A Closer Look at Tilt Shift

Photographer Bruce Kirkby explains the Tilt/Shift photography method, and how to achieve it


Take a quick glance at the January cover of up! magazine—or check out the gallery of Rob Biron’s images illustrating Investigating the 2012 Mayan Prophecy—and you’ll recognize something unusual is going on.

Wondering if this has been achieved using Photoshop? Are the up! magazine editors playing tricks on you? Think again.

Rob shot his entire assignment using a special technique known as Tilt/Shift.

Tilt/Shift? What the heck is that?

The Tilt/Shift (or TS) effect is achieved using specialized lenses, which allow the photographer to both tilt and shift the plane of focus. 

On a normal lens, objects that appear in focus are all the same distance from the camera. When you tilt the plane of focus, objects at different distances can appear sharply focused, rendering much of the image blurry, and just a small streak sharp.


But It Looks Like a Toy Model!

Ultimately, TS Photography simulates the appearance of a miniature scale model. And the results can be stunning.

Take a moment to browse these galleries of 50 Beautiful TS Samples and 41 More Stunning TS Photographs. You’ll be blown away. And remember, these are all real life scenes, not toys!

I Want to Give It a Try!

You’ll need a DSLR camera, and even then, tilt-shift lenses are pricey, in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $3,000. 

For example, the excellent Nikon PC-E 45mm f/2.8 D ED pictured runs $2,049.

But interested hobbyists and amateur photographers, don’t fret! You are not out of luck. 

Digital artists learned long ago how to simulate the TS effect by selectively blurring an image, while increasing saturation and contrast. Now an automated website can give your images the miniature look with the click of a button. Just visit TiltShiftMaker.

One More Cool Thing…

If you found tilt/shift photograph interesting, what about tilt/shift filmmaking? Keith Loutit is the undisputed master of melding the tilt/shift technique with time lapse.

Check out his amazing short film of a sand whale being sculpted on a Sydney beach.


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