Tilt Shift Effect in Lightroom


Tilt shift is known in photography as a way of correcting distortions created by cameras on what regards to perspective. But an interesting effect that can be achieved in Lightroom is actually using the tools of what makes the Tilt Shift effect to make an image look tinier than its actual size. This will give us the feel (most noticeable with buildings) that we are looking at a scale model rather than watching an aerial shot. Follow up this guide on how to create a Tilt-Shift Effect in Lightroom to add a new cool looking feature to your digital portfolio!

The most important thing, like a key element for achieving this effect, is the angle used when shooting a picture. It has to be an aerial shot, even if we are talking about some fruit platter on our table. The angle has to emulate the position of a person looking at it from above, like someone looking at an architectural scale model; the rest of this effect is having Lightroom to get the magic.


In case you don’t have any picture that matches this conditions, you can also take a look at sites like Panoramio or BingMaps (from Microsoft), that offer images uploaded by users that can have the conditions that we are looking to get.

Basic Adjustments

First, we need to compensate for the long distance that every aerial photo has. By this, we mean we actually have to erase the effect of fog that makes part of almost every aerial shot.

Start with White Balance with the Dropper tool; if you can’t find a neutral gray at your scene, work with the Sliders until you feel pleased with the overall result.


Then move to the Contrast values. In here we want to increase the contrast values to add a bit more of life to this picture.


Reduce shadows a little bit


And add more whites; always with the caution of not clip the Whites value in case of a too bright scene.


Increase Vibrance and Saturation values, as they tend to look a bit dull given the long distance between you and the focal point of the aerial shot.


Scale Model feel

In this, you all have to agree that when you look at a scale model you don’t notice any noise unless you actually have a rough texture applied to it. You can work your way with filters to achieve this effect or you can work with the Sharpness sliders inside Lightroom.

Using the Adjustment Brush tool, create a mask at certain areas of our main Tilt Shift area in order to increase the focus point on edges mostly. By this, I mean to mask parts of the image increasing the values of Clarity slider for bringing in more detail to our image.


Tilt Shift effect

Here is the core part of this tutorial. As little as we want the subject of the image to become, the harder to achieve this effect is going to be. In other words, this effect is creating the feel of a Macro shot on our image.

Work with Graduated Filters. First, we need to know where to apply the filter, and by this, we are going to define the area where we want to create the macro filter.


Create three areas to apply the Graduated filters, regulating for each effect the amount of reduction in Sharpness slider as well as with negative values on the Clarity slider (remember that positive values of Clarity slider increase the amount of detail in our image).


Also, you can add to this Graduated Filters a certain amount of vignetting effect.

Final effect

After performing the Tilt Shift effect with our Graduated Filters, you can add some Vignetting to create the traditional effect of a Macro shot when taking a picture.


Notice that you can increase this creative workflow with Lightroom Presets. Perhaps our best shot with this is to test several presets, toy around with B&W Lightroom presets (which are really helpful and good partners of the Tilt-Shift effect), or apply special filters to different scenes (for example Food Presets, Landscape Filters, etc) that will get the most of our image.


Split Toning always look nice for this kind of images, mostly if you work with Shadows hue values that are present in tiny areas of the image.

Finally, remember to always tick Enable Profile Corrections, as macro shots don’t have as many aberrations as aerial shots. If you are working with a JPEG image, compensate manually the values of lens distortions.

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