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Tilt & Shift Lens

Lesson 23 from: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

Tilt & Shift Lens

Lesson 23 from: Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

23. Tilt & Shift Lens

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is the fundamentals of using a tilt/shift lens in photography.


  1. What are the two major capabilities of a tilt/shift lens?

    The two major capabilities are tilting and shifting.

  2. What does tilting the lens do?

    Tilting the lens changes the plane of focus, allowing for more or less depth of field.

  3. How is shifting the lens useful in architectural photography?

    Shifting the lens corrects for the parallax problem, ensuring that vertical lines in buildings appear straight and parallel.

  4. How does a tilt/shift lens allow for panoramic shots?

    By shifting the lens from side to side, it is possible to capture overlapping images that can be stitched together seamlessly.

  5. Can the effects of a tilt/shift lens be replicated in software?

    Yes, some effects can be replicated in post-production, but using a tilt/shift lens allows for higher image quality and the use of all the pixels on the sensor.

  6. What is the Scheimpflug Principle?

    The Scheimpflug Principle explains how tilting the lens changes the plane of focus, allowing for selective focus in different areas of the image.

  7. What are some common applications for tilt/shift lenses?

    Tilt/shift lenses are commonly used in architectural, landscape, product, and some portrait photography.

  8. What are some tips for achieving sharp focus with a tilt/shift lens?

    Manual focusing is required with tilt/shift lenses, and using a tripod and magnifying the image can help ensure precise focus. Patience and practice are also important.

Next Lesson: Subject Zone


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Photographic Characteristics


Camera Types


Viewing System


Lens System


Shutter System


Shutter Speed Basics


Shutter Speed Effects


Camera & Lens Stabilization


Quiz: Shutter Speeds


Camera Settings Overview


Drive Mode & Buffer


Camera Settings - Details


Sensor Size: Basics


Sensor Sizes: Compared


The Sensor - Pixels


Sensor Size - ISO


Focal Length


Angle of View


Practicing Angle of View


Quiz: Focal Length


Fisheye Lens


Tilt & Shift Lens


Subject Zone


Lens Speed




Depth of Field (DOF)


Quiz: Apertures


Lens Quality


Light Meter Basics




Quiz: Histogram


Dynamic Range


Exposure Modes


Sunny 16 Rule


Exposure Bracketing


Exposure Values


Quiz: Exposure


Focusing Basics


Auto Focus (AF)


Focus Points


Focus Tracking


Focusing Q&A


Manual Focus


Digital Focus Assistance


Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)


Quiz: Depth of Field


DOF Preview & Focusing Screens


Lens Sharpness


Camera Movement


Advanced Techniques


Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance


Auto Focus Calibration


Focus Stacking


Quiz: Focus Problems


Camera Accessories


Lens Accessories


Lens Adaptors & Cleaning




Flash & Lighting






Being a Photographer


Natural Light: Direct Sunlight


Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight


Natural Light: Mixed


Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Quiz: Lighting


Light Management


Flash Fundamentals




Built-In & Add-On Flash


Off-Camera Flash


Off-Camera Flash For Portraits


Advanced Flash Techniques


Editing Assessments & Goals


Editing Set-Up


Importing Images


Organizing Your Images


Culling Images


Categories of Development


Adjusting Exposure


Remove Distractions


Cropping Your Images


Composition Basics


Point of View


Angle of View


Subject Placement


Framing Your Shot


Foreground & Background & Scale


Rule of Odds


Bad Composition


Multi-Shot Techniques


Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction


Human Vision vs The Camera


Visual Perception


Quiz: Visual Balance


Visual Drama


Elements of Design


Texture & Negative Space


Black & White & Color


The Photographic Process


Working the Shot


What Makes a Great Photograph?


