Sam is a designer and illustrator based in the cold bit of Scotland. He works in print and web design as well as in motion graphics. He is a frequent contributor to creative magazines. In his spare time Sam is an avid reader, musician and photographer.

Tilt-and-shift lenses allow the photographer to assign a narrow plane of focus within their image. These lenses focus on a single part of a photo or footage and shift (blur) the surrounding area to create an optical illusion that makes scenes appear as if they’re actually miniature models. The blurred outer edges trick the eye into perceiving everything in the unblurred parts as miniature.

These lenses are expensive, but you can fake the effect relatively well in Photoshop or After Effects. As the effect becomes trendier, a growing number of creatives are doing just that – Flickr and other sites have whole photo pools dedicated to faked tilt and shift shots (here and here).

In this tutorial we’re going to look at how to fake the tilt-and-shift effect within After Effects. The effect works well for motion stock and static images alike, and used creatively it can offer enough control to create cinematic focal changes, as well as the ‘toy town’ approach we’re looking at here.

We’ll be using a static image for this tutorial, which can be downloaded for free from Flickr here. The photographer, Joshua Davis, has released the image under a creative commons licence, so you can use it in your projects as long as you credit him and take care not to breach the conditions of the Creative Commons licence (which are here).


Adobe After Effects

Time to complete

30-60 minutes

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