When photos look like tiny models, this is the tilt shift effect, to take it further, use a drone to capture the images and then drop in other objects to make tiny worlds, this is really fun and this tutorial shows you exactly how to do it!
Using your drone, find a scene that will work well for this effect. Look for areas that you can add in items of interest to create a fun or interesting story. I shot this early morning shot with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. (Note, I always shoot in RAW to get more dynamic range) Look for a time of the day where there aren’t strong shadows or an overcast day. You can have shadows in the shot, just be aware the the supporting photos have the same shadow direction.
Find an object to drop into the shot. In this case, I found a fish on Adobe Stock and cut it out. (How to cut out images in Photoshop)
Use Image>Adjustments>levels to make the fish look like it’s underwater. Darken it down a little bit. You can use Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation.
Please not that these adjustments are available as adjustment layers for the bottom of the Photoshop Layers panel, and adjustment layers are better because they are re-editable.
Add a photo of a cat, I got this one from Adobe Stock.
Cut out the cat and reposition it to suit the story you are telling. I added a little bit of a drop shadow to the left of the cat.
Right now, everything is a bit gloomy and I want to warm it up. Notice that I put all the pieces in place before applying color correction or any effects. This is so that I can adjust everything together and this will pull it together visually and not look like just a bunch of photos dropped in.
Choose the very top layer
Add a Color Balance Adjustment layer. and on the blue/yellow slider, move it a little towards the yellow to make it look like a little sun is on the shot. (This also simulates an indoor light if we were looking at a miniature scene).
Make it look like a miniature world
Lets apply our tilt-shift effect to make everything look small.
Select all the layers and convert to a Smart Object (see tutorial). This makes sure all the layers get the effect. (If you are not using CC, then you will need to create a composite layer instead, as Tilt-shift only works on a Smart Object in Photoshop CC, not in CS6). Non CC users: Select all the layers and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E / Cmd+Option+Shift+E on Mac.
Choose Filter>Blur Gallery>Tilt Shift
This is what you will see
Drag the center of the circle icon (pin) and position it higher in the image. I wanted to preserve some detail in the Ferris wheel. I also wanted the cat’s face to be sharp.You can drag the 2 lines closer to each other to change the fall off.
I set the blur to 20 px, this will vary for each image, see what looks right to you. The good thing about using a Smart Object is that you can change it later if you want to.
I also clicked on the effects tab and pushed in just a little bit of light bokeh. 20% gives a nice plasticky look to the highlights and adds to the effect.
Here is the Final image.
Try this on some of your own images, it’s a lot of fun! Drop some of yours into the comments, Id love to see them!
Here is another example of the tilt shift effect, I didn’t do any compositing on this one.
If you are interested in learning more about compositing in Photoshop, I created a very comprehensive tutorial called Sky City Project. In this series of videos, I show multiple ways of extracting photos, blending them and then changing the lighting with blending modes and dodging and burning. As a bonus I show you how to paint in clouds (like the smoke in the catzilla image) and well as some different ways of creating cinematic coloring effects.
Add a comment and join in the discussion. Any questions or requests for future tutorials? Let’s hear them.
Until next time, Happy Flying
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