What is a Tilt Shift Lens Effect - Featured - StudioBinder

Technology is incredible, especially when it can defy the laws of physics. The tilt-shift lens manipulates optics and perception — making it one of the best tools a photographer or videographer can have at their disposal. So, what is a tilt-shift lens, how does it work, and how can you use it to capture such fascinating images?


Overview of the tilt-shift lens

For visual artists, every new method or tool they find becomes an opportunity to explore creative territory. And the tilt-shift lens can do some pretty amazing things. The effects provided by this lens can be subtle or extreme, invisible or visible.

The opening sequence of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert employs an excellent use of tilt-shift photography.

The Late Show's intro sequence uses a tilt-shift lens 

Nowadays, you can simply add a filter to get the same effect of a tilt-shift lens, but how is it done manually? And what kind of equipment is needed to get those incredible and unique perspective shots? Let's begin with a quick definition.


What is a tilt-shift lens?

tilt-shift lens changes the orientation and position of the lens mechanism with respect to the image sensor. Typically, a lens and sensor are parallel to one another on the same plane. With this lens, the ability to tilt and/or shift the lens in different directions changes the entire plane of focus.

By changing the angle of the plane between the lens and the camera’s sensor, one can change the scale of focus and the depth of field. Changing the scale can allow your images to appear miniature. And shifting or tilting can also minimize or maximize the blur behind your subject. 


  • Correct vertical converging lines
  • Panoramic shots
  • Blur select sections
  • Change scale — create miniature effect

Here’s a quick overview of why you might want to try a tilt shift lens out for your next creative project. Tom Buck gives some great tricks for using this lens for photo and video.

How a tilt shift lens works

A tilt shift lens can produce images with a wide-range of effects, from subtle to extreme. In all cases, having this tool as a part of your repertoire will enhance your image capturing skills.

Now that we know the basics about what this lens can do, let's look at these features in a little more detail.


How to use a tilt-shift lens

A tilt shift lens serves as a perspective tool. Whether tricking the audience into seeing something smaller than it is, or managing perspective by "fixing" angled lines on buildings — this lens can do a lot. 

Let's look at another video tutorial the offers some creative insights into how a tilt shift lens can be used for landscape and nature photography. 

Tilt-shift effect

Shift: Perspective Control

Shifting your lens up or down can eliminate the angle your camera captures. It straightens out the converging lines and is often used for architectural photography because of this reason.

What is a Tilt Shift Shot - Tilt Shift Lens - Vertical Convergence

Tilt-shift lenses can fix converging lines

Shift: Panorama

Shifting your lens from left to right makes it perfect for capturing those panoramic shots without moving the actual camera. By keeping the camera still, a series of photos can be taken by adjusting only the lens position, creating gorgeous panoramic photos.

Tilt: Maximize or Minimize Depth of Field

Because a regular lens only focuses on a singular plane, the areas of sharpness are the same distance from the camera. But being able to tilt the lens, makes the focal plane pliable.

Now, it’s possible to capture an image in focus, as well as narrow the field of blur, so there’s a soft blur in the background. This is what leads to the next point.

What is a Tilt Shift Shot - Tilt Shift Photo - Example

Tilt-shift photography, see source

Tilt: Effect the Scale of Focus

This is the most common use of the tilt-shift shot and it makes the image appear miniature.

What is a Tilt Shift Shot - Tilt Shift Lens - Tilt Shift Photo - Miniature Example

Tilt-shift photography, see source

The illusion of the super shallow depth of field, makes the image appear like we’re looking into a diorama. The tilt-shift effect in this image is quite noticeable and warps reality in very interesting ways.

In David Fincher's The Social Network, the Henley Royal Regatta sequence is shot with some gorgeous tilt shift photography. Watch the scene and ask yourself what qualities or meaning the simple choice of using a tilt-shift lens adds to the scene. 

Tilt-shift in The Social Network

As we've seen, using a tilt-shift lens can provide a number of interesting aspects to your images. From simply "correcting" the angle of a tree or building, to creating more extreme visuals like a miniature stadium. 

What are some creative ways you can use a tilt-shift lens? 


Download FREE Cinematography Techniques Cheatsheet

This article took 30 hours to write. Thirty! Needless to say, there was a LOT we couldn’t include in the post. Download our FREE, printable cheatsheet PDF to get access to over 30+ cinematography tips (includes bonus content not in the post).

30 Cinematography Techniques and TIps - Exit Intent Full - Page - StudioBinder


The different types of lenses

We mastered tilt-shift and the next step is to expand your image making with different types of camera lenses. In this post, we'll cover definitions for zoom, parfocal, fisheye lenses, and more. Knowing how each of these lenses works will open up the possibilities for the types of images you can capture. 

Up Next: Different types of camera lenses →
Solution - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows. 

Learn More ➜

Copy link