Tilt-shift photography is a creative and unique type of photography in which
the camera is manipulated so that a life-sized location or subject looks
like a miniature-scale model
Tilt-shift photography refers to the use of camera movements on small- and
medium format cameras; it usually requires the use of
Nikon 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E Nikkor Tilt Shift Lens
"Tilt-shift" actually encompasses two different types of movements: rotation of the lens 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.
In many cases, "tilt-shift photography" refers to the use of tilt and a large
aperture to achieve a very shallow depth of field.
History and use
Movements have been available on view cameras since the early days of photography.
Nikon introduced a lens providing shift movements for their
35 mm SLR cameras in the mid 1960s, and
Canon introduced a lens that provided both tilt and shift movements in 1973; many other manufacturers soon followed suit. Canon and Nikon each currently offer several lenses that provide both movements. Such lenses are frequently used in
architectural photography to
control perspective, and in
landscape photography to get an entire scene sharp.
Some photographers have popularized the use of tilt for selective focus in applications such as
portrait photography. The selective focus that can be achieved by tilting the plane of focus is often compelling because the effect is different from that to which many viewers have become accustomed. Walter Iooss Jr. of Sports Illustrated, Vincent Laforet, Ben Thomas, and many other photographers have images using this technique on their web sites.
A similar technique, known as Smallgantics, applies the same effect of miniaturizing the subject as seen in tilt-shift photography, but is a motion-picture technique that is accomplished in post-production using digital effects software. It was first seen in the 2006 Thom Yorke music video "Harrowdown Hill," directed by Chel White.
Main article: Camera Movements
24mm lens that tilts (as seen above) as well as shifts
On a regular camera, the image plane (containing the film or
image sensor), lens plane, and object plane are parallel, and objects in sharp focus are all at the same distance from the camera. When the lens plane is tilted relative to the image plane, the plane of focus (PoF) is at an angle to the image plane, and objects at different distances from the camera can all be sharply focused if they lie on a straight line. With the lens tilted, the image plane, lens plane, and PoF intersect at a common line; this behavior has become known as the Scheimpflug principle.
When the PoF coincides with an essentially flat subject, the entire subject is sharp; in applications such as
landscape photography, getting everything sharp is often the objective.
The PoF can also be oriented so that only a small part of it passes through the subject, producing a very shallow region of sharpness, and the effect is quite different from that obtained simply by using a large aperture with a regular camera. It can be used to make a large scene appear much smaller, as the shallow depth of field is similar to that achieved by a
macro lens on miniature subjects.
View camera users usually distinguish between rotating the lens about a horizontal axis (tilt), and rotation about a vertical axis (swing); small- and medium-format camera users often refer to either rotation as "tilt".
35 mm lens that shifts
In a subject plane parallel to the image plane, parallel lines in the subject remain parallel in the image. If the image plane is not parallel to the subject, as when pointing a camera up to photograph a tall building, parallel lines converge, and the result sometimes appears unnatural, such as a building that appears to be leaning backwards. Shift is a
movement of the lens parallel to the image plane that allows the line of sight to be changed while keeping the image plane (and As a result focus) parallel to the subject; it can be used to photograph a tall building while keeping the sides of the building parallel. The lens can also be shifted in the opposite direction and the camera tilted up to accentuate the convergence for artistic effect.
Lenses designed for shifting have a much wider field of vision than a standard lens of the same focal length. Whereas the image frame fits tightly in a standard lens, the shifting lens has an imaging area many times wider. Shifting the lens allows different portions of the image circle to be cast onto the sensor plane, similar to cropping an area along the edge of an image.
Again, view camera users usually distinguish between vertical movements (rise and fall) and lateral movements (shift or cross), while small- and medium-format users often refer to both types of movements as "shift".
Applying camera movements
Use of lens shift to control distortion
On a view camera, the lens and camera back are connected by a bellows, and many view cameras allow a considerable range of adjustment of both the lens and the camera back, so the tilt and shift movements are inherent in the camera. Applying tilt on a small- or medium-format camera usually requires a
tilt-shift lens or
perspective control lens; shift can be applied with the same type of lens or with a lens that offers only the shift movement.
Tilt-shift and perspective-correction lenses are available for many SLR cameras, but most are far more expensive than comparable lenses without movements. The
Lensbaby SLR lens is a low-cost alternative for providing tilt and swing for many SLR cameras, although the effect is somewhat different from that of the lenses just described. Because of the simple optical design,
aberrations are significant, and sharp focus is limited to a region near the lens axis. Consequently, the Lensbaby's primary application is selective focus. If that is the objective, however, the Lensbaby may be a perfectly acceptable choice.
It is also possible to construct a tilt-shift lens of sorts, as described in the linked article by Dennison Bertram.
Uses of effect
Lensbaby demonstrating selective focus
By blurring, the viewer's gaze may be directed away from parts of the image the photographer wishes to de-emphasize.
A smaller depth of field can be simulated by bringing the foreground and/or background out of focus.
Main article: Tilt-shift miniature faking
Tilt-shift Miniature Example
Miniature faking is a post-processing technique, which involves selectively blurring a photo to simulate the narrow depth of field found in macro photography and some tilt-shift photography, making the image appear to be of a miniature model.