What is a tilt-shift photography lens?

By: Wesley Fenlon

The use of a tilt-shift lens makes this Hawaiian lagoon like a diorama.

Photography's all about the angles. The angle of a photograph literally changes how we perceive the subject. A low shot can turn a movie hero into a towering, imposing pillar of strength. The rule of thirds is pleasing to the eye. Angled shots can imply movement and action.

Tilt-shift photography takes the power of the angle to an extreme. By altering the plane of focus of a photograph and distorting the perspective, tilt-shift photography can make a normal scene look like a miniature model set. That's the magic of the angle.


The interesting thing about tilt-shift is that it's not just a simple way of framing a shot with a camera like the rule of thirds. The effect can be applied digitally, but true tilt-shift photography requires a tilt-shift lens. As the name implies, a tilt-shift lens can tilt the lens at an angle while a shift lens actually moves the position of the lens element to create this unique photographic effect. It's an unusual feature, and it doesn't come cheap.

Let's take a look at the physical movement behind the tilt-shift effect and how you can buy (or make) a lens of your own.