Tilt-shift photography is photography using a tilt-shift lens. Tilt-shift lenses were originally designed for architectural photography to correct the perspectives of buildings in photographs. Having a shifting lens is important for architectural photography, as shooting at the wrong angle distorts the lines of the building design which renders the photos useless for architects. However, uses for tilt-shift lenses have evolved – photographers enjoy using them as it gives them wider areas to capture.
In this article on tilt-shift photography for beginners, we will be covering:
- Types of tilt-shift photography
- Tilt-shift photography techniques
- Tilt-shift photo examples
- Tilt-shift photography tips
Types of tilt-shift photography
As we mentioned, tilt-shift photography was designed for and is still used for architectural photography.
It has also become closely associated with miniature-faking. ‘Miniature-faking’ is the process of making a photograph of a life-size location look like a photograph of a miniature scale model. This is done by blurring parts of the photo to simulate the shallow depth of field, which makes the miniature look like real-life close-up photography. The blurred effect can be done in-camera, or by digitally editing the photo. Photographers who practice miniature faking use the tilting function of the tilt-shift lens to create a high angle, creating the effect of looking down at the scene.
Tilt-shift photography techniques
Tilt-shift lenses have two functions. The lens can tilt to varying angles to change a plane of focus or to maximise or minimise a depth of field. The lens can also shift up and down or side to side, to change perspective control, and to shoot panoramas.
Tilt-shift lenses are excellent devices for shooting panoramas, as you don’t have to pan the camera. The shifting lens allows you to shoot three bracketed images of different areas, all while the camera remains static. You can then merge the composite images in Photoshop, to create the perfect panorama.
Tilt-shift photo examples
What is a real-world example for a tilt-shift lens that isn’t architectural photography? Imagine that you’re photographing some trees in the woods. You want to angle your camera upwards, to capture the branches of the trees. But the issue with pointing your camera at an upwards angle is that it distorts the lines of the trees – rather than standing straight, the upwards angle creates the illusion of the trees bending in towards each other.
Here is where the tilt-shift lens can be of use. You can shift the camera upwards so that the upper part of the tree is in the frame, while still allowing the tree to appear straight.
Have you noticed that when you photograph trees, the tree trunk appears thicker than it is, making the tree appear disproportionately tapered? This is because you’re standing closer to the base, creating the illusion of it being bigger. By tilting your camera lens at an upwards angle, you can correct the distortion, and make the width of the tree appear proportional.
Tilt-shift photography tips
Use a deep depth of field
Using a deep depth of field you can get the most out of your camera’s tilting effect. Using aperture values of f/11 or f/22 will help keep everything sharp and focused in your image.
Use a tripod
Shooting with a tilt-shift camera is quite hands-on, as there are lots of moving parts to operate when you’re shifting and tilting your lens. Therefore, to keep your camera stable for crisp images, you should use a tripod. This is especially pertinent if you’re shooting panoramas, as you need each bracketed image to be taken from the same height.
Take time to learn
If you’re using a tilt-shift camera for the first time, it will be a learning process. There’s a lot to take in; especially since all tilt-shift cameras are manual focused, so you will need to set your exposure values for each shot. It can take a while to get to grips with your tilt-shift camera, so take your time getting used to your camera, and don’t rush yourself.
In addition to architectural photography, tilt-shift photography is great for landscape photography, due to all the leading lines found in nature. We already mentioned the example of using a tilt-shift camera to correct the perspective of trees, but there are plenty of other natural features to experiment with. Using a tilt-shift camera you can prevent mountains from looking as though the lines are receding, and you can correct the perspective of a seascape when shooting seascape photography.
Consider post-processing as an alternative
Tilt-shift cameras are amazing, but their amazing design is also what makes them so expensive. They are very necessary for architecture photography, but your budget may not extend to those prices. If tilt-shift cameras are out of your budget, don’t worry, – you can achieve similar effects in Photoshop. You can learn to correct perspectives in Photoshop by stretching out images and cropping them.
We hope you enjoyed our beginner’s guide to tilt-shift photography.
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