Featured Photography

A Tiny World

I recently began a search on model railroad HO scale figures. Surprisingly, I came across a photographer who uses his camera to mimic model figures. His name is Ben Thomas and lives in Melbourne, Australia.

He is just one of a number of photographers and artists who use the technique tilt-shift photography to create some stunning photos that make the world look interestingly small.

There is a popular photo term called miniature faking, which uses tilt-shift photography to create images that look like model scenery or toys, but are actually real.

In this post, I’ll highlight a few photographers and websites who have specialized their craft using the tilt-shift technique.

I was first introduced to tilt-shift photography in 2011 by John Malyon, the founder of Artcyclopedia. He used software that could simulate the tilt-shift effect and used this technique on the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh.(Courtesy: ArtCyclopedia to see more Van Gogh Paintings using tilt-shift technique). Tilt-shift can also be simulated in Photoshop by adjusting a photograph’s contrast, color saturation and depth of focus. Nothing in any of these paintings been added or removed or had its proportions changed. The effect is achieved simply by manipulating the light in the scene and adjusting the areas of the image that are more and less in focus.

Tilt-shift photography uses depth of field (DoF) and special lenses to create what is known as the Scheimpflug principal. The Scheimpflug principal is a geometric rule that describes the orientation of the plane of focus of an optical system (such as a camera) when the lens plane is not parallel to the image plane. (Wikipedia) This sounds complicated, but is actually easy to understand.

Normally, when the lens and image are parallel, the plane of focus (PoF) is parallel and in focus. If the image is not parallel to the lens, only the central or small portion of the image will remain focused (as shown below). In other words, the DoF will then get distorted. The geometrics can get quite complicated.

So, to explain this in simple terms, a tilt-shift photo has a very small area of focus and the foreground and background are out of focus or blurred.  So, when we look at a photo with a shallow depth of field, it tricks our brain into thinking the area of focus is really close up.  It will then make the subject matter seem as if it is a small model or toy.  This is also because most miniatures are photographed with a macro lens and gives it a small field of focus.

With a normal camera, when the subject is not parallel to the image plane, only a small region is in focus.

With a normal camera, when the subject is not parallel to the image plane, only a small region is in focus.

If you want to know more about tilt-shift photography, David Peterson wrote a good blog post entitled What is Tilt-Shift Photography? in Digital Photo Secrets.

I am fascinated by miniature faking.  But, before we get into some really neat pictures, I’m going to give you a few tips on what makes for the best tilt-shift photos.

Tips and Ticks

  1.  Anything that appears ‘toy-like’ will make for a good tilt-shift photo.  This can be cars, boats, trains and even furniture.
  2.  Look for simple scenes that lack cluttered detail.  This can be empty roads or fields with simple content.
  3.  Look for simple structures to photograph.
  4.  If you include people in your photos, make sure they are small and lack detail.
  5. Try looking down from above and take photos from a bridge or balcony.  This will make the photo appear as if you are looking down at a little toy.
  6. In post photo processing, make the colors more vibrant to make your subject more toy-like.

Remember, the quality of your photo is all in its content and presentation.

So, here are some really good examples of this technique, enjoy!

Remember, all these photos are REAL using tilt-shift technique. They are not miniatures.

Ben Thomas

Tiny Tokyo synopsis: “Epic skyscrapers, crowded city streets, even sumo wrestlers appear to be the size of tiny plastic toys or models. Captured using tilt-shift, an astonishing camera technique that has the effect of seeming to shrink its subjects – these stunning photographs by beloved tilt-shift practitioner Ben Thomas will mesmerize. A pocket sized visual wonderland, Tiny Tokyo is packed with big surprises!” – From Ben Thomas website – Tiny Tokyo: The Big City Made Mini, Ben Thomas (Chronicle Books)

Vincent LaForet

“I’m a filmmaker, photographer, producer, teacher, advisor, innovator and very, very proud father of two.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to witness extraordinary news events, the evolution of story-telling technologies and work alongside many people who have inspired me. I was born in Switzerland, grew up in France and New York City and went to college in Chicago at The Medill School of Journalism. From a very young age I have been on the move, experiencing and adjusting to new ways of life which have allowed me to collaborate across the arts, media, technology and communication fields while feeding my own curiosity and sharing what I’ve learned. My career has afforded me opportunities to do and see remarkable things around the world and I have embraced each of these chances to learn and discover next generation story-telling technologies.”

Jay Lee

Tilt Shift Photography (Website for hundreds of photo examples)

There is now an easy way anyone can take miniatures right on your Iphone or Ipad with the TiltshiftGen2 App.  Enjoy!  To read more on this app, see the IPhone Photography School website post by Rob Dunsford.



9 replies »

  1. Pingback: Fotor |
  2. Very interesting and wonderful photos. I downloaded the suggested iPhone app and have been fiddling with it. Glad it was only $.99 but I’ll keep practicing Fascinating photography, though. Thanks for posting

    Liked by 1 person

Feature Your Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s