Lesson Info

Tilt & Shift Lens

And so, the tilt shift lens is another unusual lens. It's not they type of lens that most people are gonna have, but it is something that I... I forgot how long I've owned a tilt shift lens now, but for a number of years. And, of course, anybody who worked with four by five cameras has worked with lens movements. And anybody who has done that has seen the other side. These are what I consider to be super lenses. They have super capabilities, and when you start using a tilt shift lens it's hard to stop using them because you... You're spoiled with all these other things that you can do with lenses. And at first, if you're a beginner photographer, you just need to be thinking about angle of view and depth of field and just get that down and really really learn that. Worst thing I could ever imagine is giving somebody who's brand new to photography a tilt shift lens to add on two more complicated things to do on top of the other things that you're trying to master. But once you've mastere...

d the other things and you're kind of wondering, where can I take my photography? What else can I do? The tilt shift lens is a place that, for some people, is gonna offer them a whole set of new opportunities in ways to control the image. So, the tilt shift lens. We obviously have two major things: tilting and shifting. So, tilting the lens is gonna give us a change in the plane of focus. So, we can either have more in focus or less in focus. When we get to the shifting portion we'll be able to shift the lens and we're gonna be doing this to change our perspective and we'll also be able to use it now for creating really really nice panoramic shots, clean, easy to stich together shots. Let's talk about shifting. So, when we shift the lens, we are going to have a dial on the side of the lens that we can move the lens up and down, but then you'll also be able to rotate the lens and shift it from side to side as well. And this is going to be used frequently for architectural photography. If you're into real estate or something like that, it's an expensive item, but it can really help out in a lot of situations. Now, the problem is is that when you photograph a building from the ground floor, you need to look up in order to get the whole building and you have this paralax problem, where the lines are bending in and they're narrower at the top than they are at the bottom. With a perspective correction, the shift function, you can adjust this so that all the lines are parallel. And if you read an architectural magazine or a book, you're gonna see photographs that show buildings with straight lines. The architects who build these buildings do not like photographs with all these funny lines. They like it to look like the blueprints that they drew. Now, this is possible with a tilt shift lens for a couple of reasons. First off, let's talk about a standard lens. We've already talked about this a little bit. When light goes through it, it produces an image circle for that sensor to capture and that image circle is just a little bit bigger than the sensor size so that we don't have any dark areas on the sensor. But you don't need to build it any bigger because nothing's moving in the air. And so, the tilt shift lens is essentially a medium format lens, a lens designed for a larger image circle. It produces a large image circle and what you're able to do is you're able to move the lens and be able to record different portions coming through it. And so, this is what allows us to do this shifting capability, 'cause it has this really large image circle. So, in theory, you could take a tilt/shift lens for a full-frame camera and mount it on a different camera that has a bigger sensor and collect enough image for that entire... That larger sensor size. So, here's a problem. We've got these lines that get narrower as they get up to the top of the frame. This is a paralax problem, as they say, and the way that we need to correct for this is we need to point the camera straight forward. Well, if we point the camera straight forward, we miss the top of the building. But, with a shift lens, we just shift it straight up and we're not changing the plane on the camera. The camera's sensor stays in exactly the same portion and we're shifting the lens upward. Let's do the same thing, but let me do it live in video here. So, you can see me tilt the camera straight forward and I'm gonna go over to the lens and I'm gonna start turning the knob on the lens to shifting the lens upward and I'm keeping the sides of the building, the lines of the building, correct and straight. And so, this will frequently be done in vertical. So, if you shoot 24 millimeters, you're gonna have this falling away effect. So, as the building gets taller it looks like it gets smaller in size. So, in one of the only cases of proper use of vertical video I am showing you how I am doing it through the camera. And so, it's going to be a more correct image when you're done. Now, those of you who are savvy in the ways of Lightroom, Photoshop, and other sorts of manipulation programs are probably hammering out on your keyboards right now, but I can do that in software. Yes, I know you can. And what you do is you can transform a subject and