Web site to tilt-shift your photos


TiltShiftMaker.com gives your photos that delightful tilt-shift look. (Above: From an original photo by Daveness_98)

Tilt-shift miniature style photos are pictures of real-life scenes that are manipulated to look like model photographs.

Now you can easily transform your existing digital camera photos into tilt-shift miniatures using tiltshiftmaker.com.

(Thanks, Bevin!)


  1. Thanks for posting that, wanted to mess around with tilt-shift on my photos for a while but I’m Photoshop-illiterate so could never be bothered learning! Only works well on certain photos but it’s a great time-killer.

  2. Goodness. It’s simply a technique, folks. Application is question, not the technique. The vitriol just ends up sounding narrow.

    I think it’s quite interesting in that one can take the real and make it look unreal and/or toy like.

  3. That looks great, but to be perfect it needs to incorporate the image contour sensing intelligence of the liquid resizing method so that the blurring is applied more accurately according to the pixels calculated z depth.

    i.e. the car roof is more buried than it should be but there is GPL code that could help to improve this.


  4. I guess I should just start adding a “Gee, this sucks!” comment to each post I make about tilt-shift, HDR or any other photo trick. That way the whiners don’t need to waste precious calories tapping out their critiques.

    1. Next on Boing Boing: Flickr photoset of readers who gouged their own eyes out rather than use the scroll bar.

  5. “If one does it at exposure-time, it’s at least not fake looking.”

    I thought the point of the technique was that it made the real look fake?

  6. I wonder what the reaction of someone would be if they’ve never been exposed to poorly done miniature scenes in TV or movies?

    BTW – tried two pics, final size was 0 bytes. wasted my time.

  7. This is all well and good, but I’m waiting for the tilt shift AND steampunk filter to come out of beta before I even bother.

  8. Wow! That’s really cool! I guess I might see it as tiresome too if I’d been exposed to a lot of it before, but I’m sufficiently out of the loop that I hadn’t known you could do this.

    (Although it does explain some magazine illos that had got me wondering about the huge amount of effort someone had apparently expended in constructing a miniature.)

  9. I thought the point of the technique was that it made the real look fake?

    Um… It can be used to make the real look fake, which some people seem transfixed by.

    I assume that effect isn’t so much due to a fake tilt-shift as a fake huge-aperture – equivalent (I guess) to taking a photo of a tiny thing and also (I guess) common in large-format photography.

    (Come to think of it you might be able to make an better automatic tool for that which measure the bluriness of areas and then amplified it).

    The ’tilt’ and ‘shift’ refer to moving the lens of a camera with respect to the film. This changes the focal plane away from the vertical and allows you to change the perspective lines respectively. Think of those Ansell Adams shots where the ground is in focus all the way to the horizon. Not fake at all.

    You could fake some of that well if you had a photo with good depth of field and some idea how close to the camera everything is.

    As far as I could tell the lens babies don’t quite work like a real tilt/shift lens.
    On the other hand, some people mount lenses on toilet plungers for a budget diy bellows unit.

  10. a horizontal band of focus as a post-process will only work on certain types of landscape pics and is really a poor substitute for the narrow depth-of-field rendered by true macro photography.

    not sure if tilt-shift truly delivers narrow depth in the same way that macro does, but these fake-outs look like fake-outs. look at the black car on the right; its doors are sharp but the roof edge is soft, because the band of focus didn’t reach that high. but true narrow depth-of-field would have rendered the roof as sharp as the door, with the contour of the car standing out as sharper than whatever was behind it.

  11. Cherry Shiva & AnonymousDan

    As far as I know, tiltshift has zero to do with z-depth/depth of field. The effect certainly asks your brain to assume the depth being suggested by the blurred areas is real (hence the miniature effect), but the technique isn’t actually achieving that. It’s just blurring the top and bottom of the frame..

    Anybody got more on that?

  12. I suspect that if the caption and comments and citation weren’t there, my conclusion would be “this photograph has strata of blurriness”, and not “this photograph looks like one of a miniature model” or even “this photo is supposed to look like one of a miniature model.” I don’t think I’m alone.

