Alright, so it’s about time that I actually talk about how this stuff works – the ways it’s used, the desired effects, how it is accomplished, etc. So let’s get on with it.
The first application of tilt/shift I’m going to talk about is the shift feature of the lens. This is a feature that is often used in photographing architecture (both the inside and the outside of buildings in most cases). You see, whenever most of us go on vacation and take the token me-or-someone-I-know-standing-in-front-of-this-famous-building-in-the-background photo we often try to get as much of the building in the frame as possible. This requires us to tilt the camera up, and this creates a distortion with the building – the sides of the building angle in and give it a pyramid-like effect. Now, unless your vacation is to Egypt and you’re photographing actual pyramids (or you’re in front of the Transamerica building), you probably don’t want this to happen to your memories.
This is where the shifting feature of the lens comes in handy. To correct this undesirable effect all you need do is… that’s right, say it with me… shift the lens. Very good. Here’s the concept.
But incase you still don’t really understand whats going on here – incase you’re like me – here are a few examples of this application that aren’t made of little lines and diagrams.
See how the image on the right seems to be falling backwards?
And again, here. See how the building on the left seems to be falling away from us? Alright, time enough for one more.
This one pretty much says it all. I'm useless now.
Alright, so now that we all pretty much understand how this whole shifting thing works, lets talk about the second application of tilt/shift lenses, the tilt function. This is a feature that allows the photographer to tilt the plane of focus in practically any direction. It is commonly seen in landscape photography – when a photographer uses a regular wide angle lens to capture a scenic frame it is often extremely difficult (if not impossible) to get items in the foreground and the background in focus at the same time. This is where the tilting action comes into play. By tilting the lens and altering the plane of focus it is possible for the photographer to produce and image that is in focus from foreground to background. Usually, from what I’ve read, you are supposed to focus on the background first and then tilt the lens down until the foreground is in focus. Here are some examples.
See how (in the first frame) the background is in focus but not the foreground, then (in the second frame) the foreground is in focus but the background is out, and then (in the third frame) both are in focus? Crazy, right? Here’s another.
Same thing as the previous set. Background, foreground, both. But this technique isn’t just reserved for landscape photographers. It also has a place in product advertisement. If a product is being photographed for an advertisement and it is positioned in such a way that it is too large to get completely in focus (insert penis jokes here), a tilt/shift lens has the ability to tilt the plane of focus. Let’s take a look at some before and afters.
Here is an image in which the lens hasn’t been tilted:
See how the back half of the wheel is kind of in focus (only because there is a large depth of field due to a high f-stop) but not really completely crisp? Well here’s that same angle but taken after the lens has been tilted to control the plane of focus.
BLAM! Look at that! That’s crisp right there. Anyway, as you can see there are plenty of cool reasons to pick yourself up a tilt/shift lens (providing you already have a good camera with which you take loads of photos, and are really pissed off with the not-entirely-in-focus unintentional-pyramid-action you’ve got going on at the moment).