Everything You Need To Know About Tilt-Shift Photography

26/02/2021 6:54 am

Chances are, you’ve come across tilt-shift photography without knowing it. It could have been a photo that looked like a miniature model of a city, or one where the subject and object were both in focus. Maybe it was a landscape so breathtaking, you’re not sure how it fits in the frame.


With a tilt-shift lens in your kit, you can play around with perspective control and add a whole new dimension to your photos. Here, we answer the biggest questions about tilt-shift photography so you can figure out whether it’s something you want to try.

What is tilt-shift photography?

Tilt-shift photography involves manipulating camera movements to change the position of the lens. You’ll need to attach a tilt-shift lens to your camera, which you can physically move to play around with different perspectives and depths of field. 


What does a tilt-shift lens do? There are two basic movements tilt-shift lenses can make, and you can probably guess them: tilt and shift.


Tilt refers to a side-to-side movement, which changes the camera’s plane of focus and allows you to focus on subjects in both the foreground and background. To compare, a non tilt-shift lens is always parallel to your camera’s image sensor, and all objects at a distance stay in focus. By using tilt, you skew this plane of focus, and you can shoot two subjects at two different distances. With other lenses, you have to choose one subject or the other.

Everything You Need To Know About Tilt-Shift Photography

Shift moves the lens plane up and down, usually for the purpose of reducing distortion from images. This is handy when you’re shooting from a high or low angle, and it’s a go-to technique for landscape photographers who are capturing panoramas. Thanks to this setting, you can fit taller subjects within your frame — without changing the angle of your camera. Let’s say you’re shooting a building. Instead of angling your camera upward to try to fit an entire building in your frame, you can simply tilt the lens. Since only the lens moves, the building will look straight. Without a tilt-shift lens, it might look like it’s leaning back — which would be weird!

The most common uses for tilt-shift photography

Everything You Need To Know About Tilt-Shift Photography

With tilt-shift photography, you can let your creativity run wild. There are so many ways to tap into this technique for truly unique photos, and landscape, interior design and food photographers often experiment with it. But if we had to narrow down the most popular uses for tilt-shift photography, there are two.


The first: architecture. When you’re capturing a building from a low angle — like on the ground in front of it — you typically have to point your camera up to fit everything into the frame. The result? The side walls of the building angle to the top of the frame, so they look crooked. Not with tilt-shift lenses! They help you to squeeze the entire structure into your scene, and correct converging lines so that all objects are as straight as they appear.

You can also use tilt-shift lenses for the miniature effect. That’s when you take a life-sized scene and make it look like it’s a miniature model with the help of a tilt-shift lens. The lens distorts the sense of space within an image, leaving your subjects looking like mini versions of themselves. If you don’t have a tilt-shift lens in your kit just yet, you can still experiment with this technique digitally. More on that in a minute!

Tips for buying the best tilt-shift lens

Sold on the idea of manipulating space and angles with a tilt-shift lens? Since it’s a specialty lens, there are a couple of specs to look for when you’re shopping around.


Our go-tos are the Canon TS-E range, and Nikon PC-E. Both brands have a variety of tilt-shift lenses that are compatible with DSLRs, and the quality is unparalleled.


Check out these top picks: 

Everything You Need To Know About Tilt-Shift Photography

There are cheaper third-party options on the market, too. They may not offer the same precise movements or image quality as the big-name brands, but they’ll help you mimic the tilt-shift effect (and have fun with it).

Not sure if tilt-shift photography is for you? You can try before you buy with our six-month rental program. That will give you plenty of time to dabble with the style and decide whether you want to invest in your own lens.

How to edit photos for a tilt-shift effect

Everything You Need To Know About Tilt-Shift Photography

Digital editing has opened up a world of possibilities for photographers, and tilt-shift photography is no exception. As we mentioned before, you can explore the tilt-shift style without buying the gear with a photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop.


The software can help you blur certain parts of your image, and fix any distorted lines. While it can be a successful dupe, you’re essentially working backwards so there are some drawbacks to using digital editing. For example, you can’t recover lost depths of field if you didn’t capture them during your shoot, and you may end up with more distortion after trying to straighten lines.


For these reasons, professional photographers rely on tilt-shift lenses if they like the effect they produce.

Add a new dimension to your photos

A tilt-shift lens can inspire creativity and leave you with stunning photos that are hard to replicate. If you’re ready to try your hand at a new style of photography, shop the best specialty lenses online and score free shipping on all orders over $100. 


You can also head to your local Ted’s Cameras store. Our team will be happy to answer any questions you have and help you narrow down your lens options.


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