How to Cheat at Tilt-Shift Photography

How to Cheat at Tilt-Shift Photography

Tilt-shift photography (that ‘miniature effect’) is still a relatively new concept, and it’s a great way for you to generate interest in your design work through social networks, galleries and portfolios. The only problem is the cost. Even if you have a DSLR camera already, a tilt-shift lens will typically set you back around $1500… way beyond what most of us are willing to spend on one photo effect.

The good news is that you can recreate the tilt-shift look for free, or at a small cost, in a variety of different ways. All the following methods are actually better than a photo taken with a traditional tilt-shift lens because you still have the original image to work with and you’re not limited to simply one look.

How to Cheat at Tilt-Shift Photography

How to Cheat at Tilt-Shift Photography

Option 1:

If you’re just starting out with tilt-shift photography, TiltShift Maker is a great choice because it’s extremely simple to use. Just upload your photo or enter the URL, make a few adjustments using the settings, and you can download your finished miniaturised image in seconds. - Result also has a gallery of excellent user-submitted tilt-shift photos, which is perfect if you’re looking for inspiration or you want to get an idea of which photos work best.

Option 2: Tilt-Shift Photoshop Filters

All kinds of Photoshop tilt-shift filters are available to create the miniature effect within the context of your usual workflow. My favourite is available from Graphic River for $5 and comes bundled with fourteen other photo effect filters for you to use.

Original Photograph

Photography with Filter Applied

Option 3: Tilt-Shift Photoshop Tutorials

There are plenty of tutorials on how to create a tilt-shift effect in Photoshop; my favourite is Photo Tuts+’s How to create your own tilt-shift photograph in Photoshop because it’s straightforward and has plenty of screenshots. If you’re lucky enough to have Photoshop CS6, you’ll be pleased to know that Adobe has created a specific tilt-shift effect to make the whole process simpler; you can view ComputerArts’s tilt-shift tutorial for CS6 here.

Create a tilt-shift finish in 30 minutes with a tutorial.

Tilt Shift using a Tutorial

This method takes considerably more time than any of the others featured here, but the biggest advantage is that you have a lot more control and you can tailor your tilt-shift effect exactly to your photo’s subject and composition.

However, before you start any tilt-shift Photoshop tutorial, I’d recommend running the photo through one of the other methods first to get an idea of what the final effect will look like. The last thing you want to do is spend valuable time following a tutorial and then end up deciding that the photo you’ve chosen just doesn’t lend itself to the tilt-shift effect.

Image source: Single Shot

Option 4: Tilt-Shift Apps

You don’t need a DSLR or even a regular digital camera to take stunning tilt-shift photos. There are several apps for iPhone and Android so you can take shots on the go, add a tilt-shift effect in a couple of clicks, and then upload them wherever you are.

Some of the best apps with tilt-shift filter options and effects are:

Screengrabs from Awesome Miniature Pro
Screengrabs from Awesome Miniature Pro

Apps may not give you quite as much control as some of the other methods available, but you have much more opportunity to review your photos at the time and take more if you’re not entirely happy with the final photo for whatever reason. Depending on what you’re photographing and how seriously you’re into tilt-shift, you may want to get the perfect finish on your cellphone or tablet before taking a similar shot with your DSLR to edit later.


Tilt-shift photography is affordable no matter what your budget; it’s simply a case of being creative and using the resources available to you. With so many inexpensive and easy ways of creating a convincing miniature look for your photos, it’s just a case of working out which is your favourite solution.


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