Faking it: Tilt Shift effect in Photoshop
26 Apr 2006

If you follow the general photography scene, it's a bit hard to miss all of the recent photos that use a Photoshopped "tilt-shift" effect to make life size objects look miniature. Flickr has over 2800 photos tagged with tiltshift as well as 30 semi-related groups. The effect is actually very easy to achieve, once you find the right photo. The tutorial I learned from is here, on Receding Hairline. What I haven't seen much of is this effect applied to food photography, and I think there could be some interesting results. For example, it's a great way to correct a shot if you've given it too deep of a depth of field. The lens blur filter, along with a graduated mask, provides a close approximation of a narrow depth of field. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for a blog. Here's a shot that I took of breakfast at The Inn at Langley last weekend. I was trying to to get in the way of folks trying to get their food, so I just snapped a couple of quick ones of the buffet table. When I got home, and looked at the photos, I was disappointed that the shot was so harsh. I almost just trashed them all, but then I decided I might be able to fix this one. For this particular shot, I made a clear departure from accuracy, focusing on the emotion I wanted the shot to portray. Here's the before photo:

Breakfast at the Inn at Langley

Notice, there's not central focus to the photo, and your eye tends to bounce all over the place. It shows a lot of good food, but it doesn't really make you go "oh my god, I want to eat that right now!" (and trust me, it was all amazingly delicious...) I applied a tilt-shift effect, following the extremes listed in the tutorial above to get this result:
Breakfast at the Inn at Langley

A lighter hand on the radius and the highlights would have given a more real looking picture, but I kind of liked the extreme. It makes the photo all about that one chocolate, puff pastry tart and makes it look magically delicious while at the same time showing that there is lots of other food that is probably equally wonderful. Of course, you could use the same effect to make mini-food... just pick a photo with a wide angle, taken from above, and play with it... you may end up making some beautiful looking banquets for all the people living in the mini-world.

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