    Which is sort of funny, really. This technique only works because the audience expects its outcome. Thus it can reasonably be called a “fake of a fake”.

    1. This technique only works because the audience expects its outcome.

      No. I thought that these types of photos were of models before I ever read an explanation.

  13. @#6: If you want to muck around with tilt-shift, you don’t need Photoshop, but a tilt-shift lens. You can buy them, but you can also make one with an old lens. If you want to fake it, then yes, have fun in Photoshop, but don’t mistake it as the same thing.

    @#7: That’s not a tilt-shift lens and won’t give the same results.

    @#22: A real tilt-shift lens has everything to do with depth of field among other things. It’s only the fake effect in this post that is just blurring the top and bottom of the frame. Or is that what you were referring to?


    You can do more than create the “miniature” effect with a good tilt-shift lens.

  14. That is neat! I always liked those kinds of photos but I’m no photographer and had no idea what that was called. I too have seen many photos I thought were of elaborate miniatures setups and now I think perhaps they were using this technique. I must also be out of the loop because I haven’t seen a lot of these pics. And just when I thought I’d have a little fun with my new camera I’ve missed a passing fad…

  15. Please don’t let the grumbling keep you from posting such neat things Mark. I had a great time running some of my own photos through the tiltshiftmaker. I guess I’m just not sophisticated enough to care that it isn’t perfect.

  16. Testing the depth-of-field thing…

    I had a go at the same photo, bascially repeatedly using photoshop’s ‘blur more’ starting at with the furtherest objects then adding things that were closer and closer to the car to the selection (and then did the same from the front).

    I did the bit around the car frame manually and fiddled with the levels and saturation. And did a bit of extra blurring at the back, though now I look it’s still a lot less than the one above.

    So I was going for fake wide-aperture.

    Because the typical ‘model’ shot of a city of whatever is from above, front=close and back=far away, just blurring the top and bottom would often be realistic.

    There is an appealing quaint quality to just doing it that way for other photos, though.

  17. Macro photography has a shallow depth-of-field so only a small region of an image is “in focus”. A more extreme example is looking through a microscope which has almost zero depth-of-field.

    A tilt-shift lens allows you to create an artificially shallow depth-of-field by tilting the lens (shifting it is not involved). Everything closer and farther from the focal plane quickly becomes blurred and our brain is fooled into thinking it’s a macro picture. Pretty neat.

    What’s lame about many fake TS pictures is that since the blurring that simulates the dept-of-field is applied indiscriminately above and below a region of “in-focus” sharpness, and “tall” things that are in the focal plane get (incorrectly) blurred at the top and bottom of the picture.

    So it looks fake not because it’s tilted (tilting is fake, but it’s also cool) but because it’s poorly simulated, violates laws of optics and thus looks photoshopped.

    Note that you can pick photos where a simplistic TS simulation more or less works, or you could do a more sophisticated blurring (rather than simply picking a horizontal band.) The later involves work and is not something TiltShiftMaker.com provides.

  18. check out “melancholytron” filter for from flaming pear software. i am not affiliated with fps.

  19. SoupIsGoodFood

    I suppose that is what I meant, unintentionally. Where I was coming from, was: I’ve seen TiltShifts of huge scenes, featuring focal-point/DoF way longer/deeper than what I thought achievable with a hand-held sized lense. (Some very likely featured in the related links, above.)

    Now that i thnk of it, any number of these could have been fake TiltShift rather than real, lense-based, so I may have reasoned the limits of the technique to fit the physics I was observing..

  20. Something about TS photos always makes me feel like a kid at the museum, staring at dioramas.

    My favorite is the motion TS used near the end of John August’s The Nines, especially because I get to see a lot of neighborhoods I’m familiar with given the treatment.

  21. Sure, I own a lensbaby now, and if I decide to use it on a certain shot a can get something tilt-shifty but what about that shot I took 5 years ago that I feel like playing with for a couple of minutes to distract me from my boring life?
    Bite it, haters.

