Introduction Tilt-Shift Photography
Lots of online article or video tutorials, show you how to make this effect, but not many explain how to make it more realistic. I wrote this tutorial cause I had much fun making miniature effect from my own photographs and made people around me to laugh, that alone was good enough reason to write this article.
Find out more about Tilt-Shift lenses here. Most common use of Tilt-Shift lenses is in architectural photography because of its unique ability to control perspective in photos and manipulate the plane of focus. Most people use it even for Landscapes, when they want to achieve the whole scene to be sharp despite the fact that the foreground element is just few feet away and the background is miles away.
Why its called fake Tilt-Shift – Miniature?
Tilt-Shift lenses have amazing capabilities that can give you that special effect, while only shallow line is in focus and rest is not. Amazing how even people that have no knowledge of photography will react to this effect. Because of the blur (out of focus area) and crisp sharp in focus area, it looks like a miniature. While Tilt-Shift lenses can make the most realistic miniature effect, we can achieve something similar by using software, in our case Photoshop CS5.
Why would anybody do fake tilt-shift miniaturization?
Because such photos may even be used professionally, example in commercial ad, cd/dvd/br cover, etc. Most of people use it just for fun. Best for-fun use is to make your friends laugh, especially if they are on photo.
Lots of online tutorials show how to make this effect, but not many tell you how to make it more realistic.
What you need?
Conditions to make best miniature effect:
- Shoot from Perspective angles from approx 35° to 80°
- Take picture from bigger (higher) distance (higher better, example Eifel tower ;) )
- Colorful environment
Fast but not so realistic way to get to miniature picture
There is simple way of doing it pretty fast but not so realistic:
- Open picture
- Duplicate Background layer (with image)
- Click Q (or bottom left – Quick Mask Tool)
- Go to Gradient tool
- Go to Gradient Picker and select Black, White
- Select Reflected Gradient (middle focus, rest blur) or Linear Gradient (what you select will be in focus, rest blurred) – Drag your focus over image
- Deselect Quick mask ( press Q)
- Go to Filter -> Blur ->Lens Blur (adjust settings as you wish, I use radius around 20-30, leave rest intact)
- Add image contrast (Image -> Adjustments ->Brightness/Contrast), maybe some brightness, play with colors (Image -> Adjustments -> Color Balance)
- Depends on image size, but most online examples are from 300-500px width, so you might go to Image Size and re-size to smaller version and Save your picture.
Above example is what most of the sites and videos online refer to. I don’t like it personally. Yes, you can make it better if you play around with settings, but it is more one step forward two backwards to make it look realistic.
You can use brush and erase tool to add or remove objects, subjects from focus, use opacity lower than 100% to avoid sharp lines from focus to out of focus and vice verse. I find this technique hard cause of red line on quick mask tool that represent focus line, is not 100% colored, it is fading toward end, and you can’t see exactly what is in light red or darker red, so you need to apply change and then check to see if you got it right.
Step by step to more realistic miniature final picture
You can download original picture here.
Step 1 – Open picture
Step 2 – Duplicate Background Layer (CTRL+N)
Drag your Background layer with picture to New Layer
Step 3 – Go to Filter -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask
Play with the settings until you get wanted result, your picture should be razor sharp, great for gravel, sand, etc. (for our picture I used 53% Amount and Radius 5.5 px)
Step 4 – Add Layer Mask to duplicated layer
Step 5 – Make invisible lower (background) layer
Step 6 – Switch to top Layer and Go to Gradient Tool
Step 7 – Select Gradient options (Black, White and Reflected Gradient)
Step 8 – Go to picture and select where you want your focus by dragging your mouse
(making better focus line now is less work later for fine adjusting)
Step 9 – Check all areas where bottom or top of the focus line touches and correct it buy drawing with black color brush tool, to add to focus, or drawing white to remove from focus
On above picture we need to remove judge on chair from focus, add legs from tennis player in focus, add ball collector to focus, …
It is same with nature, if you have bottom of tree in focus, then treetop should be in focus as well.
Step 10 – Select layer under Layer mask, with picture, and go to Filter -> Blur -> Lens Blur (adjust settings as you find most suitable for your picture, I took around 20), Apply effect
Step 11 – Duplicate Background layer one more time and Duplicate Blurred layer with Layer Mask
Step 12 – Apply Layer Mask
Step 13 – Merge 1 Background with Layer where you applied layer mask
Step 14 – Go to Image – Adjustments – Brightness/Contrast… (add little contrast and Brightness if needed)
Step 15 – Go to Image – Adjustments – Color Balance (add some color, try with mid-tones, highlights and shadows)
Step 16 – Re-size your image (best effect that I personally got is with 300-500 px image width)
And there you have realistic miniature off your desired picture.
Check example of not realistic one here.
Yes it looks like miniature, but not realistic. Legs are in focus but body is not, etc.
Lower angle photo
With lower angle photos like above, you should crop image to get best effect. And remove big objects like in our example grass on the left side.
What to shoot for best miniature result
Great subjects and objects to shoot from perspective are:
- Sand, gravel and water (Lakes, Ocean, Sea..)
- Rails and Trains
- Stadiums (Crowd)
- Buildings, Villages, Cities (especially from high above)
Bottom line about fake tilt shift
I didn’t know about this few years ago, but after I found out about it, I run trough all off my photos and found all from higher perspective and took little time to play around, I suggest you do the same, have fun and make people laugh. After done feel free to post your work in comment area.
We will do our best to make tutorial for realistic fake tilt shift video as well.