Tilt Shift Photography

Tilt-Shift photography or miniature faking is a creative technique whereby a photograph of a life-size location or object is manipulated to give an optical illusion of a photograph of a miniature scale model.

source: www.tiltshiftphotography.net

Cumberland River, Lorne
Cumberland River, Lorne from Teddys Lookout

While there are tilt-shift lenses available out there, for something that you would only do occasionally, editing an image to give a tilt-shift appearance is much more realistic cost-wise, as it involves no expensive outlay of new gear.

When creating your tilt-shift image, a couple of things improve the overall impression of a miniature scene.

  • Increase the color saturation and contrast, to simulate the bright paint often found on scale models
  • Tilt-shift photographs look best or most effective when they are taken from a high angle to simulate the effect of looking down on a miniature scene.  This works  particularly well on buildings, cars, trains and people and street scenes. It’s a balancing act… too high, and while Tilt-Shift still works you lose the effect if the objects or people appear too small.  Too low and they look too large to be miniature.  In my personal preference/experience around 5-7 floors up is optimal at around 24mm, above that you need to zoom in.  Highrise city car parks work great for this.  In the examples below – the train lines were taken at a much higher elevation and look more ‘miniature like’.

Caribbean Gardens, Melb – about three floors up

Broken Hill – about equal to 10 floors  above rail lines – zoomed in

Taking the image

Shoot the scene as you would normally, then edit using your favourite software. Once the image is to your liking, there are a few ways to achieve the tilt-shift/out of focus areas

  • Tilt-Shift Maker is a free web site where you can convert your image to tilt-shift. Upload your image, convert, and download.  Images up to 2000px are free, above that there is a fee
  • Do it step by step, in Photoshop.  A good tutorial is on Tilt-Shift Maker
  • Topaz Lens Effects it has several very good lens effect you can apply to images, one of them being Tilt & ShiftPhoto
  • Photoshop has a tilt-shift hidden in its blur gallery.  Go to Filter>Blur Gallery>Tilt Shift.  You can adjust the amount of blur, move the centre focus point to where you want it on the image, adjust distortion etc.,
Government House, Victoria from Eureka Skydeck (51 floors up and zoomed in)

For those who like time-lapse, you can also do a tilt-shift time-lapse. However, this may require the actual tilt-shift lens or advanced software. It’s worth watching the short video Miniature Melbourne by Nathan Kaso as it gives you lots of ideas of what to shoot to achieve the effect. and if you are familiar with Melbourne. where to go to get that shot.

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