Shrink Things Down - tyneholm
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Shrink Things Down

Assignment L49

Tilt-shift lenses are best known in landscape photography for generating extensive depth of field and keeping vertical lines straight. Another use for them is to create the “miniature” effect, where a scene is photographed so that it appears as if a scale model has been shot from close range using a macro lens. This has traditionally been achieved by using the movements of a tilt-shift lens to severely restrict the depth of field in the scene. You will almost certainly have seen this effect before as the style has become popular in film and TV for short clips of urban scenes.

Fortunately, you don’t need to splash out on expensive tilt-shift lenses to complete this assignment-you can achieve the effect with relative ease in post-processing on your computer, using software such as Adobe Photoshop. All you need is the right shot to begin with. Scale models often use very bright paint, so, to further simulate this look, you can increase color saturation. Don’t worry about going too far-this is one occasion where you really don’t need to keep things looking natural! 

The Process

Creating thew miniature effect is good fun and a good way to while away some time on a rainy day when you can’t get out with the camera. Simply follow these steps in Adobe Photoshop.

  1. Choose a suitable image and open it in Photoshop.
  2. Right-click the background layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. Smart Objects are useful when using filters, as they make the applied filters editable at any time.
  3. Go to Filter – Blur Gallery – Tilt-Shift to activate the filter.
  4. You will see a pin in the middle of the image with solid lines either side of it, and dashed lines above and below them. The filter effect will be previewed with default values. The area inside the solid lines is the “protected area”, which has no filter effect applied. The “transition areas” are between the solid lines and the dashed lines – blur increases progressively toward the dashed lines, where it reaches full strength.Beyond the dashed lines the filter effect is applied fully.
  5. Adjust the amount of blur by clicking on the ring outside the central pin. Drag it clockwise to increase it or anticlockwise to decrease it. Adjust the size of the protected area by clicking and dragging the solid lines, and adjust the transition area by clicking the dragging the dashed lines.

View the images


  • Choosing the right picture is important-this effect works best with shots with a wide field of view, looking down from a high angle. Simple scenes are a good choice for this technique, especially cityscapes.
  • Everything in the original photograph should be sharp, as you will be adding blur to it. 

Special Kit

  • Post-processing software, such as Adobe Photoshop

Field Notes

  • Cars, trains, boats, and other vehicles make excellent subjects for the tilt-shift miniature treatment. 
  • Although more associated with cityscapes, this effect can also work with rural landscapes-in this example, the tall trees help make the technique successful. 
  • City views, especially with the sky cropped out of the frame, can also look good when given the miniature treatment.