Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tilt-Shift Fun

Lately I've been working on a photo style that is fairly new to me.  It is called Tilt Shift.  It uses either a special lens or processing techniques that produce a miniaturized photo of a real-life scene.  I love miniatures and model train lay-outs, so this photo style is proving to be great fun.

I'll give a brief guide for achieving the Tilt Shift effect for anyone who may be interested in creating their own Lilliput.

1.  Choose a photo with lots of depth.  A high vantage point works best but the technique can work on many other shots as long as there is sufficient depth to the scene.

2.  Sharpen the image more than you would for a normal photo.  Adjust contrast, color, brightness...

3.  Using your selection tool of choice, select the main focal point for your scene.  Then click "invert" on the selection menu.  This allows you to only perform the next step on the rest of the photo instead of your main focal point.

4.  Choose a blur filter such as Gaussian Blur.  Gently blur everything around your main focal point.

5. Invert the selection back.  Now expand the area being selected, moving only a bit at a time away from the main area.  Be sure to keep the focal plane in mind so that equal blur is applied to areas that are an equal distance from the camera.

6.  Invert again and apply a bit more blur this time.

7.  Continue this process of expanding the selection area and increasing the blur until the desired level of blur has been achieved to give the photo the look of a miniature scene.

8.  If necessary, go back and selectively blur out any visible lines where the change in the amount of blur is too agressive.

9.  Over-saturate the colors to give it a painted model look.

Here are a few of my before and after photos.  You can definitely see the learning curve as I worked at figuring out the technique, although I don't have them posted in the order in which they were processed because I'm barely competent with this text editor. :/  If you decide to give Tilt Shift a try and you post the resulting photos somewhere, please let me know.  I would love to see your work.


  1. Love the last one in particular. I've always wondered how this was done - I had no idea it was post processing. Thanks for the insight!

  2. That is totally weird, Lisa! I really like this effect. (Thanks for the wonderful comment on my blog, btw. It means a lot, but even more coming from you!)
    I've added your blog to my roll as I just love seeing your photos and what great tips!

  3. I'd always seen these and never had any idea how to actually make them - now I do! Thanks for the tutorial. I'm definitely going to try it out :)

  4. Thank you all for your wonderful comments! The term tilt-shift comes from the type lens that is made to achieve this effect, but for someone like me who doesn't have one of these lenses, this technique works really well and is fun to create. Thanks for reading!