Powered by KikBooks Widget

By on June 12, 2011, with 49 Comments

Tilt shift photography involves using selective focus and a shifted photo angle in an image. While the effect can be used for a variety of photo techniques, one of the most popular applications involves using the image to depict making real items and places to look like they are actually miniatures. The photos can be altered in the camera or later on, digitally by blurring parts of an image to look out of focus as though they are not in the same image plane as the focal point.

When you think about it, one of the strangest things about tilt shift photos is the fact that generally pictures of models are made to look realistic. If you shoot a model so it looks as though it’s not real, you’re doing a disservice to the model itself. So in a way, tilt shift photos involve a skilled photographer shooting a real setting to look like a model that was shot by an amateur who doesn’t know what he’s doing. And that intentional imitation of a mistake is precisely what makes these photos so fun.

These six examples, each taken by a different photographer, all show just how powerful the illusion can be in manipulating a scene to look like it’s an imaginary setting.

There isn’t much info about this lonely casa on the photographer, eljoja’s Flickr stream, other than the fact that it is located in Barcelona, Spain. Even so, the cute brick building looks stunning when pictured all alone with no other homes or businesses in the area.

I’m not sure where Juan Pablo took this tilt shift picture of a typical city scene, but it’s particularly great in that even the construction workers look like they are miniature.

I don’t know about you guys, but when I fly out of an airport, I focus on trying to pop my ears and thinking about how much longer I can wait before I can turn on my iPod. But Flickr user disparkys has much bigger ambitions during this short bit of early flight time, working on instead improving his tilt shift photography skills. I’d say he certainly nailed it in this picture, taken while leaving the Gatwick Airport in London.

While most tilt shift images are shot from a high angle to add to the miniaturization illusion, they don’t have to be shot from any particular view point, as evidenced by this tilt shift image of Santorini, Greece by Flickr user Stëve.

Ordinarily, a regular city scene presumably shot from an office building wouldn’t be all that remarkable of an image, but when the tilt shift effect is used, things quickly become much more interesting. WagsomeDog’s image of downtown Cincinnati makes the whole street look like it’s no more than a foot tall.

Rolohauck’s tilt shift image of altes rathaus in Munich makes the old city hall look like a paper model so delicate that a gentle sneeze could cause it to rip and melt apart. While the photographer doesn’t give any details about how he crafted the photo, the perfect focus separation between the front of the building and the rest of the image make it appear that he used the technique in camera, rather than using photo editing software.

As much as I enjoy this effect, I have to admit, I’ve never been able to use it myself. I don’t have the photography skills or photo editing skills to try it. Have any of you ever played with tilt shift imagery? If so, feel free to share the links to your images in the comments section.

  • Slammer

    I have to say, these are definitely one of my favorite types of illusions. I tried to make one once using a normal picture in Photoshop, but I just couldn’t get the effect to work. So I greatly admire the people who were able to to make these using just a camera.

  • Phil Ludens

    Santorini, Greece looks like it’s made of Lego in this pic! Love it!

  • http://gmail.com Andrewpoky

    cool! the second ones my fav
    the workers look like clay!

  • Tonyz

    Wow these are most incredible, especially the planes. They exactly like miniature models. The trees like like plastic!

  • Ribber

    Tilt-shift is a type of camera lens, not a Photoshop technique. In Photoshop, it’s called “selective blur”. You talk too much about that which you really know nothing of.

    • Voigtlander

      Well I actually like Jill’s comments, but your attitude sucks. Next time try just pointing out the difference.

  • Gramercy

    Fantastic photos i will have to try a similar attempt in my Model Railroad Photography.
    very will done.

  • Dennis
  • Mike

    This is very interesting photography. I particularly like the airport. When you think how hard movie makers try to fool us into believing models are the real thing, it’s amazing to see that the reverse is actually done as well.

  • slkf

    These always amaze me! I was trying to pick out my favorite from above, then realized how much I liked each one!

  • Mariya

    it looks great!

    i am fond of it.

  • Jimy


  • chuckles

    You need a bellows type camera (remember the kind where the photographer puts his head under the black cloth while he focuses the camera) that has a front lens holder that tilts. A knowledgable photogrrapher can set one of these cameras up in front of a mirror and take a picture of the mirror without having the camera show in the picture. It’s because of all the adjustments built into the camera.

