It’s not Tilt-Shift, It’s Photoshop

Tilt shift refers to a special lens that tilts and shifts the focal plane. However what I do is done in photoshop. Real tilt shift is especially useful in architecture photography. What we see online today is a digital representation of a shift effect, also known as “selective focus.” Here is a shot of the 5 fwy. you can see the focus is just concentrated on the bridge. More specifically it’s concentrated on the sign.

selective focus of the 5 fwy

It looks so much bigger in person.


The result is an amusing optical illusion that makes everything appear to be tiny.  It would seem to me that this phenomenon only occurs to us based on previous images we’ve seen of closeup photography. When you look at something close up, selective focus is happening, but you can’t detect it as easy. In person, you really only see the object you’re focusing on. When you look at the blurry background, your eye focuses on the background. You can tell that your peripheral vision is blurry but you can’t experience it the same way as when you see selective focus of an image. It would seem the best way to see this is effect is to recreate it with photography.

To create the image of the man under the light post, I created the selective focus effect twice in photoshop, then blended them together. It occurred to me that in this image the road and a portion of the building would be in focus, and that the focus would need to run vertical for the effect to work. The first selective focus was made so the street and the man were in focus and everything else was blurry, including the upper portion of the light pole. It looked weird because the light pole was on the same plane as the man, yet it was just as blurry as the background behind the pole. I saved that, and created a new one where the focus was on the side of the building and the streetlamp. I brought them together and blended them so the result would appear more authentic.