Tilt-Shift Photographs

April 19, 2010

If you’ve ever tried to photograph something really small you’ll know that focusing on something very close shrinks the depth-of-field to such a little sliver that no more than a tiny plane of the scene is in focus. In normal scale landscape photography, the focus plane doesn’t hover in the middle of the scene like this, so when tilt-shift photography imitates this effect, it creates the impression of a photograph of something very tiny.

The original: (actually this is a composite HDR, but in this post it’s the starting point)

If everything is the same height then the focus changes uniformly up and down the image, so you can get away with just running the blur tool over the top and the bottom. Where buildings rise above others, like in this one, they break up this uniformity and the image needs splitting up in to layers, each blurred differently. Here are the layers I made: lighter ones above and darker below

The light grey areas are crisp, and the layers above and below are blurred more or less. So simple, but it transforms the way we interpret what we’re seeing massively.

I love this effect, it’s so playful and sweet and gives you something interesting to do with some otherwise dreary photos. These were all taken from the top of one of Caernarfon Castle towers last week and have no interest in themselves, but they suddenly gain something when you change the scale.

These are only my first attempts and I definitely need a bit more practice to get them just right. I’ve been meaning to have a go for such a long time and I’m glad I finally have; it’s so satisfying :-)


2 Responses to “Tilt-Shift Photographs”

  1. Mark said

    These tilt shifts look great! One thing that might help a little bit is rather than doing one big blur, you should try doing many small blurs, if you’re using Gaussian blur try just bluring it a few pixels at a time, but do it many times in a row. This way, the parts of the image that are blurred less will be a bit smoother, and you won’t get so many of those weird areas that are kind of blurred and kind of not.

  2. Matt said

    You shouldn’t be blurring the foreground so much, and certainly not to the extent shown here. It ruins the effect. You want it probably half as much, and generally only for extremely close objects, not ones which are merely gradually closer.

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