Tilt-shift photography has become quite a trendy effect within portraiture, especially wedding photography. Unfortunately good Tilt-shift lenses aren’t cheap so I thought a tutorial on how to achieve similar results in Photoshop might be useful. There’s a variety of ways of creating this effect in Photoshop but most of them involve you having to create some kind of mask where you want the focus point of the photo to be. This can be a little annoying if you want to change your mind after previewing the rendered results so I’d like to show you an alternative method. One that allows you to preview the effect in real time and change the point of focus as many times as you like until its perfect without having to create any masks.
1. Start by duplicating your background layer and name it Tilt-shift. If you already have active layers then you can merge visible onto a new layer by using the key command Command+Alt+Shift+E (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E (PC).
2. Click on the channels tab in your layers palette or select Window > Channels from the menu bar.
3. We’re going to create two Alpha Channels, one for a horizontal Tilt-shift and a second for a vertical Tilt-shift. Create your first alpha channel by clicking on the icon next to the trash icon at the bottom of the channels palette (next to the trash icon) or by selecting it from the little fly-out menu at the top right of the channels palette. Name this first channel ‘Horizontal’. and repeat to create a second called ‘Vertical’.
4. With your foreground and background colours set to the default black and white select the Gradient Tool. On the horizontal channel draw a straight gradient from top to bottom. If you hold the shift key while doing this it will make sure the gradient is completely straight. Repeat this for the vertical channel but draw your gradient from left to right.
5. Click on the RGB channel at the top of the channels palette to bring your image back and click back on the layers palette. Go to the Filter menu and select the Lens Blur filter.
6. Your Alpha Channels will now appear in the Depth Mask drop down menu and allow you to choose a horizontal or vertical effect.
7. The beauty of this technique is that the lens blur filter allows you to click the areas within your image that you want to be in focus and the preview is updated accordingly. You can control the strength of lens blur by adjusting the Radius slider. In this particular example my point of focus is the obviously the subjects and I felt that the horizontal effect looked best. I’ve gone a little more extreme with the effect in this screenshot so you can better see the results. Once you’ve made your adjustments, click OK to apply the filter.
If your like me and like to keep things as editable as possible then you might have notice that the lens blur filter can’t be used on a Smart Object. I was going to write a little tutorial on how you can use a simple script supplied with Photoshop to change this but, well, its late and I’m knackered. However, a quick search and found this link which explains how to do it.