Step 1: Photo Selection
When choosing a photograph for the tilt-shift effect, keep in mind that you want to give the impression of a miniature model. Miniature models are usually viewed from above so try and choose a photo with a higher point of view. Take out any imperfection in the image such as graffiti or trash. Always make a copy of you cleaned up image so that if you want to use a layer mask later it will match.
Step 2. Enter Quick Mask Mode
Open the image in Photoshop and enter Quick Mask Mode by pressing Q on the keyboard.
Step 3. Choose Gradient Tool
Choose the Gradient Tool by pressing G on the keyboard, or select the Gradient Tool icon. Be sure to choose the Reflected Gradient option (the fourth icon along before the Mode drop-down).
Step 4. Draw A Line
Draw a vertical line; the start point will be the centre of the in-focus area, and the end will be where the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is completed. This step, and the subsequent two steps, will need a fair degree of trial and error. You may want to draw the line on a slight angle so that the focus matches the plain of focus in the picture.
Once you release the mouse button the area of focus will appear as a red band across the image, as shown in the next step.
Step 5. View Mask Area
Before progressing, review the position of the red mask. The middle of the mask is where the in-focus area will be, gradually losing focus towards the edges. Note the out-of-focus effect is yet to be applied.
Step 6. Return To Standard Mode
Press Q on the keyboard to exit Quick Mask Mode and return to Standard Mode, or press the icon on the Tool Palette as shown below. The area to apply the focus effect to will be surrounded by the “marching ants” selection lines:
Step 7. Open Lens Blur Interface
Choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur:
Step 8. Review Effect And Tweak Settings
Hopefully, you will now see a pleasing focus effect. The Photoshop default settings for Lens Blur seem to work well, but experiment with them to improve the effect. If you are unhappy with the position of the focus area, go back to Step 4 and try drawing a line in a different place or with a different center of focus.
Assuming you were happy with the image preview in Step 8, click OK to accept the settings:
Step 9. Remove Selection Boundary
Press CTRL-D on the keyboard to remove the “marching ants” selection bounday:
Step 10. Open Hue/Saturation Adjustment Interface
You may want to boost the colour saturation, to improve the effect. Remember that model scenery is often brightly painted so enhancing the saturation helps trick the eye. Go to your adjustment layers at the bottom of the screen and pick Hue and Saturation.
In this example, we boost the Master saturation to +40.
Step 11. Open Curves Adjustment Interface
It may help to increase the contrast of the image slightly using the Curves adjustment. Go to your adjustment layers at the bottom of the screen and pick Curves.
In this example we use a very small S-shaped curve to increase contrast. This step isn’t always necessary. Sometimes you can just use Curves to make some areas more uniform in color to mimic a toy model look.
As you tilt-shift you will start to to adjust your technique. In my images I often use layer masks to enhance areas that should be in focus.