  • Sean Loh


  • Michael Skoberne


    Interesting examples of tilt shift images. Apart from this article, I’ve come across other fine examples on the web that caught my interest. I created one on my Flickr photostream, albeit applying post work. So, I thought I would share it.


    Best regards

    Michael Skoberne

    • Roxanne

      Very nice!

  • Padma

    so they are all not real??? they are fake????

  • Rahul

    i love fake miniaturisation. 4th and 5th pictures could have been better. buildings at the left side of the 4th pictures and the trees in 5th picture should be out of focus.

  • wunnell

    No! They are not models made to look realistic, they are real, oversaturated, and narrowed on the DOF (whether by tilt shift lens or in photo editing software) to look like models :) thankyou

    • wunnell

      OK, OK, I isread the intro LOL scatch that comment DOH!!

  • William

    Woah, I love these… Especially the second one, it really looks like those stiff, miniature workers, which I played with when I was a little kid! :D

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/awajikiwi Stephen

    I really like tiltshift. Now I use my iPhone to do the editing.

    I have a couple here. They are just okay.


  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsmileart/ BSmile

    It’s actually not that hard to achieve good results in Photo Shop…as long as the original picture is conducive. Architecture tends to work really well. Here’s one I did of Fenway Park, Boston:


  • Koaieus

    There are lots of other sites where you can add some tilt-shift effect online. If you google something like “online tilt shift generator” you’ll find plenty!
    Enjoy ;)

  • nockgeneer

    Now that’s really neat. I love photography so this is really interesting to look at. The last one is very obviously photoshopped but I love the rest.

    Thanks for the fresh (to me) illusion! I’m going to have to try this at some point.

  • Kimon

    Wow. It makes Munich’s Town Hall look like a copy made from legos or something. Absolutely love this effect. I doubt I can trick my camera into doing, what with not having manual focus and all. But I swear I’ll try. Rather than always cropping the ugly, blur would work to awesome effect instead.

  • SDER

    Wow, it’s hard to believe that these are actual places and not just a bad photo of models.

    • Roxanne

      I agree! And since that’s the whole idea, I’d say they’re pretty successful!

  • bets

    I think that the bright colors and how clean it looks adds to the illusion of the places being fake. Good illusions- I really thought they were miniatures.

  • Taylor B.

    I took this shot but it was on accident that it looks miniature.

    • Roxanne

      I just love when that happens!! :-)



  • lys

    The picture of Munich is photoshopped and is a not so good work. Look at the borders of the bell tower’s roof.

  • http://www.digicious.be cha

    few images i tooked few years ago :-)

    I don’t have tilt-shift lens… So… here is my recipe.

    I unscrewed the lens, setup my digicam in full manual then I tilted the lens a bit while olding the body and and the lens with one hand while the other was adjusting the focus.



  • http://geotopoi.wordpress.com/ Graham

    Nice selection there! Here is one of mine, taken at the summmit of Snowdon, highest mountain in England and Wales:


    And some more here:


  • MeEgAn gAlaNtE

    they look like toys

  • This guy

    The last one is in fact Photoshopped, you can clearly tell by the lower corners where there are blurred parts of the walls very near focused parts.
    Loved this post…

  • Maibel
  • diane

    Thanks Everyone for all those cool links ♥
    bookmarking this page so I can go over them .
    When TIME and Cap allows ;-)

  • ZL123

    Nice tilt-shifting!

    But I keep getting this ‘Advertisement by ISM’.

    Hope this is valuable feedback!

  • Arny

    cool images, especially those made by lens (real stuff); I did an image by Photopaint; I took the picture and modified by software; it’s my first masterpiece! but I can’t send it!

  • Wendy

    The effect is really cool! I gave it a try on this photo, but there´s lots to be improved.photostream

  • Wendy

    I didn’t manage to include it, but this is the link to that picture:


  • thatgirl

    oh, you don’t need to use editing programs for tilt shift photography! new canon cameras are essentially equipped with a feature called ‘miniature effect’, allowing you auto tilt shift photography! really cool eh? :D

  • thatgirl

    and yes, i have played with this kind of effect before. heck, i use it constantly, ‘cos my camera has that effect. if you wanna check out what i come up with, go to littlepuddington.deviantart.com :D

  • gato

    This is hilarious looking at the pros make their shots look like amatures

  • malc

    It’s easy to achieve in photoshop, if you know what youre doing!

    great effect!

  • Melissa

    What’s a URL?

  • Melissa

    My favirite