How to Extend DoF with Tilt

Last week, I was chatting with Shelly about an upcoming photography challenge here on Toy Photographers which piqued my interest. I won’t spoil it, but the idea sent me rifling through the drawers of photo gear I have in a closet to see if there was something I might use.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything. But I did rediscover this $30 tilt adapter I bought for a vintage lens years ago because I wanted to play around with the “miniature scale” effect in camera. 

These days, most people just apply the Tilt Shift filter on Instagram to achieve the same effect but that kind of photography doesn’t give me any joy. (Don’t get me wrong; I love working in Photoshop too but I get more excited about creating something in the moment.)

Anyway, before adding it to the “Sell Me” box along with a few lenses and doodads, I went online to see what else it might be good for.

To my surprise, I found that tilt lenses are used by product photographers to extend apparent depth of field (DoF) by changing the plane of focus (PoF).

By swinging or tilting the lens left or right, the PoF could be positioned at an angle rather than have it run straight across as with a regular lens.

No need to stop down the aperture, move further back and crop, or focus stack — all of which present their own drawbacks like loss of light, lack of sharpness, or more time spent in post — to get two LEGO minifigs in focus, for example.

The video I made does a better job of explaining planes of focus and how a tilt adapter can help with challenges shooting close-up or macro that needs a deeper DoF.

I’ve mentioned some products in the video if you want a neat solution, but you could freelens or use a rubber tube for a DIY solution too.

Let me know in the comments if you give it a go! If you’re on Instagram, tag me (@fourbrickstall) and I’ll check it out. I’d love to see how other toy photographers put this tilt thing to use.

8 Comments

  1. I LOVE tilt-shift, especially for that miniature look. I never considered using it for toy photography in this way, so I really appreciate the great video! There unfortunately don’t seem to be as affordable options for my DSLR but now I’ll be keeping my eyes open.

    • Thanks! After using this a couple of times, I think a tilt adapter is essential. I’m not convinced a shift would be very useful for toy photography.

      Product photographers use TS adapters so it makes complete sense for toy photography. It’s crucial for them to get front-to-back focus (tilt) and make sure vertical lines on things like packaging is straight (shift).

      Anyway, I think a full review of the particular adapter I’m using is in order 😉

  2. Alan Rappaport

    I seriously need to block you on all social media. Every time you surface, it ends up with me spending more money on gear 🙂
    Seriously though, this was an awesome explainer on how tilt lenses work, and it just makes crazy sense for toy photography. Awesome post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.