Camera Club Project: Tilt Shift - January 2017 / by James Brown


This project emulates what you can do with a large format camera (4x5 - 10x8) or a tilt shift lens. Using Photoshop you can achieve the same effect. Once you have some images it will take around 5 mins to complete.

Step 1: Photo Selection

When choosing a photograph for the tilt-shift effect, bear in mind that you want to give the impression of a miniature model. Miniature models are usually viewed from above so try and choose a photo with an elevated viewpoint. Buildings, roads, traffic and railways are excellent choices but make sure there is a reasonable wide angle of view. 

Step 2. Enter Quick Mask Mode

Open the image in Photoshop and enter Quick Mask Mode by pressing Q on the keyboard, or select the Quick Mask icon as shown in the Tool Palette below: 

Step 3. Choose Gradient Tool

Choose the Gradient Tool by pressing G on the keyboard, or select the Gradient Tool icon. Be sure to choose the Reflected Gradient option (the fourth icon along before the Mode drop-down). 

Tilt Shift Project Jan 2017-3.jpg

Step 4. Draw A Line

Draw a vertical line; the start point will be the centre of the in-focus area, and the end will be where the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is completed. This step, and the subsequent two steps, will need a fair degree of trial and error. If you look closely at the image below, you will see the line has been drawn from the back door of the silver car up to just under the word Hollywood beneath the street lamp. (PLEASE NOTE YOUR LINE WILL NOT BE IN RED!)

Once you release the mouse button the area of focus will appear as a red band across the image, as shown in the next step. 

Step 5. View Mask Area

Before progressing, review the position of the red mask. The middle of the mask is where the in-focus area will be, gradually losing focus towards the edges. Note the out-of-focus effect is yet to be applied. 

Step 6. Return To Standard Mode

Press Q on the keyboard to exit Quick Mask Mode and return to Standard Mode, or press the icon on the Tool Palette as shown below. The area to apply the focus effect to will be surrounded by the “marching ants” selection lines: 

Step 7. Open Lens Blur Interface

Choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur: 

Step 8. Review Effect And Tweak Settings

Hopefully, you will now see a pleasing focus effect. The Photoshop default settings for Lens Blur seem to work well, but experiment with them to improve the effect. If you are unhappy with the position of the focus area, go back to Step 4 and try drawing a line in a different place or with a different centre of focus. 

Step 9. Exit Lens Blur Interface

Assuming you were happy with the image preview in Step 8, click OK to accept the settings: 

Step 10. Remove Selection Boundary

Press CTRL-D on the keyboard to remove the “marching ants” selection boundary: This is known as deselecting.

Step 11. Open Hue/Saturation Adjustment Interface

You may want to boost the colour saturation, to improve the effect. Remember that model scenery is often brightly painted so enhancing the saturation helps trick the eye. Press CTRL-U on the keyboard or select Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation: 

Step 12. Boost Saturation

In this example, we boost the Master saturation to +40. 

Step 13. Open Curves Adjustment Interface

It may help to increase the contrast of the image slightly using the Curves adjustment. Press CTRL-M on the keyboard or select Image > Adjustments > Curves: 

Step 14. Adjust Curves

In this example we use a very small S-shaped curve to increase contrast. Take care not to over-do this step; in fact, it may not be necessary at all. 

Step 15. Finished

Here’s the finished image. 

You can now show everyone your work...but remember don't tell them how you did it!