Tilt shift

For who isn’t familiar with the term yet, “tilt shift” photography is a very popular (Flickr group: 39.740 members at the time of writing this blog) photographic technique that creates an effect as if you are watching a miniture model, like a train kit, or the miniature town ‘Madurodam’ in The Hague, Netherlands. The trick of the eye is caused by a narrow sharp region, mostly a strip, or wedge-shape, surrounded by a large blurred area. This corresponds to a shallow depth of field, something which occurs when you go into a maquette with a camera. Often the colors have been oversaturated to give the objects on the picture a plastic look.

The people on these pictures transform into small plastic miniature people. Keith Loutit’s brilliant video’s even let these miniature people come to life, while at the same time preserving their artificiality by using stop motion.

You can create this effect with the camera, by using an expensive tilt-shift lens, or, when you like tinkering, by building one yourself (using a cut-off toilet-plunger to hold the lens). You can also use Photoshop, and fake the effect. As I’m not much of a tinkerer (and don’t want to spend a day looking for a toilet-plunger of the right specifications), I decided to go for the easy solution: Photoshop. Most tutorials say that you need pictures taken from a high vantage point with, preferrably, crisp shadows.

I discovered that I seldom make photo’s from a high vantage point, but I found one that might do the trick. A small artificial lake in Italy, taken during a long walk on a sunny october day.

The original

Lake at different settings
Lake with fake tilt shift

It’s remarkable how the second picture is starting to look like there is a camera planted in a Märklin landscape. Boosting the colors creates that touch of artificiality that is so charming about these pictures.

It’s a nice technique, still my results here are way less convincing than many of the great pictures you can find on Flickr (search for “tilt shift”), but good enough for me to know that it can be very useful in some projects, given some practice and experimenting with the Photoshop settings.

To create the effect I followed this tutorial, with slightly different settings.

For the most convincing result it’s desirable to have people and cars populating the scene. But just houses will do too.

Todi, Italy
Todi, Italy
Narni, Italy
Narni, Italy

These identical images show the importance of choosing the right plane to establish as focus. The upper one has its focus on the houses roughly in the centre of the picture, while I focused on the street with cars and street-furniture in the lower one. The lower one does much more to convince you as a miniature scene.

Narni, Italy
Narni, focus on the lower band
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