you basically stretch it out and make it narrower down here, and you don't need a shift lens in order to get this effect. When you do use a shift lens, you're not throwing away almost 50% of the pixels on your sensor. So, if you need to do it, you don't have a shift lens, yeah, just make sure that you shoot wide enough that you can crop in and push and pull the corners to get your subject straight. But you are throwing away... It depends on the situation, but about 40% of the pixels. And so, if you have a 24 megapixel sensor, you're down to 16. And so, you're also having to do it in software and doing it out in the field and being able to see it and use all your pixels on it is a nice benefit. The other thing that you can do is I'm gonna shift over to the left, in this video you can see, and I'm gonna take a photo. And then I'm gonna move it back to the middle and I'm gonna take another photo and because the sensor is not moving, the size, relationship, and the viewpoint isn't changing in any significant way, I have collected enough data to create a seamless really smooth panoramic image. And so, if you wanna create a panoramic that is not distorted in any way, you can do it better and easier with a tilt/shift lens than any other system out there. And so, this is how I've been shooting a lot of my panoramics lately because they come together so seamlessly. And so, I'll usually shoot three photos just so that there's lots of overlap. And we'll talk more about shooting panoramas in a separate section, but I can get very very clean panoramics with these individual shots, and the main reason is is that when I'm doing this I'm not twisting and turning the camera from side to side, because when you twist that film plane, that's when you're causing the problems of distortion. When you keep the film plane in the same place and you just simply move the lens back and forth it's keeping everything correctly in perspective. And so, now you can capture more cinematic type shots that are going to be wider and I do like this wider angle panoramic shot, it works very well in many situations. In this case, I was going for a different type of stitch. I liked it straight forward, I liked it straight up, combined those two images to create a very high resolution square image. And there's something to be said... I do like square images. There's a number of medium format cameras and cameras have squares, and there's a good place and purpose for square images in a lot of types and use. And so, you can get really high quality square images using this image of two shots together with the shift lens. Now, the other part of this is tilting, and this is where we get to talk about the Scheimpflug Principle. I know you were all antsly waiting for this, alright? So, think back to the cameras that had view cameras. Four by five cameras where we have a lens, image plane and when you focus on something that's the plane of focus with what's gonna be in focus. You can focus on things that are close to you, you can focus on things that are far away from you, and even if you set the focus at the optimum point, closing down the aperture all the way may not get everything in focus. So, what you can do is you can tilt the lens so the lens plane is angled. Now, logic, to me, would state that the plane of focus would be equal to the lens plane. That just seems like that would work out, but that's not what happens. What actually happens is it actually is angled even more and there is this Scheimpflug Intersection where the image plane, the lens plane, and the plane of focus all intersect, and so you can calculate by this amount of movement will change the focus plane by this much. And we're not gonna get into all of this now, that's more for a special class on tilt/shift lenses. Alright? So, now when we set an aperture of say 2.8, we've really changed where that 2.8 is. It used to be in a parallel line to the front of the lens and now, when we stop our aperture down to say F8, we can have subjects that are very close in front of us and things that are very far distant all be in focus without having to stop our aperture down to F22. And so, that's how I got this shot. The flowers in the foreground are very sharp except for a few that are blowing just a tad bit in the wind but I what I did is I tilted the lens down on my camera. And so, this is a common technique among traditional four by five photographers how they would operate their camera. Model landscape photographers do use tilt/shift lenses because it allows you to shoot subjects in the foreground and background really really sharply at optimum aperture settings. And so, it's a technique that I have used over and over and over again when I am out shooting. In the second proper use of vertical video you can see that this petrified log on the foreground it out of focus and there's some rocks in the background and let's go ahead and play the video. And you're gonna see I'm gonna tilt the lens and suddenly everything's in focus, and it's just a little tilt, a few millimeters, and it gets everything in focus and I'm not even stopping the lens down. That's just wide open. And the beauty is is that you can get these incredibly sharp photos because you're not stopping down all the way