Simulated tilt-shift using Photoshop Elements

Tilt-shift is a very popular technique to capture photos of great scenes and create an impression of them being miniature or to have a single place of the scene in focus while the other parts of the same photo is totally out of focus. In this tutorial I will show you how to achieve the first goal, making a photo of something big appear very small. I will use Photoshop Elements 8 but this will also work in older version as well as in CS.

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The bokeh effect

The Bokeh-effect is how blurred you can get the background in contrast to the main object.

In tests and reviews of lenses one often run into the term ‘Bokeh’ which is refered to when the aspects of a lens is to be explained. The word tells nothing about what it means and it is one of those words many amateurs just ignore beacause it sounds too complicated. The truth is that the ‘Bokeh’-effect is something that probably most photographers have faced, both planned and unplanned and can be used to create really good portraits and close-ups.

The Bokeh-effect

Look at the merged photo above taken by me at a beautiful flower. The upper left-part of the photo which was taken using an f-number of 22 have almost the entire area in focus and you can even notice objects in the background. This is not the case in the lower right-part of the photo which instead was taken with an f-number of 1.8 where the entire background is blurred onto a soft colorful cloud. In short the ‘Bokeh’-effect is how blurred you can get the background of a photo in contrast to the object which you have in focus.

Often you find lenses with great Bokeh to be fixed lenses with a low f-stop value. This effect can also be applied in post-production by adding selective blur to parts of the photo in a photo edit application like Adobe Photoshop.

Shoot like a sharpshooter in low-light

I ran across this article over at Lifehacker about using techniques that snipers are trained for even when taking photos. The example they had in this article was about the breathing-cycle used by sharpshooters to be as steady as possible in the moment of firing. By utilizing this technique also when taking photos you can reduce camera shake quite a bit.

So, the sniper is said to breath calm and normal. While taking aim, place the finger which is to be used to shoot on the trigger and keep breathing normal. Pre-aim as good as possible to keep a good view on what you are about to shoot. When the moment is approaching to take the shot aim during an exhale and squeeze of the trigger during the breath so that you finish off just before you need to breath in again.

To apply these rules to a photographer you just have to do exatly the same with your camera which was described with a weapon. Locate your target in your viewfinder, squeeze of the trigger during an exhale and have the photo taken just before your breath runs out.

At first you may feel a bit silly to practice this technique but after just a litle while you may feel it to be a quite natural way to take photos. And by getting it as your normal way of taking photos you will see that even your normal freehand photo-sessions may increase in quality.

I wrote another article about reducing camera shake a little while ago, read it through for more tips!