To some photographers who have come of age in the Photoshop era, tilt-shift is a method of post processing that makes scenes look miniature by applying a blur across most of the image and leaving a sharp strip. It’s important to know that the post-processing effect is named for a type of lens that makes this happen in-camera, and is much more than a mere novelty. LensProToGo Does a nice job bringing all the pieces together in some short, clear videos.
WHAT IS TILT-SHIFT?
Tilt-shift lenses are expensive, technical pieces of gear that do exactly what they sound like they do – tilt and shift. But what does that mean? Tilt-shift lenses can move in ways that most lenses can’t. There are two ways they can move, and each gives a different result. Tipping the lens in relation to the sensor plane is called tilting. Sliding the lens perpendicular to the sensor plane is called shifting. Tilt-shift lenses use a mechanism to reflect a larger image to the sensor, which allows these camera movements to make the changes that they do, which are described below and demonstrated in the videos.
Tilting and shifting dates all the way back to cameras with bellows which could be maneuvered, and the creation of these lenses was an answer to losing this flexibility as camera technology changed. Though many of these things can be done in post, using a tilt-shift lens lets you keep all your pixels (unlike severe perspective correction in post) and saves processing time in after your shoot.
Tilting relates to depth of field. It’s the action responsible for the miniature effect that has become popular in recent years and some unconventional depth of field tricks in portraiture. More practically, it can be used to keep elements in an image sharp that would not be on the same focal plane with an ordinary lens.
Another great way to use tilt-shift lenses for portraiture and really upping the ante on its shallow depth of field is incorporating it with the famed Brenizer method. To see how Pye incorporates this lens with the Brenizer method, check out our tutorial here.
Shifting is the reason most architecture photographers have at least one of these lenses in their kit. Shifting combats perspective distortion, which is vitally important in that sector. Verticals need to be vertical or the photographer may end up speaking with an angry architect. To make those verticals look the way they’re supposed to, the lens can be shifted so that the lines are parallel to the sensor plane.
These are just a few uses for tilt-shift lenses, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and dream up new uses.
Nikon and Canon both have a selection of tilt-shift lenses to choose from to suit different needs. Nikon’s offerings are the PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED (available for pre-order), PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED, PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED, and PC-E Micro-NIKKOR 85mm f/2.8D, while Canon users can choose from the TS-E 17mm f/4L, TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, TS-E 45mm f/2.8 and the TS-E 90mm f/2.8. It’s worth noting that all of these lenses are manual focus.
As always, you’re encouraged to share your tilt-shift photos (and anything else you want to show off!) in the SLR Lounge Facebook group.