at... We'll talk more about this later today in the aperture section. Lenses are not as sharp when you stop down at 22 and 32, so I'm able to capture this at F8 or F with a tilt/shift lens. And so, if you want to make big enlargements, you really want to have everything in focus, you can do that with the tilting function of a lens. And, I don't know, this wasn't done 20 years ago, but you can reverse the effect and go, let's do the opposite. Rather than having lots of depth of field let's have shallow depth of field. And so, people have been using tilt/shift lenses to mimic miniatures. So, when you get up to a high angle and you're shooting straight down if you were shooting on a miniature model, you would normally be using a macro lens that gets you really really shallow depths of field, and you can kinda mimic that when you are up in a high angle and you reverse the tilt, and now your lens is kinda pointed up. And so, in this case, this is what my camera looks like. I'm tilting the camera up and the image plane, rather than running like this is running like this, and it gets a little bit awkward when you start thinking about this 'cause there's only a few things in focus, which is the moon and the tops of buildings and everything else down below progressively gets more and more out of focus. And so, when you have the opportunity to shoot from a high angle, you do this reverse tilt on the lens and it kinda starts looking like a miniature set. And it's gone through some phases and it, I don't know, I think its kind of faded out a little bit at this point. And so, not as many people are doing it, but there's been some really fun time lapse I have seen using this technique, where they show a city and it looks like they're little Lego people moving back and forth and it's just normal people that they've done the shallow depth of field. Now, you could also mimic this in post-production as well, just by blurring out the top and the bottom sections. And so, most people don't need a tilt/shift lens. There's a lot of things that you can replicate in other ways, but for those of you who like to see it and do it in the field and get all the megapixels on the camera, it does offer you some advantages. And sometimes, not very often, you would use the tilt and the shift and the same time. And so, in this case, I am using the tilt to get things in the foreground as well as the background in focus, and then I'm gonna shift from left to right to shoot two different images that are overlapping that I can create into a very high resolution panoramic image that has foreground and background in focus. And I'll use that same technique right here, and it's really necessary because, in this case, the foreground is very very close. And so, I'll shoot one to the left, I'll shoot one in the middle, one to the right, and I'll end up with a pretty wide angle shot that is really tap sharp throughout the range. And so, it's just an option that you don't have with a standard wide angle lens. So, tilt/shift lenses are the domain of Nikon, Canon, and a few after market manufacturers. There's just not that many out there, and so this is one of the reasons why a lot of professionals shoot with Canon and Nikon is they have a lot of these really unusual lenses for specialized purposes. And so, they've always kind of had something in the wide angle category. For the architectural photographer and landscape photographer, they've now got some ultra wide 17 and 19. Canon just introduced a few new ones, including a new 135, and there's a lot of people who use the 85, 90, for product photography. If you can imagine being in a studio and it's your job to photograph a box of cereal, and the director said, we don't want the cereal pointed straight at the camera, we want it angled like this. And they want it to be perfectly sharp on an angle. Well, if you stop all the way down maybe that's not giving you the effect that you want, you can turn that lens sideways and get that plane of field going right down the front of the box. And so, for product photography, architectural, landscape, travel photography, there's a variety of needs. Very few people in sports photography. Some people will do it in portrait photography because you can throw things out of focus either top to bottom or side to side and get an unusual looking effect for people who just want something that looks different. And so, if you've gone up through the beginning ranks and you're somewhere in the middle and you wanna play around with something that really looks at the world in a different way, try out a tilt/shift lens. Don't need to go out and buy one, but renting one for a weekend can be a real fun experience just to see what that's like. Might be for what you want to do, you never know. So, check in with any questions that have accumulated up to this point. Alright, fantastic John. We do have some questions. So, this one is from Lynette who says, tilt/shift lens now comes in these different focal lengths, what happens to the depth of field between the different focal lengths? Is there a difference? Well, there is gonna be a difference and to start with, these are normal high quality lenses that are gonna act very much or, essentially, exactly like any other lens of that