STEP BY STEP / Go at it full tilt
1 Try vertical tilt
By applying ‘tilt’ to a tilt-shift lens we alter its relationship to the sensor by moving the plane of focus. This adds interest to portraits with an unnatural depth of field. Tilt is usually thought of as left to right, whereas in vertical orientation (as here), the up-down tilt is called ‘swing’.
2 Prepare the plane
In a normal lens the focus plane is parallel to the sensor, but when we use tilt the plane runs diagonally through the scene like a wedge. With vertical tilt we can create a very narrow plane of focus with strong blur either side by swinging upwards and away from the subject.
3 Open ’er up
In order to emphasize the blur (especially on a wide angle tilt-shift like the 24mm used here) we need to use the lens at its widest aperture setting. Here in a high-key studio lighting setup we’re in manual Mode with the aperture at f/3.5, shutter speed 1/200 sec and ISO100.
4 Stay focused
Tilt-shift lenses are manual focus, so it helps if both the camera and the subject are still, enabling you to ensure the important parts – such as eyes – are sharp. When using a tripod, engage Live View and zoom in close to the eyes then tweak the focus until the lashes are pin-sharp.
5 Tilt with the subject
Tilt-shifts can also extend depth of field. By tilting so the plane of focus follows the angle of the subject, we can get front-to-back sharpness even shooting wide open. Both these shots were taken at f/3.5, but on the right the tilt runs downwards, following the line of the body.
6 Blur outdoor scenes
The tilt-shift effect works equally well outdoors, where we can create interesting planes of focus throughout the scene. Here tilting to the left has left both the subject and bridge over his shoulder sharp, while the rest of the scene is beautifully blurred.