Tilt-Shift Effects and Corrections: Better Done in Camera or Post?

Tilt-shift lenses are expensive, niche optical instruments, and as such, it can be a bit difficult to tell if you really need one or not. This quick and useful video will show you if you need one or if you can just stick to Photoshop for the times you want that effect.

Coming to you from David Bergman of Adorama, this helpful video talks about tilt-shift effects and corrections and if you're better off buying a dedicated lens or simply creating them in post. While the tilt effect is often used to create miniature scenes, the other thing to note is that the tilt function can be also used to tilt the focal plane in a way that increases the depth of field for a given aperture. In addition, while all tilt-shift lenses are manual focus, they tend to be razor sharp and thus make excellent portraiture or landscape lenses, particularly if you're using them on a mirrorless camera with focus aids. I still use an old Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8, and it makes for a relatively cheap, very high quality portraiture lens, with the added benefit of the tilt and shift functions. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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Robert Nurse's picture

I like the effect TS lenses provide. But, I don't do this kind of work enough to justify the price of the lenses. At, least not now, LOL.

user-156929's picture

"Need" is subjective. If you only have casual "need" of it, you likely don't need the lens. I only use mine for correction, I don't like the effects at all.

Richard Kralicek's picture

"I still use an old Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8, and it makes for a relatively cheap, very high quality portraiture lens, with the added benefit of the tilt and shift functions."

Exactly, and now that the newer versions are available one finds those older goodies at reasonable prices on the second hand market. I preordered the new TS-E 50/f2.8 macro back then, and had to wait quite a bit till I found the old TS-E 45/2.8 AND the old TS-E 90/2.8 together at half the price of the new one. Canceled the preorder, bought the old goodies and wow, they're really great (ok, probably not wide open with a modern sensor, but ... who cares if the image works).

michaeljin's picture

TS lenses are pretty specialized tools and unless you're really into doing miniature effect stuff or you're doing high end architectural work (not average real estate work), it's probably not worth the time (because they take quite a bit longer to really dial in) or investment. Speaking, of course, about wide angle TS lenses here.

As far as whether it's better to use a TS to make the correction optically or to do it in post, the TS will provide the better result every time at least until computers get a LOT better at interpolating during perspective correction.

Brian Pernicone's picture

Perhaps a TS lens is not strictly necessary for all but a very few applications. But there's no question it's inconvenient to have to compose a photo in your mind's eye while compensating for the cropping that comes along with correcting the vertical lines in post. The TS lens gives you more control over such a composition. Whether you NEED to spend $1K-$2K on the ability to capture the exact composition you want in camera is up to you. I prefer being able to see that composition in camera, rather than imagining it and hoping I nailed it later. Thankfully, Ebay helped me make that investment at a reasonable cost.

Quite honestly, this video showed me the shift trick to remove myself from a mirrored image, which is helpful when shooting a vanity in a small bathroom for real estate photography. Add that to my reasons for loving the TS lens, even if it isn't absolutely necessary for most photographers.

Ignace Maenhaut van Lemberge's picture

Don't forget that you can also shift left/right or up/down to create some kind of a panorama or by shifting in all directions (that is 12 exposures by rotating 30° between exposures) creating a larger field of view and by doing so a higher resolution image..

My applications for this are mainly architectural interiors and exteriors. For those, I try to shoot with my verticals as, well, vertical as possible. Sometimes it's just a question of changing the height of my camera while shooting. Other times I do modest corrections in post. I like the idea of a T/S, but each shot would take longer to set up, and you're still shooting from the same point as you would without it. So for me, I do my corrections in post, after trying to minimize the need with my vantage point when shooting.

Colin Robertson's picture

I LOVE my tilt-shift and wish more lens manufacturers would make them. Canon's are great but very expensive. Fuji—where ya at?

When talking about tilt/shift lenses, they always talk about tilting it in "the wrong" direction to create the "miniature effect". The real benefit is to change the focal plane to make more of the image in focus without closing the aperture too much. Very nice feateure in landscape photography, and also for architecture.
I use my 24mm Nikon T/S lens all the time. For architecture it is an absolute must in my opinion. To be able to shift the lens to get my lines stright in camera is vital to me. I don't just shift straight up. There are times when shifting right or left really helps. Or left-up, right-down etc.
The shift-stitch technique is also a great way to make the image even more wide-angle.
I can really recommend a tilt/shift lens to anyone intrested in architecture photography. The Canon and Nikon are quite expentive and I started with the Samyang. It has a little bit more distorsion, but still a good lens to start with!

For examples on my IG: @anders_foto