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How to Achieve Miniature Effect via Photoshop

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Tilt-shift photography refers to the use of camera movements on small and medium format cameras, and sometimes specifically refers to the use of tilt for selective focus, often for simulating a miniature scene. Sometimes the term is used when the shallow depth of field is simulated with digital post-processing; the name may derive from the tilt-shift lens normally required when the effect is produced optically. (Wiki)

Since I don't have the expensive tilt-shift lens and I don't have enough time to make my own lens for the miniature effect, I experimented on some stock photos I have via Photoshop CS4 instead. It's quite easy and it brings you the exact effect you want. Miniature effect has been a popular medium used in commercials lately. But anyway, to get an idea, some cool tilt-shift photography can be seen here.
 
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Step 1: Choosing the Right Photo

Picture of Choosing the Right Photo

Not all photos can give the right miniature effect. When choosing photos one must remember the following:

1) Choose a picture that was taken from a afar.
2) It is also advisable to choose an image not only that it was taken from afar but rather on an elevated level like you're on 4th or 5th floor of a building taking city streets down below. A good perspective is always a key point.
3) Most of the time, cars, buildings and trees are the best subjects although if you want to take pictures of people, just make sure that there's an element in the picture that would make them look like plastic toy models, for example a building or at least a few cars, trees any structure.

For this tutorial I chose one of my favorite miniature effect subject, trains. Take note that I chose a photo that was taken a floor higher than the subject.

Step 2: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started

Open up your chosen image via Photoshop. In my case, I used CS4.
chtwrone7 months ago
Here are some examples that I've done recently.
chtwrone chtwrone7 months ago
Hey presto.
CBD tilt-shift.jpgTransalpine-1.jpg
That is so awesome :D I've been trying to think of ways to edit some photos that I took whilst I was in France, and this is just brilliant. I really like the way this affects the trees.
Haplo12 years ago
That is very very cool
jfailma2 years ago
ayos to...salamat
This is very neat and a good use of Photoshop but why is the top and bottom of the photo always blurred.
nathb10282 years ago
Make an i phone ap of this!
TomK322 years ago
Now here are a few mistakes that you made. This selection has to be a lot more complicated, for everything that rises vertically from a focused into a blurred area needs to be selected to and kept focused. In you picture there are those poles next to the rail tracks, they are a perfect example for the top of the pole is almost the same distance away as the bottom thus it has to be sharp for the whole length.
jean v2 years ago
awesome... its crazy that such a relatively simple tweak can make the whole world look miniturized... amazing... there´s gotta be some weird neurology that explains this phenomenon... thanks for sharing.
TheAlp jean v2 years ago
its called the "Scheimpflug principle"

you can read about it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheimpflug_principle
jean v TheAlp2 years ago
thanks for the link... seems pretty interesting but i´m having a hard time making sense of it... definitely seems worth looking into further though..
simplebeep2 years ago
Nice effect! I like how you demonstrated the Lens Blur filter, which tends to look more realistic than a simple Gaussian Blur. However, I noticed one major problem: You suggest selecting "Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation" and "Image > Adjustments > Curves."

Instead, it is always better to go to "Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation" and "Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves." This latter method creates adjustment layers which have exactly the same effect, but the advantage is they can be double-clicked in the Layers panel later and modified, without compounded loss to image quality, and they can be turned on and off any time.

The only reason for expressing my concern is that there isn't any disadvantage to the Adjustment Layer method, and it indoctrinates new Photoshop users into using professional best-practices.
Not bad, it's a tad bit too blurry in my opinion but hey, nice instructable. Here's one I made a couple weeks ago. I keep my radius at about 15-20 depending on the picture. this one's at 17
Lens blur Toy look.jpg
jaireh2 years ago
i'll try MRT as my subject for tiltshift..

by the way, is this near shaw?
voytikof2 years ago
And here is solution for lazy one :)
http://tiltshiftmaker.com/
hey! thanx...
Be my guest :)
rcisneros2 years ago
WOW.. I have all these boring pictures from Iraq/Kuwait. [Well the boring if you've been in the Army for a while.]

With this it might make some of the pics really interesting. Thanks.
Rufda Camen2 years ago
I realy love your work!!! thanks for share!!!
Treknology2 years ago
You've presented me with a new way of looking at photography. I have always tried to take photos of models such that they can be mistaken for the real thing. It can be awkward at an exhibition, because sometimes I'm trying "to fit a hefty camera through a matchbox"...

You're wanting to detach the camera from the photo, whereas I'm trying to burrow the camera into the photo. e.g., If the above photo were a model, I would be taking my photo in between the two trains, or at least looking THROUGH the railing.

I would easily agree that in BOTH cases, perspective is particularly important.
arjay14912 years ago
awesome, i saw something good today
branwag2 years ago
Thank you! It's a wonderful trick!
bigcatpants2 years ago
This technique is fair, however there are some caveats which will take away from the effect:
- The point of the blur is so that things too close or too far from the point of focus would blur out. For example, in the 4th image, the people on the side of the rail are rather in focus even though the intent was to focus on the street [bikeway? walkway?] below. you could always get the blur tool out and just blur them out a smidgen and it will add to the picture.
- The vertical fade of the blur is good on the 2nd image, but on the 3rd image, since it's a bit of a wide angle lens, you'll want to blur the left and right sides a bit, too. Perhaps in this case, instead of the reflected gradient, you'd probably use 2 or 3 radial gradients side to side. Or do it by hand. :)

A good rule of thumb when wanting to achieve this effect is look at how 'far' the focal point is, and make sure everything closer or farther gets blurred, with more blur the farther back/closer up it is.

Author, you hit the nail on the head about the saturation! I just over HDR'd [which led to some oversaturation] an image I applied this effect to, and it made the image though I didn't know why. Now I know! :)
this.. is... ameeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaayzing

(not a reference to "look at this amaaayyyyyzing crocodile")

Nice work!
wncranger2 years ago
Wow! Just, WOW! The photo totally got me. I actually thought it was a photograph of a miniature scene / diorama. That is SICK! I give you 5 stars and a huge thank you for sharing how you accomplished this.
dennisdlmd2 years ago
Good job! Haven't seen Manila from that perspective before. Thanks for the great idea on a new pet project.
CaptPikel2 years ago
I've been doing this a long time because I as well have no tilt shift lens (yet), but it's nice to see an instructable on it now. This would have helped a long time ago :)
sfurick2 years ago
Even after I knew what was happening I had trouble believing the photo wasn't of a model train. Nicely done!
webb1142 years ago
Thank you. This is an istructable that I will use more than any. The effects are very well done.
aboyce12 years ago
Thank you - I've always wondered about those AdultSwim pieces! Great instructions, if you know anything about Photoshop it is simple.
I love this tutorial!! It is easy to do, and looks great.
Krasen2 years ago
hey, some of those are really cool :)
A great look, also you could try inverting the selected area after you have done the blur and play with Sharpen and Sharpen More to increase the contrast between the blurred and in focus areas.
farzadbayan2 years ago
Great!
Sabinbp2 years ago
wow man you a filipino? nc stuff you do
Ratzo2 years ago
Ahahahaha this is brilliant! Very well done!
PeckLauros2 years ago
Nice instructables. Thanks to share it with us.
ezarate2 years ago
THATS SICK
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