with Courtney Slazinik
Photograph your family, beautifully
capture the everyday magic
Menu 2
Category: Technique
8 Perfect Times to Use a Tilt Shift Lens
Equipment, Technique
8 Perfect Times to Use a Tilt Shift Lens

I recently went sold some gear in an effort to minimize.

That was a tough thing to do but when I did it, I knew that I absolutely could not part with my tilt-shift lens.

I love her suggestions for when to use a tilt shift. She also included a trick to nailing focus with a tilt shift at the end! Read - "8 Perfect Times to Use a Tilt Shift Lens"

Read more: Go-To Camera Lenses

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you in advance for supporting Click it up a Notch.

It may not be the lens I use the most but it’s definitely a versatile lens that lends a creative aspect to my photography that I’m unwilling to do without. I love using the Canon 45mm tilt-shift lens in specific situations. Heck, I don’t even have to use the tilt or shift functions of the lens and can use it as a plain ‘ole 45mm if I want!

And good news for you Lensbaby Edge users out there! Since the Lensbaby Edge mimics the slice of focus in a tilt-shift, everything here applies to that lens, too.

  • No.
    01
    Sleeping kids

    One of my favorite times to break out the tilt-shift is when I photograph my children sleeping. Sleeping moments are quiet and calm and the extra blur from the tilt-shift adds so wonderfully to the dreamy state. Most importantly, the kids are still!

    By having your subject in a state where they’re not attempting to move around (or away from you), it makes it much easier to use a tilt-shift since they require manually focusing. I often take my time in this situation and will take only 3 or so photos in a 5 minute time span because I can be more meticulous.

  • No.
    02
    Inanimate objects

    Again, the stillness of the subject plays a big factor here. However, non-breathing images can often fall flat and you need something to draw them out of the frame and feel lifelike. My go-to ways of doing that is with light and creative blur from my tilt-shift.

    Similar to using a large aperture to blur the background, the slice of focus from the lens helps the subject separate from surrounding elements within the frame and make it stand out.

  • No.
    03
    Landscapes

    When people think of landscape photography they think of wide angle lenses and stop there. While I adore using my Canon 16-35L when shooting landscapes, sometimes I need to change it up some – get a little more creative. Insert the tilt-shift.

    Like when shooting still life, the slice of focus will help a certain element within the frame stand out from the others. Sometimes there are pockets of light, a beautiful rose bush in the distance, or another object trying to blend into the nature surrounding it but the slice of focus will help draw the viewer’s eye right to it.

  • No.
    04
    Portraits

    Shooting a portrait of a wiggly child with a tilt-shift can be difficult. It’s something I only rarely attempt. However, most of my portrait work comes from second shooting weddings.

    My job as a second shooter requires me to find the non-traditional portrait and a tilt-shift lens is a great way to do that. Even if the bride is looking at my camera like she would the main shooter, the tilt-shift and all that gorgeous bokeh gives my image an entirely different look.

  • No.
    05
    Pensive moments

    Again, quiet moments when your subject is still and calm are perfect opportunities to break out the tilt-shift which requires a little more time in focusing and getting that slice of focus just right. And I’ll be real honest here, it’s not a time that comes around often in my home with 3 growing and active kids that love to pretend like they’re in battle and saving the universe.

    But when those moments happen, you better believe I’m reaching for this beauty of a lens! The slice of focus and added blur beautifully add to the tranquility of the moment.

  • No.
    06
    Wedding ceremonies

    Oh how I love using this lens during wedding ceremonies! There are many churches where we have to remain towards the back and when not using a telephoto lens it can be tricky to find angles where only the bride and groom are in focus.

    Standing in the middle of the aisle with a tilt-shift allows me to focus solely on the bride and groom and let all the guests disappear in the bokeh. While I’m not present when the couple see their photos for the first time, I’m told that this shot is always a crowd pleaser that induces a happy gasp.


    Second shot for Andrea Murphy

  • No.
    07
    Looking down

    Part of the beauty of the tilt-shift lens is the miniature effect you can get with it. When shooting at a high vantage point and shooting down, you can utilize that slice of focus to make everything look much smaller than usual. While I’m not often in these higher locations, I can’t resist to take advantage of this effect when I am.

  • No.
    08
    Patio or Christmas lights

    I absolutely love what the blur of a tilt-shift lens does to lights, especially Christmas or patio lights strung about. Seeing the lights go from tiny in focus specs to large round blurs is a look I enjoy very much. It makes the scene feel magical which can never be a bad thing in my book.


    Second shot for Andrea Murphy

Bonus tip: The easiest way to focus a tilt-shift lens

I promised you I’d make using a tilt-shift easier on you didn’t I?

Manual focus is hard when you’re not used to it.

I have horrible eyesight and even with my glasses on, I still can’t always tell if my focus is spot on through the viewfinder. Instead, I use live view when manually focusing.

Since I use this lens in calm moments, I have the time to be patient with live view. Here’s my recipe for using live view to focus this lens:

  • No.
    01
    Adjust how much tilt I want to have.
  • No.
    02
    Turn on live view.
  • No.
    03
    Move my focus square to where I want to focus.
  • No.
    04
    Zoom in.
  • No.
    05
    Fine tune the focusing.
  • No.
    06
    Press the shutter.

Tilt-shifts are fun to use but there is a learning curve. I would recommend renting one or borrowing one from a friend before making the purchase, that’s what I did.