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5 Great Actions for Tilt-Shift Photo Effects in Adobe Photoshop

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What is Tilt-shift and Why Would I Use it?

Tilt-shift is, as you’d probably expect from the name, a combination of rotating the lens (tilt) and moving it (shift). There are lenses that will let you achieve this, from the eye-wateringly expensive (but fantastic) TS-E (Canon) and PC-E (Nikon) ranges, to the more affordable Lensbabys, to medium- and large-format cameras.

Tilt-shift lenses allow you to move the place of focus from parallel to the film/sensor plane, as in a regular camera, to some other angle. "But why!?" do you ask? Doing this lets you create a particular point or line of focus. That might be a ‘sweet spot’ within the photograph, or it might be a line of focus right across the middle, creating the popular ‘toy town’ effect where the subjects take on the appearance of tiny models. It can be awesome when it works, but it's tricky to do.

If You Aren't a Full-Time Professional Architectural Photographer

The good news for those of you who want to keep your bank balance in the black is that this effect is achievable through post-processing, and even better, there are some Photoshop Whizzes who’ve created actions for you, meaning tilt-shift is but a click away. Let’s take a look at a few.

Lensbeby | Full Edition

With this full edition, there are no size limits to running your action. Just select the area of focus and run… it’s as simple as that! Lensbeby Full Edition contains six stages of depth of field, so it’s fully flexible. We'll take a look at this action in a little more depth, later.

Lensbeby  Full EditionLensbeby  Full EditionLensbeby  Full Edition
Lensbeby | Full Edition

Tilt Shift Lens Effect Action

This action lets you choose from a top, middle or bottom focus area, giving you slightly more flexibility than with some other presets. It’s best to use this on larger images, from 1500px wide.

Tilt Shift Lens Effect ActionTilt Shift Lens Effect ActionTilt Shift Lens Effect Action
Tilt Shift Lens Effect Action

Pro Reflex Tilt-Shift Photoshop Action

Add the toy town look to your photographs quickly and easily with the Pro Reflex Tilt-Shit Photoshop Action. Great for all types of photograph, this preset will add subtle saturation as well as blur.

Pro Reflex Tilt-Shift Photoshop ActionPro Reflex Tilt-Shift Photoshop ActionPro Reflex Tilt-Shift Photoshop Action
Pro Reflex Tilt-Shift Photoshop Action

Lens FX

Lens FX is a nice twist on a tilt shift effect. Paint over the subject that you want to keep in focus and run the action to create a dreamy blur with added bokeh. Colours, bokeh style and vignette are all adjustable.

Lens FXLens FXLens FX
Lens FX

Tilt Shift Focus Actions

This set comes with four styles of focus: custom, landscape, portrait and family, each tailored to suit a particular type of photography so you won’t have to waste precious time deciding which to use.

Tilt Shift Focus ActionsTilt Shift Focus ActionsTilt Shift Focus Actions
Tilt Shift Focus Actions

 A Closer Look

We tested the Lensbeby Full Edition action from Envato Market to see if we could recreate some tilt-shift effects. Here's a run-through:

Using the Action

Once you've installed your action, select the area you want to keep in focus with either the Marquee tools or the Lasso tools and run the action.

select the area of focusselect the area of focusselect the area of focus
Select your area of focus and run the action

The action will break down into six layers, each of which is a blur of varying strength, so you can turn the visibility on and off until you get the right look.

The broken down layers after the action has run

The subtle ones work well for cityscapes:

after actionafter actionafter action
This is Lb 0.5 - subtle blur works well for cityscapes

You're not limited to straight lines. Try selecting the main areas of a portrait to keep in focus:

select focus areaselect focus areaselect focus area
Roughly draw around what you want to keep in focus

You can be quite messy with this. Run the action.

after actionafter actionafter action
You can see that around the selection area, it's much softer now and the background melts away

The action also comes with a complimentary action called 'Adjust' which has a feature to sharpen, saturate and add a vignette.

after adjustafter adjustafter adjust
This is the image after running the complimentary 'adjust' action

Each adjustment is a separate layer, so you can turn them up or down to suit. Once you've blurred the image, the extra saturation, in particular, can be a nice touch to add drama to your photograph.

Tilt-Shift Without the Expense

Tilt-shift is a great effect and although there's never a substitute for getting something 'in shot,' it is relatively easy, not to mention cost-effective, to achieve this look in post-production.

If you'd like to give tilt-shift a go without the help of actions, you might want to give some of our other articles a look:

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