  22. What would be really cool would be a tilt shift film. If you picked the scene carefully and scripted the actor’s actions so they didn’t cross into the blurred part and break the illusion I think it could work.

  23. #11, “fake” in that it looks like someone took an image where everything was in focus, then drew a line across it where things are not in focus.

    In tilt-shift, everything that is parallel to the film plane is in focus.

    Look at the photo above. It drew a line across it. The fence across the street is in the same focus as the car near us, but the tree folliage above (but between them) is not in focus? Bogus. Ugly and bogus.

    That’s what I mean by fake.

  24. Thanks! I can’t wait to try this! I am now beginning to hoard SX-70 film and need to find a way to work the two together. Wild!!!

  25. a way to work the two together

    You could try finding the right tool or solvent to smudge the emulsion around and make and blur-by-hand while the image is developing.

    The done-by-hand thing could make a virtue of the faux-ness people have complained about.

    Plus you might start a new trend and singlehandedly revive the fortunes of polaroid’s camera operation, so you’ll still be able to get film in five years.

  26. great post – the automated fake tilt-shift may be fatally flawed, but it’s bin giving me ideas…

    and buddy @ 2 – i find the genuine tilt-shift stuff hugely satisfying :)

    (maybe it’s because i grew up in a seaside town with a lovely little Model Village)

  27. Just when I was starting to get bored senseless with tilt-shit, I see this photo and I’m back into it again. Great effect! Love the blue car especially. Ok, maybe this will finally kill trend-tilt dead. But, then again… maybe not after this nice surprise.

  28. It reminds me very much of looking at ViewMaster (stereo-opticon novelty of the sixties and earlier) images, from when I was a kid. Not so much the travelogue variety; more the Story Book versions (“The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, etc.) or the Adam West “Batman” sort of discs.

    Except less eye-strainy. And you don’t have to crank your head toward a lamp.

  29. anyone catch the motorolla football commercial using tilt shift? its a shot over chargers stadium i believe, or a mock up of it— fireworks and all.

    given the recent shananagains from motorolla on this here website… =) im just sayin.

  30. This technique only works because the audience expects its outcome.

    I scrolled down to this story and thought, “Oh cool, a story about really realistic miniature models.” When I found out what it actually was, I was even more excited. I’m not really into photography or Photoshop, so this is new to me. Haters, y’all can scroll past or sound really pretentious in comments, whichever you prefer, but I’m glad Boing Boing posts this kind of stuff for those of us who aren’t in every single Internet loop.

  31. I think that many of the complaints here come not from just whining about the technique altogether, but because (a) the website misuses the term “tilt-shift” to mean something entirely different, and (b) the algorithm used is extremely simple and gives very poor results in all but ideally suited photographs.

    For the former issue, as others have noted, there are a number of tilt-shift techniques that are used for various effects: shifting can change the perspective of a scene, and tilting can do all sorts of interesting things with the focusing—in fact, I believe it is more commonly used to increase the effective depth of field for a tilted subject. The website, on the other hand, is just applying a gradient blur to make photos that look like dioramas; even then, if they actually were dioramas, the photos probably wouldn’t be being taken by a tilt-shift lens, unless perhaps the photographer wanted to make them look real. If the website were dioramaphotomaker.com, or something similar, there would probably be far less of an outcry on this point.

    The author of the website certainly doesn’t help to dispel these sorts of complaints. While the summary here describes the photos as simulated tilt-shift images, the website says nothing about them being simulated, and in the “Read More” page, seems to insist that the images created by software in this way are actual “tilt-shift” photographs, equivalent to those made by a tilt-shift lens. The author also shows little understanding of or concern for the actual lens techniques, considering that the image of a “tilt lens” on the site is obviously a shift lens that does not tilt, and is even described as such on Wikipedia, the original source of the image. In fact, if the author had taken the time to read through the Tilt-shift photography article, they would have found an image of a tilt lens only a very short distance away, making the mistake rather inexcusable. It’s not clear to me that the author understands tilt-shift photography at all, as they don’t seem to know that the effect they are trying to create has nothing at all to do with shift lenses, and only involves tilt.

