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Tilt Shift Photography

Updated on December 8, 2017

Learn how to create these fascinating images.

Tilt shift photography is a creative type of photography in which the camera lens is used to manipulate the image so that a life-sized location or subject looks like a miniature-scale model.

You can also create tilt shift images using Photoshop to manipulate your existing images.

The iconic Hollywood sign in this picture is NOT a model, it is a image of the sign which has been manipulated to look like this and to trick your brain into thinking it is a model.

Photo used under Creative Commons from dutchb0y

How Does Tilt Shift Photography Work?

Why do photos of real life appear to be like models?

These amazing tilt shift photos take a city scene or a picture of cars and transform it into what looks like a model.

This is done by the photographer, or afterwards in Photoshop or other photo editing software. The tilt shift image has a small depth of field which makes the foreground and background out of focus. This tricks your eyes into thinking that the image is of a subject that is quite close to your eyes, and so must be small, hence the interpretation that the subjects are actually models.

You can test this for yourself. Hold a finger from your left hand a few inches from you eye, then hold a finger from your right hand half that distance from your eye, and in a position where you can see both fingers.

Now focus on the finger from the left hand. You will notice that this finger is in focus and the other finger is out of focus. You will also see that the background is also out of focus - it helps if you try this with a wall or bookcase quite nearby in the background.

So when your eyes see a picture that looks like this your brain assumes the subject is quite close by, perhaps just a few inches, and so you think that what you are looking at is a model.

Some of the Photoshop techniques enhance the saturation and the sharpness of the images to give them a richer and more focussed appearence which adds to the sense of a model image.

Tilt Shift Lenses

How is this done with cameras and lenses?

Tilt and shift lenses are explained in great detail at the Northlight Images sites. In summary, the optical elements of the lens can be moved relative to the sensor (film) plane. This allows for the correction or creation of pespective and depth of field effects.

Once you understand how the lenses work and how they can be applied, you might want to read a more advanced technical explaination of how to use tilt and shift lenses to control depth of field and perspective.

Naoki Honjo is an expert in using the tilt shift lens to create his 'Small Planet' photographs which have been exhibited around the world.

Tilt Shift In Photoshop

If you can't afford the lens you can still create great shots

Using Photoshop or other photo editing tools it is quite a quick a simple process to transform any photograph into a 'model' picture.

1. Use a photo that has the subject in the middle horizontal third.

2. Apply a gradient blur from the central third to the top, and similarly from the center to the bottom of the image.

3. Sharpen the image

4. Add a touch of saturation

You are done! Well, at least you have mastered the basics. You can now start to really focus on the details and produce some stunning tilt shift images.

This tutorial uses Photoshop to take you step by step through the process. You can find plenty of other resources on-line to give further hints and tips on achieving great images using Photoshop.

Amazing Tilt Shift Video - Now this is really cool, a tilt shift view of the Hoover Dam.

Tilt Shift and Google Earth video - I like what has been done here, you get a real sense of viewing a model of a whole country

Your thoughts, comments and suggestions are appreciated...

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very informative collection. I found another website on Tilt Shift Photography. Another great hub of information for those interested.

    • iwellbc lm profile image

      iwellbc lm 5 years ago

      is there a someone who can tell me who is the first inventor of tilt-shift technique?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens. I just started playing with this effect in GIMP.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Great tips! I am blessing it!

    • gavinphotograph1 profile image

      gavinphotograph1 7 years ago

      Good read that and nice videos added. I've just started using tilt/shift at weddings, it's a cool look, I've put some online Kent Wedding Photography

    • deyanis profile image

      deyanis 7 years ago from Oz

      Amazing technique, never heard about it before. When I discovered your lens, I thought this is a lens about the tripod tilt technique. But now I learn something new. I can't wait to take few landmark pictures and manipulate it using Photoshop. Very well-informative lens. --- Blessed ---

    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 7 years ago from USA

      I have a project tilt shift will be great for. Thanks for showing me how. Blessed by a Squid Angel ~

    • javr profile image

      javr 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Fantastic effects!

    • profile image

      Myrle-Beach-Photography 7 years ago

      This is a great lens. If anyone is in the myrtle beach area, come check me out at Myrtle Beach Photography

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 8 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      This is a very interesting technique. I have not heard of it. I'll be trying this out in Photoshop ASAP. I've just come from viewing the Olympic torch as it arrived in North Vancouver. Unbelievably, I got a great picture of the torch bearer and it will lend itself to this technique. Congrats on being Giant Squid of the Day.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 8 years ago from Concord VA

      Great info! I've taken a few classes in Photoshop and am always amazed at what can be done with it!

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      I had not heard of this.. sounds interesting

    • motherbunny lm profile image

      motherbunny lm 8 years ago

      what a great lens, so interesting. You learn something new everyday with squiddy. You explained it all realy well. Jackie

    • profile image

      Andy-Po 9 years ago

      Excellent. Very interesting and well explained

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 9 years ago

      Very interesting lens, I enjoyed this alot.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 9 years ago from Western Mass

      great lens

      you can also fake it with photoshop if you were so inclined:

    • Liam Tohms profile image

      Liam Tohms 9 years ago

      [in reply to KimGiancaterino] Kim - I do like that photo, it is of such an iconic landmark that it is still instantly recognisable yet looks so different, that's why I chose it for this page. You might want to see the full size version, and more work by the photographer at

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Very informative... I wasn't aware of this trick. I live near the Hollywood sign and have taken loads of pictures of it over the years. Yours really does look like a model.

    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

    • Liam Tohms profile image

      Liam Tohms 9 years ago

      [in reply to Ramkitten] You are right, it is your brain playing a trick on you. The photographers and photoshoppers who do this are following a well defined process, no trickery involved there. I've edited my lens to clarify this. Thanks for the feedback.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 9 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Interesting. I never realized this was a "trick" per se, I just thought it was my brain playing tricks on me. I'm not a photographer but found this interesting anyway. Well-written too.