Tilt-Shift Effect in Lightroom


Today’s Question: A while back it became popular to create a “tilt-shift” effect for photos. Is there a way to create this type of effect in Lightroom Classic?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes! You can create a tilt-shift blur effect by using two (or more) Gradient Filter adjustments, using a negative value for the Sharpness slider for the Graduated Filter.

More Detail: A tilt-shift lens enables you to effectively tilt the angle at which the area of depth of field falls across an image. Among other things, this enables you to position a blur across a central area of a photo, with the top and bottom edges being out of focus. This creates a type of miniaturization effect, which can produce a unique impact in a photo where the scene almost looks like a toy model rather than an actual scene.

The effect became popular as a post-processing effect, in part because a tilt-shift blur filter was added to Photoshop some time ago. It is possible, however, to create this type of effect in Lightroom Classic as well.

The key is to use two (or more) Gradient Filter adjustments. Start by selecting the Gradient Filter adjustment from the toolbar below the Histogram on the right panel in the Develop module. Then drag downward from near the top of the image toward the bottom, holding the Shift key on the keyboard to make the gradient perfectly vertical. Release the mouse button to create the gradient, and then reduce the value for the Sharpness slider to the desired effect. In general I find reducing to the minimum value of -100 works well.

Repeat this process for the bottom of the image, dragging from near the bottom upward, again holding the Shift key for a vertical gradient. Reduce the Sharpness setting for this edit as well.

You can click on the applicable edit pin (grey circle) on the image to select one or the other adjustment. The gradients can be moved by dragging that edit pin, and you can adjust the distance of the gradient by dragging the top or bottom line associated with the center line for the edit pin.

If the effect is not strong enough, you can drag on the image again to draw another gradient on top of one of the existing gradients, so that you could increase the strength of the blur with an additional application of a negative value for Sharpness.