Tilt Shift Photoshop Tutorial: How to Make Fake Miniature Scenes


I discovered the Tilt Shift technique perusing the photography of Drew Wilson, an uber talented young photographer here in Sarasota. I asked him about the process and he was kind enough to share it with me.

Lil raft


Tilt shift lenses focus on a single part of the photo and shift (blur) the surrounding area to create an optical illusion of miniaturized scenery. Real tilt shift lenses are quite expensive, but a similar effect can be achieved by using Photoshop after you take the photo.

Tilt shift photographs create an optical illusion that makes scenes appear as if they are actually miniature models (like your uncle’s train set). The outer edges are blurred which tricks the eye into perceiving everything in the unblurred parts as miniature.  It’s a fun post processing trick – and it’s quite easy to reproduce.

UPDATE:  Many of you have asked if there is a plug in or Tilt Shift software that will do this.  The closest I’ve found so far is:  FocalPoint 2  You can try it out for free.

Here is my (and Drew’s) Photoshop tutorial for creating fake tilt shift photos.

  1. Taking the photo. An above ground shot is usually best for this type of technique. Cityscapes, crowds, streets, and similar things are perfect.
  2. Open the shot in Adobe Photoshop and click onto “quick mask mode”.
    Quick mask mode
  3. Select the gradient tool.
  4. Select the “cylindrical gradient reflected gradient”.
    reflected gradient
  5. Draw vertically upwards from where you want the point of focus to be up the screen to the top of the window, and release the mouse button. A red transparent line should appear.
    Masked tilt shift gradient
  6. Go back into “Standard Mask Mode”.
    Standard mask mode
  7. In Photoshop CS2 or CS3 go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur (Or if you have Photoshop 7.0 you can use Gaussian Blur). Then select the amount of blur you’d like. You can experiment with the radius value a bit to see what amount of blur looks best.
  8. (Optional) For a more “plastic” feel you can increase the saturation and contrast in the photo.

There you have it – you should have a nice “fake tilt shift” photo. You can experiment with lots of different photographs – some are a lot better than others for “miniaturization”.

And when you’re ready to step it up even more,  you can incorporate HDR Photography and Tilt Shift together for amazingly stunning fake miniature scenes in high contrast.  Using the above technique along with HDR software, such as top brand Photomatix (we have a 15% Off Coupon code),  you can achieve results like this:

Miniature House (Tilt Shift HDR)
photo credit: Brandon Godfrey

Below are a few more examples of the tilt shift technique for producing realistic looking miniature scenes. Feel free to link to your own tilt shift photos in the comments. Happy shrinking!

Tiny Gator Fans

My Lil Black G35

Miniature Siesta Key

Ferrari Enzo in Sarasota

Plastic ball

lil miami at nite


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