Miniature Effects

Tilt and shift lenses are mainly used to maximise depth-of-field and to correct the converging verticals you get in building photographs. As such they are an essential accessory for architectural and still-life photographers looking for the highest quality images. However, as you have seen over the past few pages, the same lenses can also be used for more creative pictures by tilting the plane of focus.

Combined with the right scene and camera viewpoint this gives a toytown look to the subject with the nearest and furthest objects getting further out of focus.

The best subjects are where you are looking down (as you would on a model) with a wide angle of view. The image I’m using was taken from a high vantage point on Shrewsbury Castle walls looking over the River Severn and railway junction. It would be great to get a shot with a preserved steam engine and lots of smoke but I had to settle for this diesel multiple unit.

That’s fine if you can justify spending upwards of £1000 to make toytown images in-camera but fortunately for the rest of us this is an effect you can easily replicate in Adobe Photoshop using a combination of the Lens Blur filter and a graduated mask.

1 Make a duplicate

Open the image and make a duplicate safe copy layer by dragging the layer onto the ‘peeling page’ icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Click on the new layer to make it active and add a blank Layer Mask by selecting Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All.

2 Add a gradient

To control where the blurring will happen, select the mask then select the Gradient Tool (shortcut key G). Select the Reflected Gradient option and drag a line from the place where you want the centre of the sharp band to the top edge of the band. Press D for default black/white foreground/background colours. Toggle the ‘\’ key to show the mask in red.

3 Blur it

Getting the masking right involves some trial and error. Just repeat step 2 until you’re happy. Click the layer’s image icon to select it and apply a blur using Filter>Blur>Lens Blur. Tick the preview box and adjust the Radius. Remember you’re setting the maximum amount of blur here.

4 Adjust the mask

Clicking OK applies the blur and you can see the effect of the mask. The zone of focus is horizontal and I decided to add more blur to the tree on the bottom right. Do this by painting on the mask with the Brush tool (B). With the mask selected, use the colour picker (shortcut key I) to sample the colour from an area matching the blur you want.

5 Intensify the colours

With the masking completed, we’ll increase the Saturation by adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Just click the icon in the Adjustments panel or select Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation then increase the Saturation by eye. I added more red and cyan saturation to bring out the details such as the man with the red jacket.

6 Final step

Now we’re getting closer to that toytown look I decided to add a small amount of contrast by adding a Curves adjustment layer and dragging a slight S-shaped curve. Remember any changes made with adjustment layers can be revised later, so play around until you’re happy with the result.

Taken from the December 2011 issue of Advanced Photographer magazine