Tuesday, December 15, 2009


(image by Greg Keene via Wikipedia)

Up until today, tilt-shift photography was something that I would have pretended I knew about. You know how sometimes, someone will reference something, and you'll have heard of it but not really understand it fully (or at all), but you'll say "Oh yeah, that thing!" because you want to sound smart? Like, if someone says "Hey, you know the book Jude the Obscure" and you'll be like "Ah yes, the Thomas Hardy classic," even though you have not read Jude the Obscure and know nothing whatsoever about the plot? I know I'm not the only person who does this.

Anyway, that was how it was with me and tilt-shift photography. I had noticed it enough that I was like "Hey, I should do a post about this cool-sounding thing, because HOW HARD COULD IT BE?" (answer: so hard.)

The first place I turned was Wikipedia. Here's how that went:

"Tilt-shift photography...specifically refers to the use of tilt for selective focus, often for simulating a miniature scene. "Tilt-shift" actually encompasses two different types of movements: rotation of the lens plane relative to the image plane, called tilt, and movement of the lens parallel to the image plane, called shift. Tilt is used to control the orientation of the plane of focus (PoF), and hence the part of an image that appears sharp; it makes use of the Scheimpflug principle. Shift is used to change the line of sight while avoiding the convergence of parallel lines, as when photographing tall buildings."

Oh right, the Scheimpflug priciple! I'm sorry, but that sounds like something professor Frink would say (followed by "BLAVIN!"). Sometimes if Wikipedia isn't part of the solution, it's part of the problem, you know?

Luckily, I found an article on the site Cheap Shooter, which offered a clearer, less geeky explanation:

"A tilt-shift lens allows the photographer very exacting control over the depth-of-field in an image, much more than any regular lens could provide. Focus can be restricted to a single, narrow band, with everything else rapidly blurring away. This distorts the appearance and makes the eye think that distances are a lot smaller than they typically are. When applied to a large scene like a city or a museum, everything appears miniature." In addition, "Tilting the lens with respect to the film/sensor plane changes the perspective in the image: you can make lines that otherwise would converge, showing perspective, instead remain parallel or even diverge."

OH, THAT'S WHAT THAT IS! Much better. Thanks, Cheap Shooter. Hugs.

Now that we've exhaustively defined this term, let's see some examples:

(image by cloudsoup)

(image by B Tal)

(image by Jeangenie)

(image by Vincent Laforet)

Oh! The Wikipedia entry should have just said "Tilt-shift photography makes everything look like crazy fake little miniatures! It's nuts! The end."

I mean really, it's hard to believe that these are not photos from miniature movie sets. It's a pretty cool effect.

Ok, now are you ready for this? Because we still have half a rabbit hole to fall down (ie. we are only halfway down the rabbit hole by this point). Because check it: tilt-shift videos!

The East Side of Los Angeles on a Sunny Day from clark vogeler on Vimeo.

How blown is your mind? 100% blown? I have no idea how this is done, and if you think I'm going to try to find out, you're crazy. You can check out a whole gallery of beautiful tilt-shift videos over at this Gawker post - the one above is my favorite because it's set in East LA.

There is so much more to say about tilt-shift, like how there is a big controversy because people can pretty easily fake tilt-shift techniques in Photoshop so you never know what's really real, and whether you should buy a bunch of expensive equipment or just get a Lensbaby, but I'm not going to get into that, because this is already the longest post in the history of this blog, even longer than the Lady Gaga posts. But I will say that I learned something today, and I hope you did too! Isn't that nice?

1 comment:

Irene said...

I totally learned something. Very cool, and I really loved the video. Thanks!