Before and After Camera; Toy Camera

Last week I posted a picture taken in Prague with a tilt shift effect that was added using Topaz Lens Effects. Stacy who hosts the “Before and After Forum” found the image intriguing and wondered how I had got the effect. The tilt shift effect is one that has been around for a long time with large format cameras, but more recently with the lens baby and the lomography styled images has created a trend of photographing or turning images to make them appear as miniature models.
You don’t need to use plugins to emulate this effect, in fact Photoshop has its own tilt shift filter, which is good but has some drawbacks and is quite linear. Using 3 layers and the Gaussian blur filter you can be quite creative in creating a miniature style image.


I have found that the best type of image for this type of effect is one taken from a high vantage point looking down with a wide depth of field. The before picture started off in Lightroom with some basic adjustments and then was opened in Photoshop.


I duplicated the background layer and applied a Gaussian blur with a setting of 10px. I added a hide all layer mask, used a large brush and painted black onto the mask. I painted to reveal area that would be the focus of the image.
When choosing the area I want in focus I think about what the natural depth of field would look like and keep to that. I chose the park area in the foreground with the lamppost. After a roughly revealing the area, I zoomed in and refined the selection painting out areas of the selection. This can take some time especially if there are a lot of tricky areas. I zoomed out a lot to make sure the base of the effect looked natural.

I duplicated the blurred layer with its mask and then applied another Gaussian blur to the layer, this time at 20px. I lowered the opacity of my brush and then added to the mask areas that don’t need to be as blurry. In the case of this image the trees on the edge of the garden.


Once again I duplicated the layer I had just been working on and applied a Gaussian blur for the last time at 30px. This time I filled the layer with black and then used the gradient tool to reveal the top part of the mask. I did this to add some more depth to the image. I once again refined the mask with a brush to make sure that the blur seemed natural.


Toy cameras have an unreal quality about them. I added a levels adjustment layer to create some contrast and clipping in the highlights and shadows. I used a curves adjustment to lift the midtones and then a vibrance adjustment layer to boost the colours.


Lastly I duplicated the background layer and sharpened via the highpass filter. I added a hide all layer mask and revealed roughly the park area which is the focus of the image.


Prague Tilt Shift Blur

Although this process can be time consuming depending on the image, it is well worth the time and effort. This shot took about an hour to edit from start to finish. It does seem to have a miniature feel to it especially with the lamppost that pulls in the eye.

If you have any comments or questions let me know in the comment box below. Also if you use this process on an image of your own drop a link in the comments so we can all have a look.
Remember to head over to Stacy’s post to see all the others who have participated in the forum this week.

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7 thoughts on “Before and After Camera; Toy Camera

  1. Wow, Ben. Did you create this method or did you learn it somewhere? I am amazed at the creativity in figuring out how to achieve this look with the PS tools! Thanks for taking the time to recreate and share all your steps. I’m still trying to wrap my head around plain layers, but I’m determined to become comfortable working in PS. In fact, I signed up for an all day class this weekend – Intro to PS 🙂 That will really help me better understand what you’ve done to achieve all your great results!

    • I have a notebook that I like to call a recipe book full of tutorials/notes/workflows that I have collected through the years.most are just rough steps that I can adapt for different images. It was something I did when I started using Photoshop.
      If I was to learn the same way now (just trawling the web) I doubt I would learn as much as most sites have links to the same tutorials.
      I love just playing with Photoshop.

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