No tilt-shift lens? No problem! How to create a miniature tilt-shift effect using Adobe Photoshop
posted Wednesday, August 21, 2019 at 4:30 PM EDT
With a tilt-shift lens, you can use the lens' unique design to do all sorts of interesting things, including creating a miniature, toy-like image. Tilt-shift lenses are specialized photographic tools, often used by architecture photographers to ensure that the lines in their images are straight. When shooting a building, for example, it's almost always the case that you are looking up at a building. If you tilt your camera upward with a traditional lens, the lines of the building will angle in toward the center of the frame rather than be straight. A tilt-shift lens allows you to point your camera straight on and keep your sensor parallel with the face of the camera while shifting the lens rather than pointing the camera upward. This is the "shift" part of a tilt-shift lens.
The other aspect of a tilt-shift lens, the tilting, allows you to change the focal plane of the lens. A traditional lens' focal plane is always parallel to the image sensor. However, with a tilt-shift lens, you can angle the focal plane. This allows you to keep different areas (think foreground versus background) of an image in focus. Alternatively, instead of capturing more of a scene in focus, you can also tilt the lens to make the focal plane very narrow, even when shooting at wide angles. This results in the "miniature" effect I mentioned earlier. Tilt-shift lenses are often expensive and are specialized lenses, so is it possible to recreate this type of effect using only Photoshop? As Aaron Nace of Phlearn shows in his latest video, yes, it is. Before starting the video below, you can follow along by downloading the sample image he uses by clicking here.
Digitally creating a miniature effect in Photoshop is quite easy, but there are important things to keep in mind to ensure your results are realistic and do a convincing job of recreating an actual tilt-shift lens. For the maximum impact, you want to ensure that you apply this effect to images which have good amounts of detail at the bottom and top of the frame. Nace also recommends using this effect on images which are shot from a high perspective, such as from a tall building looking down at a city, for example. With these considerations in mind, it's time to see how to actually recreate a tilt-shift effect in Photoshop. To see how, watch the full Phlearn video below.