Tilt-shift is the technique of turning objects within photographic scenes into what look like “miniatures”.
Follow this simple tutorial to achieve this effect in Photoshop.
1. Choose an appropriate photo
When it comes to tilt-shift, not all photos are created equal.
Tips for choosing a photo to make miniature:
- the photo should be taken from above—even a slight elevation is usually enough.
- the photo should look down on a scene with some detail (cars/people/houses/trees/cows etc), which is a distance away from you, the photographer.
For this tutorial, I’ve chosen a photo I took in 2004 of the Inner Mongolia mud houses. It’s perfect for tilt-shift as the photographer (me!) is slightly elevated and there is detail in the photo which can be made to look miniature—namely the mudhouse towards the front and its immediate surrounds. When selecting your photo, it is largely trial and error—there is no exact science to it.
What you can get Photoshop to do is gradually blur out the parts of the photo that distract from what I will call the “focal object”, or points of the photo you want to make miniature.
So, let’s do this thing!
2. Apply Quick Mask Mode
- In Photoshop, press “Q” on your keyboard to enter Quick Mask mode (or select -> Edit in Quick Mask mode). You will see “Quick Mask” next to your file name.
3. Apply Gradient
- Decide on your focal object. Generally this will be the detail of the photo, be it houses, people or cars. Choosing objects closest to you works best.
- Select the Gradient Tool from the vertical toolbar. When you do this, the gradient editor will appear at the top under the menu bar.
- Make sure you have selected “Mirror Gradient” (it’s the button second from the right on the horizontal gradient toolbar). Ensure the “Reverse” box is NOT checked.
4. Draw a vertical line to create a horizontal area
- With your mouse, draw a vertical line from the middle of where you want your miniature to be to the top of where you want it to be. When you let go of the mouse, there will be red shading across your focal object. This takes some practice, but you’ll get the hang of it!
- If the focal object runs vertically rather than horizontally, then do the opposite—draw a horizontal line across your focal object. When you let go it will leave a vertical area of red shading.
5. Exit Quick Mask Mode
- Press “Q” again to exit Quick Mask mode. The area that was shaded red should now be outlined in dotted white.
6. Apply Lens Blur
- Go to “Lens Blur” in the Filter menu.
7. Fiddle around with your lens blur
- It will depend on what effect you want to create, but I generally go for a subtle effect, so my blur radius is quite low, but still allows the focal object to stand out as a miniature.
- To exit the Lens Blur dialog screen, click “OK”.
8. View the photo and save
9. Sit back (martini optional) and marvel at your work.