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How to Create Tilt-Shift Photos in 5 Easy Steps (Photoshop)

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Related course: Wow Factor Photography

For a true tilt-shift photo, you need a tilt-shift lens. And you’d typically use it for architecture photography, to fix the perspective of buildings when you look up.
Recently though, photographers have used the effect in Photoshop to make creative tilt shift style ‘model village’ style photos. It makes the whole scene look miniature.
Here’s how to do it…
Firstly, you’re going to need Photoshop or GIMP to edit the photos. Even though it’s not complicated to complete, it does go further than the basic tool available in Aperture or Lightroom.
These sorts of photos work best as landscape and cityscapes, so start off with a photo like that.
Step 1 – Open your photo in Photoshop, and click on Select > Edit in Quick Mask Mode.
Screenshot of a photoshop interface showing how to edit in quick mask mode
Step 2 – Select the gradient tool in the sidebar, and then at the top of the screen, select the cylindrical gradient tool.
Screenshot of a photoshop interface with the gradient tool selected

Step 3 – Use the gradient tool to select the area that you want to be in focus when you turn the photo miniature (select and drag upwards). You can experiment with the size of this area, but I find that something like below works best. It also works best off center.

Screenshot showing the gradient tool applied inside the photoshop interface
Step 4 – Unselect the Quick Mask Mode. You can do this in the sidebar, by selecting this icon at the very bottom.
Screenshot of the photoshop interface with the icon allowing to unselect the quick mask mode

Step 5 – Go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur, and the image below will appear. Click invert in the first section (Depth Map), and play with the radius in the Iris section until you’re happy, and then click OK, and the job’s a goodun.

Screenshot of a photoshop interface showing how to apply the blur tool

Here it is!

Photo of a village surrounded by hills, demonstrating the tilt shift technique

Here’s a few more examples for you to feast your eyes on.

Photo of 4 people swimming in the sea, demonstrating the tilt shift technique
Photo of green hills, demonstrating the tilt shift technique
Photo of a city from above, demonstrating the tilt shift technique
Photo of a picturesque village surrounded by mountains and green grass, demonstrating the tilt shift technique
Photo of a ship in the dark, demonstrating the tilt shift technique

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1 comment
  1. By doing this are we not “explaining where the viewer should be looking”? Like any effect, this does have it’s place. I actually love the “dreamy” look it makes in video (especially wedding videos), however much like spot color, HDR, B&W, HIspo-whatever it’s called or whatever else is out there…it has it’s place, it’ll get over used (which quickly turns annoying, even in video) and there will be those who love it, hate it or are in between. I just find the two posts in a week about spot color and this a bit ironic as part of the effect of spot color you talk about is drawing the viewers eye which is exactly what this does and what bokeh does. Just my $.02.

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