miniature effect pictures? How does that work?

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I love those types of picture but they also give me a bit of “uncanny valley” vibes. How do they trick the eye? How come a bus can look like a toy when it appears the scale and nothing else is altered? I understand it is something to do with tilting it and changing the saturation or something but I still don’t get it: still a mystery to me.

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

The most common effect you are talking about is [tilt-shift photography](, and it works by creating a ‘manufactured’ depth-of-field effect. It just so happens that the effect has similar blur vs sharp appearances as macro photography of miniatures, combined with a warping of ‘vanishing points’ that are normally used to help us keep comparative perspective in mind. These two things (and probably others) are big drivers of the [miniature faking]( effect.

For further reading, that second wiki article will probably help you out.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Classic [view cameras]( have the ability to not only move the lens in and out for focusing purposes, but also to tilt and shift both the lens and the film plane.

This gives you the ability to adjust for perspective distortion and have variable focus fields in ways that an ordinary camera could never come close to producing.

As one example, an ordinary camera has a focus plane which means that there’s a plane in space in front of and perpendicular to the the camera’s line of sight where everything is in focus, and anything nearer or farther than that plane will be progressively out of focus. A view camera, on the other hand, lets you change that plane so it’s no longer perpendicular to the line of sight.

So imagine you’re photographing a scene where there’s something to the left and near you, and something to the right and far away. A view camera would allow you to put both of those objects into focus.

There’s a ( that contains some beautiful tilt-shift images.


Now a view camera can also be used to create the opposite effect. You could use the tilt-shift features to create an extremely restricted range of focus.

By coincidence, when you use a normal camera to photograph miniatures, the camera will also have an extremely limited range of focus. Photographs of miniatures very often have the foreground and background out of focus whereas a photograph of an actual landscape would have everything in focus.

Our eyes and brains have seen enough photographs of miniatures that we’ve learned to associate the limited range of focus with looking at miniatures. So now, when we look at a landscape that was photographed with the above-mentioned tilt-shift effect, it makes us think we’re looking at a photograph of a miniature.

It also helps a lot to shoot the scene from above, as a miniature would be photographed.


Finally, we come to the computer “tilt-shift” effect. This is nothing more than drawing a line through the scene (typically parallel to the horizon) and having the computer blur the scene progressively away from that line.

And if the scene is animated, you can do other things to make it look like a miniature, such as speeding up the time frame or making the animation a little jerky so it looks like it was generated with stop-motion animation.

There’s [another gallery on flickr]( for these images.