Below are seven reasons why we like to use tilt-shift lenses for nature and outdoor photography. If you want to learn exactly how to use a tilt-shift lens, be sure to come to check out our new eBook The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Outdoor and Nature Photographers.
Reason 1: Center and Edge Sharpness is Incredible.
A tilt-shift lens projects a very large image circle compared to a regular lens (see photos below). The closer to the edges of the image circle, the less sharp the projected image. Any part of the sensor that captures pixels near the edge of the image circle will be softer than pixels captured from the centre of the image circle. When set to the ‘zero’ shift position, a tilt-shift lens projects a giant image circle so that even the edges and corners of the sensor are capturing the sweet spot of the image circle.
When you compare the edge sharpness of tilt-shift lenses with regular lenses of the same focal length, the regular lenses fall short. For us this sharpness advantage is huge! We love having files with corner-to-corner sharpness.
Reason 2: Horizontal and Vertical Panoramas Are Easy
With a tilt-shift lens, panorama photography is super easy. For a horizontal pan, mount your camera in landscape mode on a tripod and make three images: one with the lens in center position, one with the lens shifted to the right and then one with the lens shifted to the left. All three images will overlap perfectly and merge seamlessly in software. For vertical panoramas, the camera is in portrait orientation and the lens is shifted up and down vertically. Small sensor cameras give 3:1 ratio panorama images while full-frame cameras come in at about a 2.42:1 ratio. We cover some of the finer points in making panos from tilt-shift lens in our talk including exposure and software concerns.
Reason 3: Shift for Megapixel Images
Wanna make giant megapixels images with your camera? Well then just shift the lens in the opposing orientation to your camera to make megapixel rectangular images. For example, if your camera is in landscape orientation but you shift your lens up and down, you’ll get a big rectangular image that will increase your megapixel count by almost 100% (more with small sensor cameras). Shifting with a wide angle tilt-shift lens will also give you the coverage of an extreme wide angle lens but without the extreme distortion. For example, in the photo below using a full frame body and a 17mm lens, I increased the pixel count by 92% and the coverage of 17mm has increased to something in the 10-12mm range on a full frame camera!
Reason 4: Shift for Perspective Control
Any time you point a wide angle lens up or down, things will start to distort; building and trees will look like they are falling over. With the shift function, perspective control is super easy if you know how to do it!
Reason 5: Tilt for Miniaturization
We see this one a lot. It seems most photographers think tilt is only for making things miniature-looking. You can use it for that but tilt is really about altering the plane of focus to where you want it in the photo. The miniature effect happens when the tilt is opposite of the subject plane.
Reason 6: Tilt for Infinite Looking Focus
Sam and I love tilt best for matching the plane-of-focus to the subject plane so that we have photos that are super sharp from foreground to background. Tilt allows us to control the plane of focus independent of aperture. Tilt for plane of focus is the most useful feature of these lenses but it can be super tricky! We’ll be discussing at our talk the Most Common Mistakes photographers do when tilting for focus (are you guilty of it?)
Reason 7 – Tilt and Shift Together for the Ultimate in Image Control
In nature photography when we use tilt-shift lenses, we are almost always using the tilt and the shift together. We might use shift for perspective control while tilt is for control of the plane of focus. Or maybe we are using tilt for focus but shift to make a panorama. The combinations and benefits are truly astounding! These lenses, while offering incredible creative opportunities, may not be for everyone. If you own a tilt-shift lens but haven’t been satisfied with results, or if you are thinking of purchasing one (they’re not cheap!), then come out on March 10th. If you have a tilt-shift, bring it along (if you don’t, no need to fret as we’ll have ours there). We plan to release a new eBook on these lenses in May, but we find there is nothing like a hands-on, guided discussion for fast and easy learning!