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Tilt Shift Lenses

Read first here about understanding focal distance and how it works in regular lenses…


A tilt shift lens is a specialty lens that is mainly used for architecture. Instead of the lens moving forwards and back to get focus it moves, ‘tilts’ and 'shifts from side to side. This effect means that not what we would typically know to be in focus is not and can trick the eye. Let’s take a look at what a lens like this looks like:


So what's the purpose of them?

They are used traditionally and purposefully built for architectural photography for two reasons:

1. Keeping the whole image in focus (or as much as possible, even if you have foreground objects):



2. 'Shifting' the lens so the buildings aren't skewed when tilting the camera up:


However, more commonly and what is more recognisable as a tilt shift lens is when it is used creatively and the shift in 'incorrect' focus is done deliberately. An example of this is in film they tend to get used a lot in dreamscapes or showing the character's perspective of hallucinating, so they are more to add a feel or mood to certain segments of a film.


With photography you may have seen the 'miniaturised' effect of street scapes or landscapes. Let's take a look at some examples:



Tilt shift lenses are very expensive in comparison to regular lenses due to the technology that goes into them. Not many photographers go to the expense of having a tilt shift lens these days because photo editing software can correct a lot of the skewing that takes place when tilting up on a building. It's very much a boutique option in a photographer's kit.


However, when it comes to film it is harder to truly replicate in editing so it's a lens that tends to get hired out for those special occasions when it's needed.


It's a niche lens, however, a lot of fun to play around with outside of the normal photography or videography norms with a regular lens!


Included in the Smartphone Activities book is an exercise of creating your own miniaturised photos without the need of a tilt shift lens.

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