    For the second point, as dan (#9) and Lyndon (#18) pointed out, there are number of algorithms that could make this diorama-like effect be far more convincing and suitable for far more complex scenes. Using some sort of edge-detection to identify an object that should be at a single distance, for example, would help; similarly, using some measure of sharpness instead of just a gradient might work if tweaked sufficiently. With multiple photos of a scene taken with different focusing distances, it might be possible to use an enblend-like system to reconstruct distances, and then use that for the blurring. Furthermore, some sort of algorithm might be possible to make the blurriness look more like bokeh and less like a blur filter.

    I’m not saying that the effect isn’t interesting. But it could be much better.

  32. I agree with Retchdog: they don’t look like miniatures to me, and I wouldn’t have known they were supposed to be miniatures without the caption.

    I’m not trying to sound superior or critical – if anything, the opposite. I think maybe it’s like Magic Eye photos – some people just can’t see them. You take a photo, run some algorithm on it, and some people go “wow, that’s really cool” and others just go “huh?”

    I think the *idea* of making real things look like miniatures is a fun one, but I’ve never seen a photo which I think achieves it.

  33. What would be fun would be to get 32 or so video cameras, and mount them in a big array to simulate a really big lens.

    You’d get real depth of field. Choose the focal depth in post processing, or even modify the focal depth interactively as the video is playing.

    … off to look for some cheap webcams and a really big usb hub …

  34. Rachael, there is some great use of the technique in the video for Harrowdown Hill, by Thome Yorke.

    Higher quality version here, (30 MB, right-click, save as*) advised, as vimeo’s compression kind of messes with the blur effect..

    * I vouch for the safety of the link :)

  35. PFH

    Sounds something like SmallGantics’ super-secret 10-planes of DoF + compositors technique.

    Because of non-disclosure and proprietary reasons, I cannot disclose our exact technique, but I can explain the many issues posed.

  36. Rachael, if you don’t want to download that video, check the SmallGantics link, and scroll down to the river/field/factory/protest shots.. miniature-looking?

  37. That video for Harrowdown Hill was the first time I remember ever seeing this effect. I tried a few on that website and it definitely only seems to work effectively when you’ve got the right angle and a huge depth of field.

  38. The problem I have with this post is the title. “Web site to tilt-shift your photos” is inherently wrong. Tilt-shifting is done when the actual exposure is taken, with a special lens arrangement. This is a web site to give photos a faux tilt-shifted look (and to do it badly, IMO).

  39. Arkizzle, the SmallGantics technique is the sort of thing we were speculating about earlier – it’s one of the right ways to go about making images that look like macros of miniatures, and is arguably even more effective at doing so than using a tilt-shift lens. It’s very different from the simple and relatively ineffective gradient being used here. The pile of stones photograph is an excellent example of a scene where the gradient method would fail miserably.

  40. @#50
    Thanks for pointing out the oversight with the tilt lens picture. This has been fixed. The text on the page has also been clarified in an attempt to distinguish between “fake tilt-shift” and “fake miniatures”.

    Re: the other points. The focus (pardon the pun) of the application is to provide a fun way to try the effect on your photos. If you require more powerful image editing application, you will most likely own a copy of Photoshop etc. already.

  41. Of course this comes out two weeks after I order a tilt-shift lens. Thanks to the picky commenters above for pointing out why one should appreciate the real thing.

  42. I completely agree abound the wrong use of the word tilt-shift.
    Then for those interested by the “fake miniature” effect, or more generally “reconstruction of a fake depth of field”, see a beautiful example here of the
    mini Nidaros cathedral
    (check the comments to see the depth map used for the blurring)
    For discussion about how to use this technique in gimp, see
    this flickr forum, particularly the posts from “Mute”.

    (and sorry for my poor English)

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