Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Fake" Tilt-Shift

I read about the photographic technique of making "fake" tilt-shift images in The New York Times on December 9th and by December 29th, the online edition of the The Times of London had "accidentally" (mis) appropriated one of my tilt-shift images hosted on Flickr for a piece they wrote on the technique.

Too funny!

The technique involves taking real-world objects and making them look like scale miniatures by selectively blurring parts of the image. The mind is fooled into thinking the image is on a very small scale - when done right - because such a narrow depth of field so "far" from the camera lens could only be "real" if it were not "far", but merely inches away.

I use Photoshop CS3 to do the selective blurring and a couple of other adjustments to arrive at the final image. Here's a quick tutorial on how to do it:

1) Take the "right" picture ... good candidates have depth, distance and scale. Downwards looking perspectives are helpful. Open the image in Photoshop.

2) Switch to "Quick Mask" mode by hitting "Q".

3) On the Tools panel, select the "gradient tool" ...

4) At the top on the Options bar, select the Quick Mask with three bars - two dark bars around one light - so that you see this:

5) Now place, click and hold the cursor on the place in the photograph you'd like to highlight and remain in focus ... then click-drag the mouse towards the top or bottom of the image. The direction you drag will ultimately be at a 90 degree angle to the focus band you will be defining ... if you don't know what I mean, that means you haven't tried it yet ... go ahead, try it ...

You should now see this:

The red-shaded area will ultimately be what gets blurred. The thickness of the "focus band" is determined by the length of the line you draw when you create the Quick Mask. Play around ... while in Quick Mask mode, you can try over and over again.

6) Press "Q" to leave Quick Mask Mode.

7) Filters > Blur > Lens Blur ... this is only available in Photoshop CS - but I've done the technique with other "blurs" ... you'll have to get creative if you don't have CS.

On the Filter panel, make sure the Source says "None" and click the "Invert" box. Set the Radius to somewhere between 50-90 ... play around and see what it looks like. There are two kinds of preview in the Lens Blur dialogue and the one that says "faster" is MUCH faster ... unless you have serious hardware, stick with "faster".

You should now see this:

A little Specular Highlights adjustment doesn't hurt. Be careful and keep the threshhold high - very near the top of the dynamic range.

Almost done ... click OK.

8) Some optional adjustments ... like salt and pepper ... adjust to taste ...

  • Image > Adjustments > Curves ... Adjust the tone curve to give a bit more boost to the top end ... something like this:

  • Filter > Distort > Lens Correction ... Use a Lens Correction filter to add some barrel distortions ... sometimes helps to add the sense of being very close with a wide-angle lens

  • Filter > Sharpen > Unsharpen Mask ... Use an unsharpen mask with a very low radius (0.6-0.9) and high amount (90-150)



Bob said...

Excellent tutorial...saw reference to it on your Flickr site, where I've also left a comment! :-)

Jeanne said...

Great tutorial! Thanks for taking the time to create and post!!

craig said...

a couple of my attempts here