focal length and of that aperture. A 50 millimeter 2.8 lens is gonna act just like a 50 millimeter 2.8 tilt/shift lens. It's when you start tilting and shifting that things start kinda getting lacky, you might say. And so, if you want a lot of depth of field, that 17 and 19 millimeter lens is gonna enable you to get a lot of depth of field just inherently, but then when you start tilting it, then you're gonna get even more depth of field. Cool, thank you. I just hear about free-lensing and I wonder if that's sort of a poor man's version of the shift, or the tilt lens. I really think it's a separate thing. And so, what free-lensing is, and correct me if I'm wrong because I haven't done it myself, is where you just hold the lens out in front of the camera and you're twisting it. And it is similar in the sense that you are potentially... It's not the same as shifting, it's kinda similar to tilting in that you're getting a shallower depth of field or you're getting... Not so much shallower depth of field, but you're getting selective focus in a certain area. So, Lens Baby makes a series of lenses that kind of look like it's doing the same thing 'cause the lens kinda twists around and stuff. And what it's doing is it's blurry all around the edges and you're selecting where you want it sharp. It's not changing the amount of depth of field, it's not changing the angle of depth of field. And so, there is some things that are similar to it, but I would kinda put it in a different category for that reason. This came from Kevin and I know you kinda went through which of the focal lengths you recommend for different types of photography when it comes to the tilt/shift, but is there a best all around tilt/shift? Well, I started with a 24 'cause I was doing a lot of landscapes and it's my favorite one for landscape because the next wider one you can't use filters on and so it's nice to be able to use neutral density filters and polarizing filters on the 24. So, I think for landscapes and a lot of other stuff that's really one of the most practical ones. For somebody who's not necessarily into landscapes and they just kinda wanna play around with a different lens, the normal 45 or 50 millimeter lens is really the most practical. You start getting more specialized as you move away from that 50 millimeter range. And so, 50 and 24 are very useful and then it gets more and more specialized. Cool, thank you so much. And one more. This is from Robert, who's having trouble getting sharp enough shots with the 17 millimeter tilt/shift lens. Trying to figure out how to focus and stuff like that. What are the biggest sort of common mistakes that people make as they're learning the tilt/shift lenses and how to correct those. Well, the tilt/shift lenses are all manual focus. And so, you have to really be on your game for manual focusing. And so, what I've had to do when I'm using my SLRs is to bring around a loop, and I'll talk about this in the gadget section, so that I could see the back of the camera. Now, I have to be honest with you, I've been using my tilt/shift lenses with a mirrorless camera now, which I don't need to bring the loop on because I have an electronic view and then I magnify in and there's a certain technique of how you focus and you tilt to get the sharpest focus because what happens is if you focus your lens and then you tilt it, you need to change the focus because when you tilted it you changed the focus. And so, I still have on the plans, it's not scheduled yet, but I'm hoping to make a tilt/shift class, which is half built at this time. And in that class I'll go through the more exact process of where do you focus, how do you tilt, how far do you tilt, how do you check the focus. But, with the digital cameras being able to do a live view or use the EVF to go in, magnify in the foreground, move it up to the background to make sure that they're both in focus is important. Now, I've been doing this for years and I still get kinda messed up from time to time, where okay, I get the tilt in, I get just the focus. Oh, I gotta do this again and I moved this, I gotta move this again. And it's like I keep moving things one side to the other and it keep moving back, but there is a way of doing it and it is challenging, but you do have to get it dialed in right. Great, alright. Yeah, definitely patience when it comes to the tilt/shift lenses. Tripods, tripods are really really handy 'cause this is just something... You gotta slow things down. It's not run and gun with these lenses. Awesome. Alright, well it's time for our first break of the day. So, what are we gonna talk about as we continue the class, John? Well, the other big part of lenses, of course, is the aperture depth of field. And so, that's gonna be the next big hurdle that we're going to really learn all about.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Fundamentals of Photography Class Outline
Learning Projects Workbook
Camera Keynote PDF
Sensor Keynote PDF
Lens Keynote PDF
Exposure Keynote PDF
Focus Keynote PDF
Gadgets Keynote PDF
Lighting Keynote PDF
Editing Keynote PDF
Composition Keynote PDF
Photographic Vision Keynote PDF

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan

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