Portraiture with a twist
Discover how a tilt-shift lens can give your portraits a new creative twist
Tilt-shift lenses are usually thought of in terms of architectural and landscape photos, as the ability they give you to correct collapsing verticals comes in useful for photographing buildings, interiors or wide scenes. However, these specialist lenses can also have an equally interesting impact on other types of photography, such as portraiture. When we turn a tilt-shift lens on a person, we can use the tilt feature to change the angle of the plane of focus, either to intentionally blur parts of the frame, or to extend sharpness across the subject.
A tilt-shift lens (or Perspective-Control lens, as Nikon calls the 24mm PC-E used here) gives you two dials that let you change the angle of the lens in relation to the camera’s sensor. The tilt control effectively lets you rotate the lens elements to the left or right, thereby shifting the plane of focus. The shift control offsets the lens up or down, giving the effect of changing the camera position along the vertical plane. We can also rotate the orientation of the lens body, so that we can tilt on the vertical axis and shift on the horizontal.
When we let this pair of controls loose on a portrait shoot, we can get some weird and wonderful results…