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Lesson 17 of 27

Tilt Shift Lens

Marc Muench

Landscape Photography

Marc Muench

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Lesson Info

17. Tilt Shift Lens
The tilt-shift lens is a fun creative lens -- and you only need a few minutes to learn before shooting. Discover tips for working with tilt-shift, like shifting instead of tilting and working with the wider point of view.

Lesson Info

Tilt Shift Lens

I'm going to kind of conclude the first part of this segment with a couple more things we can do, not only with lenses but also with our cameras, some camera tricks. And so that's what I've broken apart here. We're gonna do some shifting and no tilting, so that eliminates some of the problem. And then we're gonna go into panoramas, and then finally talk a little bit about the nodal point. So, again, something to think about when you have a lens choice to make is your aspect ratio. And one of the factors is, not only just to fill this aspect ratio later when you're in post, by cropping, but also to shoot for that, and that's really the key here that I want to mention is that when you're taking these pictures and you just crop later, what you're gonna sacrifice is resolution. And so, in this case I'm more interested in not only making a big print for the wall, but I'm also interested in kind of expanding the way that I'm able to see with some of the limited equipment that I bring out in ...

the field. And that is one of the key components. So what I've done here is I've brought up the tilt/shift lens, which is kind of ironic because I think in the world of photography, a lot of people are very intimidated by the tilt/shift lens. It sounds like a really technical term and this very advanced lens, but I'll tell you what, in couple minutes, you could be using a tilt/shift lens at least for what I'm gonna show you today. The other part of the tilt/shift, which is actually the tilt, you can learn, it's not that hard. All right, so the tilt/shift lens is a lot of fun. It's not some pro advanced tool, which a lot of pros use in an advanced way, but I'll tell you what, it's a lot of fun and that's why I brought it up today. And then I wanna also bring up the fact that it changes to a wider field of view, and of course more pixels, and you have more choices for the aspect ratio. So all the things that I'm just kind of mentioning. So here's what I've got. I have a 24 mm tilt/shift lens. And essentially, I have not tilted it at all. I've only shifted it left to right. And that's what's fun about this lens, because when you combine those two, then you end up with this basic, almost 2:1, 2.25:1 aspect ratio. And that's cropped only to get rid of the edges. You could easily crop it to 2:1. And so that's one of my favorite applications for the tilt/shift lens, and you can use this with the different focal lengths as well. Another one is, you can rotate the camera, or leave the camera in the same horizontal position, and with a wider, in this case Canon 17 mm tilt/shift lens. Then I'm just moving the lens, or shifting it from top to bottom. That's the way I usually work, rather than bottom to up, doesn't really matter. But either way, then you take those images, and you combine them into what is one of my favorite aspect ratios, especially for verticals, is 4x5. And probably I utilize that aspect of the tilt/shift lens 90% of the time. Now here's another option. They do make both manufacturers make different focal length tilt/shift lenses. In this case it's the 85 mm Nikon, they call it prospective control, it's the same thing it tilts and it shifts. I'll point out a couple features that are different, but basically what you're doing with these lenses, whether it's Canon or Nikon, I do believe there's a couple other manufacturers making these now, or at least one, and you're essentially moving, you're not tilting, okay, and so you take these three exposures and you combine them together into a 4x5. In this case, it's horizontal, okay, so the camera was in portrait, now we're gonna get a horizontal picture after we stitch it together. And I'm gonna show you a couple examples of how that works. Essentially just to get a general understanding. Here's another example, I use the tilt/shift lens for capturing the Northern Lights. And the reason I did this is you know, the lights move, they don't move that fast, and so I was able to stitch these together because basically you're taking about an eight second exposure in this situation. And I had enough time to take all three exposures, and because the lights are kind of blurred, they blended together just fine. And that's what happened here. So I end up with, when I stitch those together, a 9,626 pixel file. And so when you wanna make a print of that, it looks absolutely gorgeous, at about the size of the Creative Live signs over there. Or even bigger, and so that's one of the big advantages. So tilt/shift in the field, some of the things you wanna look at are taken on this video, and I'll let it play. So the creative lens idea came when I used to use a 4x5 camera, and the lens actually is free from the body. So you can move it up and down and tilt it and all that fancy stuff. So first thing I did when I started shooting digital was get a tilt/shift lens, which does the same thing. Which does the same thing. You can tilt it, and then of course you can shift it. But, to keep this demonstration simple, and to tell you the truth, I hardly ever use this lens for tilting, I simply shift it. And the reason I do that is to change the composition, and to get something that's a wider angle point of view, as well as changing the aspect ratio. I have a 24 tilt/shift lens on here, Nikon. And what I do, typically, is I set it up. You can do either a horizontal camera position or vertical, I'll show you that in one