Create a tilt-shift effect

Rebecca Greig

Give your captures a unique perspective twist in Lightroom with this simple tutorial


A style that’s become renowned through perspective-control lenses, the tilt-shift look is an increasingly popular effect in photography, with many compact cameras now embracing the effect through creative filters. Yet not all cameras can produce it, and that’s when we have call upon Lightroom to re-create this style accurately.

At first glance, it appears impossible to create the tilt-shift look using Lightroom, because there are no blurring adjustments to make the extreme depth of field required. But, fortunately for us, there is a workaround, and this involves using the Sharpness adjustment with the Graduated Filter tool. In fact, it’s only possible with Graduated Filters, because we do this by sliding the Filter’s Sharpness adjustment into the negative figures, creating an effect opposite to sharpening – blurring!

So go ahead and try this out on your images. Be sure to pick one with a bird’s-eye perspective and a busy environment for the most interesting tilt-shift masterpiece.


1 Set up Grad filter Load up your image into Lightroom and go to the Develop module. Click on the Graduated Filter tool just the under the Histogram graph. Set the Sharpness slider to -100 inside the list of adjustments.


2   Apply Grad filter To apply the filter, click and drag from the centre of the image downwards. Apply a second Grad filter just below the first and drag it in the opposite direction to make a strip of in-focus pixels.


3  Double up Grad filters Place another set of Grad filters on top by repeating Step 2. Make these larger so as to create more blurring over the background and foreground areas to replicate a perspective-control effect.


4  Boost colours Close the Grad filter’s adjustment panel. Inside the Basic adjustments panel, boost the Saturation slider to +30 to increase colours across the whole image for the characteristic toy-camera look.


5  Alter Contrast In most cases, the image can do with having more contrast and brighter highlights. Increase the Contrast slider up to about +40 and lower the Blacks and Shadows sliders for deeper contrast still.


6  Noise reduction With these adjustments, you may find your image has acquired noise. Go to Detail adjustments and set the Luminance slider under Noise Reduction to +50, or until the noise begins to disappear.


7   Tweak blur position Now we have the colour and detail looking right, click back on the Graduated Filter icon and carefully position the gradients so that they reveal just enough of the image for the best possible effect.


8 Export To quickly save out the image, right-click on the image and go to Export and select the location on your PC to save it to. Choose file format and set up the various parameters for next time using the presets.

To discover more about photography from a unique perspective pick up a copy of issue 179 now!

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