Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version)

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Your Citation
Masoner, Liz. "Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version)." ThoughtCo, Jun. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/photoshop-elements-tilt-shift-1702696. Masoner, Liz. (2017, June 29). Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/photoshop-elements-tilt-shift-1702696 Masoner, Liz. "Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/photoshop-elements-tilt-shift-1702696 (accessed October 24, 2017).
01
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Tilt Shift Overview

Tilt Shift Effect
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

Tilt shift is a very old photographic effect that has found new life through technology. Tilt shift results in a real life scene looking like a miniature model. There is a small horizontal band of sharp focus with the rest of the image thrown out of focus and colors are exaggerated. The original bellows cameras (the ones with the pleated fabric connecting the lens to the camera body) were the original tilt shift. The lens literally tilted and shifted to find focus and perspective on the subject. Now, you either buy very expensive specialty lenses to recreate this effect or work in digital editing.

For this tutorial, I'll show you how to manually produce the tilt shift effect in Photoshop Elements. What's nice about this manual method is that you can use it no matter what version of Photoshop Elements you have. However, if you have Photoshop Elements 11 or higher, you may want to skip to our tutorial about the guided method of creating the tilt shift effect.

Please note: The layer masks feature used in this tutorial was introduced in Photoshop Elements 9, but if you have an older version, you can add the layer masks feature using the Free Layer Mask Tool for Photoshop Elements.

02
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What Makes a Good Base Photo for Tilt Shift?

Choosing a Photo for Tilt Shift
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

So what makes a good photo to use for the tilt shift effect? Well, let's look at our example photo above. First, we have a high perspective on the scene. We are looking down on the scene much like we would a miniature model. Second, it is a wide view. There is a lot going on in the scene, we aren't just seeing a tiny portion with a couple of people and one table. Third, while not absolutely necessary, the photo is taller than it is wide. I find tilt shift effects to be stronger in vertical or square format photos as well as it emphasizes the small size of the horizontal focus band. Fourth, there is a large depth of field. Even though you are going to blur out most of the photo in editing, starting with a large depth of field gives you the most options in where to place the focus band and ensures a more even blur to the rest of the scene. Fifth, there are a lot of colors and shapes in this photo. Having a lot of colors and shapes adds interest to your scene and keeps your viewer from obsessing on one object. This helps pull off the miniature feel in the final product.

03
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Getting Started

Getting Started
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner.

This tutorial was written in Photoshop Elements 10 but will work in any version that supports layer masks.

Related: How to Add Layer Masks to Elements 8 and Earlier

First open your photo. Make sure you are in Full editing mode and that your Layers and Adjustments sidebars are visible.

We'll be working with several layers for this tutorial so if you are uncomfortable with keeping track of the layers, I suggest renaming each layer to help you remember why you created the layer. To rename a layer just click on the layer name, type in a new name, and click off to the side to set the name. I will be naming each layer but it has no effect on the final image, layer names are purely for your use during editing.

Now create a duplicate layer. You can do this by keyboard shortcuts (Command-J on Mac or Control-J on PC) or by going to the Layer menu and selecting Duplicate Layer. I have named this layer Blur as this layer will be our blur effect.

04
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Add the Blur

Add the Blur
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

With your new layer highlighted, go to the Filter menu and highlight Blur. From there a submenu will open and you will click on Gaussian Blur. This will open the Gaussian Blur settings menu. Using the slider, select a blur amount. I'm using 3 pixels in this example because I have already optimized the sample image for the Internet. On your images you will most likely use numbers closer to 20 pixels. The goal is to have the photo out of focus but subjects should still be relatively recognizable.

05
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Chose the Focus

Chose the Focus
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

Now we are going to pick where and how much focus to add back to our photo. This is the vast majority of the work in creating your tilt shift photo. Don't rush and just follow the directions. It isn't as difficult as it sounds.

First we need to create a layer mask on the blur layer. To create a layer mask, make sure your blur layer is selected and then look just under your Layers display and click the square with a circle inside. This is the Add Layer Mask button.

The new layer mask will look like a white square on the same like as your blur layer with a small chain icon between the two icons.

In order to easily feather the new focus area we will be using the Gradient tool. On your sidebar click the Gradient icon (a small rectangle with yellow on one end and blue on the other). Now the gradient option bar will appear at the top of your screen. Select the Black and White gradient from the first drop down box. Then click the Reflected Gradient option. This will let you create a center focus area with equal feathering on top and bottom of your selection.

When you bring your mouse down to your photo you will have a crosshairs style cursor. Shift-Click in the center of the band you want to be in focus and drag the cursor either straight up or straight down a bit past your desired focus area (feathering will fill the extra area). Once you have made this selection a black band will appear on the layer mask icon. This shows where the focus area is on your photo.

If the focus area is not exactly where you want it you can easily move it. Click on the small chain icon between the layer and layer mask icons. Then click on the layer mask. Now select the move tool from the tool bar. Click on the photo within the focus area and drag the focus area to where you want it. Be careful to only drag straight up or straight down or you will wind up with blur on one side of your focus area. Once you have adjusted the blur, click the blank space between the layer and layer mask icons and the chain will reappear, noting that the layer mask is again locked to the layer.

You are almost done. You've done the bulk of the work in creating your tilt shift photo. Now we are just going to add the finishing touches.

06
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Reclaim the Brightness

Reclaim the Brightness
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

One of the unfortunate side effects of Gaussian blur is a loss of highlights and general brightness. With the blur layer still selected, click on the small two tone circle at the bottom of your Layers display. This will create a new fill or adjustment layer. From the drop down menu that appears select Brightness/Contrast. A set of sliders will appear in the Adjustments display underneath your layers. At the very bottom of the Adjustments display is a small row of icons that starts with two overlapping circles. This is the icon to select whether or not the adjustment layer affects all layers beneath it or just the one layer directly below the adjustment layer. This is called the Clip to icon.

Click the Clip to icon so that the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer will only affect the blur layer. Use the Brightness and Contrast sliders to brighten the blur area and recover contrast. Remember you want it to look slightly unreal like a scale model.

07
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Adjust the Color

Adjust the Color
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

All that is left is to make the color look more like paint than natural colors.

Select the small two tone circle at the bottom of your Layers display again but this time select Hue/Saturation from the drop down box. If the new Hue/Saturation adjustment level does not appear at the top of the list of layers, click on the layer and drag it to the top position. We are also going to allow this layer to affect all of the other layers so we will not clip it to a specific layer.

Use the Saturation slider to increase color saturation until the scene looks more like it is full of toys rather than full size subjects. Then use the Lightness slider to adjust the brightness of the color. Chances are you will only need a slight up or down adjustment to that slider.

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Finished Tilt Shift Effect

Finished Tilt Shift Effect
Text and screen shots © Liz Masoner. Source photo via Creative Commons.

That's it! You are done! Enjoy your image!

Related:
Free Layer Mask Tool for Photoshop Elements
Tilt Shift in GIMP
Tilt Shift in Paint.NET

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Masoner, Liz. "Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version)." ThoughtCo, Jun. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/photoshop-elements-tilt-shift-1702696. Masoner, Liz. (2017, June 29). Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/photoshop-elements-tilt-shift-1702696 Masoner, Liz. "Tilt Shift Manual Method for Photoshop Elements (Any Version)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/photoshop-elements-tilt-shift-1702696 (accessed October 24, 2017).