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Tilt Shift Effect is a photography technique that involves using a tilt-shift capable lens with a large aperture to create a very shallow depth of field in the picture, which produces a “toy-like” scenery out of an otherwise ordinary landscape photograph. Although the technique has been in practice since the beginning of film photography, tilt-shift effect became widespread in the late 2000s with the advents of mobile camera applications and online photo-sharing communities.
Tilt shift photography traditionally refers to the use of lens movements on small and medium-format cameras to manipulate the depth of field or the focus in images. The term “tilt-shift” refers to two different types of movements: rotation of the lens plane relative to the image plane, called tilt, and movement of the lens parallel to the image plane, called shift. The original shift lens was introduced by Nikon for its 35mm SLR cameras in the mid 1960s and the full “tilt-shift” lens was introduced by Canon in 1973.
The earliest known hubsite of simulated tilt-shift photographs was launched by Flickr users Grahamtastic and Bluewave via group pool “Tilt Shift Fakes” on February 1st, 2006. The group continued to grow in size throughout the years, gaining over 59,000 images and 19,000 members in its five years of existence.
The earliest use of diorama effect in a commercial motion picture can be found in the 2006 music video for “Harrowdown Hill” by Jim L. Clark, using a process dubbed Smallgantics. The project was produced at Bent Image Lab in July 2006 and directed by filmmaker Chel White.
Beginning in 2007, both professional and amateur photographers released a wide range of works featuring the use of tilt for selective focus and similar dioramic, miniature effects, including Walter Iooss Jr. of Sports Illustrated, Vincent Laforet and Ben Thomas among others. In December 2007, New York Times Magazine published an article titled “Fake Tilt-Shift Photography”, introducing the concept of simulated tilt-shift effect which became popular through the Flickr group “Tilt Shift Fakes.”
Beginning circa September 2008, a number of Vimeo artists like Keith Loutit and Mockmoon (shown below, left & right respectively) began posting short films featuring a wide range of urban and rural sceneries that were processed through “tilt shift” filter in post-production. Mockmoon’s videos, dubbed the “Miniature City” series, were positively received and even emulated by other videographers in the Vimeo community. Loutit’s works also came under the news media spotlight in 2008 and 2009, as “tilt shift effect” continued to grow in demand through mobile camera applications.
Tilt Shift Simulators
Beginning in late 2008, the trend of tilt-shift photographs was picked up by various graphic design and photography blogs like Photography Concentrate and Lightroom Secrets, many of whom provided step-by-step tutorials and instructions on how to simulate the effect using image editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop’s Lens Blur filter and depth-maps. In May 2010, several consumer-grade cameras enabled with tilt-shift filter were introduced by Olympus and Canon, thus allowing instant application of the effect onto the image.