effect to. Select the Gradient tool.

In the toolbar, click the reflected gradient button; black for your foreground color, and white for your background color. In the channels palette, create a new channel.

Click the channel visibility icon. You will see the image that appears to be tinted in a reddish hue.

Draw a gradient starting in the middle of the image and drag almost to the to the top of the image.

Now click the R.G.B channel in the channels palette. The reddish hue that now shows on the image represents the portion of focus that will remain in the finished image. You can now make the channel you created invisible by clicking the visibility icon and that will make the reddish disappear.

Click on the layers palette, select the layer with your image on it, and type command + J to create a copy of the image on its own layer.

With the new layer selected, click on the blur which is found on the filters menu.

Click then select lens blur. You need to set the blur effect for the center of the image to zero; no blur effect is applied.

You now need to click on the radius slider and move it over halfway. You should now begin to see the "fake miniature" image start to take shape.

To finish click on the OK and you are done. To make other small adjustments such as applying an H.D.R resolution, click on the appropriate icons but make small adjustment one at a time. If you make a mistake then clicking on the invert icon will reverse the last change you made.

Using a tilt-shift lens makes the process easier and it is a first definition image, but these lenses can be expensive.

Photoshop makes the process readily viable to anyone with a computer. However Photoshop can also be expensive.

There are some free programs like Gimp which also allow you to do the technique.

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Would you consider using a tilt lens?

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© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez

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