Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Make your photos look like miniatures [How-to Tuesday]

Image by Zevotron on Flickr

This adorable miniature train is not really a miniature. It's one of the many charming fake minis made with tilt-shift miniature faking.

Remember that photo I shared yesterday of the building with the cherry-blossom-strewn steps? Here it is again, as a fake miniature, next to the original:

I tweaked the photo using the website TiltShiftMaker. It's easy to do and somewhat addictive.

How it works

A hallmark of a true miniature scene is a shallow depth of field. Our brains see a scene with a central plane in focus and blur in front and behind it and interpret that photo as a close-up. When a photo of something that is normally large, like a football stadium or a landscape, has that same focus pattern, we still interpret it as a close-up photo, and see the scene as a miniature.

Fake miniaturization uses filters that selectively blur areas of your photo to imitate this tell-tale shallow depth of focus. It also helps that the colors in fake miniatures are often bright and saturated, which mimics the lighting and coloration one might expect in a miniature scene.

The process of digitally making fake miniatures is called tilt-shift miniature faking, but the "tilt-shift" part refers to physical tilting and shifting of camera lenses used to manipulate camera focus.

How to make your own fake miniatures

If you're lazy (like me) you can use the website TiltShiftMaker, which automatically creates the filters needed to selectively blur certain areas of your photos. The site allows you to control the placement and width of the band in focus, how much the focus changes, and how quickly it changes.

If you're slightly more ambitious AND you have Photoshop version CS or later, you can try making your own filters with one of these three tutorials. Here's a tutorial for Photoshop Elements users. And if you use the (free! open-source!) program GIMP, there's a how-to for you, too.

Now let's all sit back for a minute and admire this miniature vineyard of mine:

Oh yeah, and my miniature Central Park in spring:

And my miniature bridge-somewhere-in-Arizona-that-I-can't-remember-the-name-of:

Sure, these examples aren't the most artful, but you get the idea and now you can go do it better. Have fun with that shrink ray!


  1. This looks really cool :) Thanks for the links!

  2. This is so cool. I just saw this on Lifehacker today and thought, "Wait a minute, didn't I already see this on B/M/C/B a couple days ago?" You're so ahead of the game.

  3. This is brilliant! I can't get over how convincing these are! Thanks for the tutorial.

  4. That is so cool (and even cooler that you linked to a GIMP tutorial! YAY!)


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