How and When to Use a Tilt-Shift Lens

Using a tilt-shift lens is useful for product photography, because it allows you to keep multiple items in focus in your shot. Tilt-shift lenses can also create a miniature effect by blurring a large portion of the image, essentially creating a macro illusion with a very shallow depth of field. The shift function can be used to photograph architecture or landscapes, for example. LensProToGo created this video to demonstrate how to use a tilt-shift lens:

Tips for Using a Tilt-Shift Lens

  • The knobs around the barrel of the lens can be adjusted for tilt and shift. They’re either adjustment or lock knobs.
  • Tilt knobs have a ’T’ and shift knobs have an ’S’ on them.
  • After making your adjustment, the smaller knobs will lock the lens. Don’t turn the adjustment knobs while the locks are in place!
  • The rotation lock release lever can usually be found near the camera’s mount. This allows you to rotate the direction of the tilt or shift. On Canon lenses, there is a separate lever to rotate the tilt function.

focus focal plane subject

The Tilt Control

When you use a normal lens, the focal plane is parallel to the camera’s sensor and you must decide which subject to focus on in your shot. By using the tilt knob, you can change the angle of the focal plane to focus on two subjects at different distances from the camera. Tilt selective focus allows you to flip-flop the focus between two subjects in the frame.

perspective shift adjustment

The Shift Control

The shift control lets you create wide panoramas by stitching multiples images together. It doesn’t change perspective while shooting, because the camera sensor doesn’t move, eliminating any distortion found while using a wide angle lens for the same purpose. You can also use the shift control to make sure that vertical lines are straight instead of encountering distortion from tilting your lens off-level.

Which Tilt-Shift Lens Should I Buy?

Are you thinking about getting yourself a tilt-shift lens now? Canon and Nikon each currently offer four lenses:

“Tilt-shift lenses are unique because they have elements that move relative to the camera sensor.”

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