TUTORIAL: Tilt and Shift your photos

“Tilt-shift” refers to the use of tilt for selective focus, often for simulating a rad miniature scene. Too bad lenses that physically tilt or shift cost like 10 million bucks. Tilt-shift apps are cool, but you don’t always get the desired effect. That’s why I made this tutorial, so you can convert your, rather boring pics, into amazing photos taken from a tiny world.

For this tutorial I used Photoshop CS5 in a Mac.

1. Select a photo

First of all, you have to choose a photo. Remember you want to give the impression of a miniature model, which are always viewed from above, so take or steal a photo with an elevated viewpoint. A busy street intersection, buildings, cars and even people are great choices. For this tutorial I went downtown and took a photo of a monument in a mall. The place was crowded with people and cars, so it was great for this.

2. Create a New Layer

Press COMMAND-SHIFT-N or got to menu Layer > New > Layer. This is where you’ll create a gradient mask for the effect.

2. Select the Gradient Tool

Choose the Gradient Tool by pressing G on the keyboard, or select the Gradient Tool icon. In the gradient picker, choose the Foreground to transparent option (I recommend having black as the Foreground color). Then select the Reflected Gradient option (the fourth icon along before the Mode drop-down).

3. Create a gradient

While you’re in the new layer, draw a vertical line; the start point will be the center of the in-focus area, and the end will be where the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is completed.

Once you release the mouse button the area of focus will appear as your foreground color.

4. Review the Gradient

Before proceeding, review the position of the gradient. 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.

5. Create a selection

Go to menu Select > Load Selection. Leave the default settings on the pop-up window and press Ok. This will create a mask from the layer with the gradient.
Now, invert the selection by pressing COMMAND – SHIFT- I or go to the menu Select > Inverse. The area to apply the focus effect to will be surrounded by the “marching ants” selection lines.

6. Select the Background Layer

Make the gradient layer invisible and select the layer with your photo.

7. Open Lens Blur

Choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur:

8. Review Effect

The Photoshop default settings for Lens Blur give a nice focus effect, but experiment with them to improve the result. If you don’t like the position of the focus area, go back to Step 3 and try drawing the line in a different position and with a different length.

Click OK when you’re happy with your settings.

9. Remove Selection Boundary

Assuming you were happy with the image preview. Press Command-D on the keyboard to remove the “marching ants” selection boundary. You can also do this by going to menu Select > Deselect

10. Open Hue/Saturation Window

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

11. More Saturation

In this example, we boost the Master saturation to +50. Can you see the bright colors in the image? Experiment with it until you get the color you want.

13. Open Levels Adjustment Window

It may help to increase the contrast of the image slightly using the Levels adjustment. Press COMMAND-L on the keyboard or select Image > Adjustments > Levels:

14. Adjust Levels

In this example I adjusted the highlight level to 224 to increase contrast. Take care not to over-do this step; it might not even be necessary.

15. Voila, you just miniaturized your pic.

Here’s the finished image.

I’ll be posting more design and photoshop tutorials. I hope I can do at least one a week. So keep reading! Meow!




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