second. And as you slide or shift the lens to the left, you take a picture, shift it back to the middle, take another picture, and shift it all the way over to the right, and take a third picture. You get back into your computer, you stitch those three together and you end up with a whole new aspect ratio. Now, that's one option. The other option is to take the tilt/shift lens and rotate it 90 degrees, and you basically go through the same three steps. You slide it all the way up, take a picture. Down, take a picture, and again, third position and take another picture. Put those three files together and stitch them in Photoshop. You can also take this lens, and because when you stitch those three together, it turns into a different type of format which is more the 4x5 aspect ratio. So if you wanna take a horizontal 4x5 picture, you actually put the camera in portrait mode, and you take the lens, and you shift it all the way to the left, take a picture, to the center, take a picture and to the right and take a picture. And so that's gonna give you that nice 4x5 horizontal picture. So, again, just to recap those two moves, if the camera is in horizontal position, and you move the lens up and down, you're gonna get a vertical 4x5. If the camera is in portrait mode position and you shift the lens left to right, then you're gonna get a horizontal 4x5. So to make this even more exciting, and more fun, is after I got the tilt/shift lens, I wasn't too happy with being limited so I got another gadget, and this is basically a nodal slide. And what this allows me to do is rotate the camera from left to right or right to left, and stitch a panorama together. And that's quite fun to do. But what you'll see here is that when you do that with a normal fixed lens, you end up with the horizon dead center. If you get a tilt/shift lens, put it on there with the nodal slide, if I shift it up now I've taken the horizon and dropped it thus using the rule of thirds and my pano now has horizon on the bottom third of the composition. Or I could do just the opposite, drop the front element or shift it down and now my horizon's in the top third. You can also, to kick it up another notch, raise this all the way up, take a row of pictures, drop it all the way down, take another row, and stitch all of those files together. And you're ever increasing not only the file size, but also your focal length. Okay, so you can see a couple different uses of the tilt/shift lens that I really do enjoy using them for. But in addition, you saw something at the end, the nodal slide, it's also called a nodal rail, so just in case you're wondering. It's also made, the one that I use is made by the same company that manufactures my tripods, and the tripod heads, which is Really Right Stuff. I do know that there are other manufacturers that create these, the main thing is to get that lens or the camera rotating over that nodal point. So that when you stitch these files together, all of the subject matter, especially in the foreground, lines up. This one works on what's called the nodal point, and the reason you have this rail is to get that nodal point in the lens right over the pivot point. That's what this whole gizmo is for. And what that does, is it give you the ability to stitch these images together so that no two points become separated, it's called your parallax. You can look at this, if you line up your fingers, and you rotate your head, you'll see how your fingers separate and reattach. So what happens when you rotate around the nodal point, is you're actually turning your head so that the two points stay aligned, and that's what's happening with this lens. And with this gadget, it's keeping that lens and keeping the sensor plane rotating around that nodal point, so that everything stitches together without elements not coming together when Photoshop stitches them. Okay, so just to reiterate that point again, I think one of the things that we always get confused about is how the tilt/shift lens works, and so I've gone over several different illustrations here, but I just wanna show you a couple more practical applications. This is a place that's right down near Havasu in the Grand Canyon, and if you stand there out on the end of this particular waterfall, it's really not Havasu Falls. And what happens is you're kind of influenced by not only the waterfall but the setting of this place. There's canyon walls up extremely high over you and on both sides, but then below you is this amount of greenery that grows, it looks exactly like an oasis in the desert, which is what's so beautiful about it, and so in order to capture all of that I had to use the tilt/shift lens to put it all together, because I knew that when I was looking a the scene with all that greenery and the waterfall and the sky and the beautiful cliffs, that I really wanted a big print. So it was one of the inspirational elements when I was composing this picture. Again, I actually did notice this in 2:1, something that I saw the first moment that I walked up to it, I don't know if it was in the first moment to be honest with you, but as I looked at it I realized it. Okay, so again, the shifted nodal slide panorama, and that's a little different because essentially you're taking the camera and you're raising that front element of the lens which I just showed you in the video, and that does create the horizon that's normally in the middle to be lower or higher depending on where you move that lens. And I think that was really what sold me on this method, because I hardly ever shoot with the horizon in the middle, although sometimes like I said, it makes sense, but in this case, it really is nice to have that extra creative ability to take the actual pixels of the scene that you're looking at. And in this case include all of the sky. This one actually worked out to a 16x9. And just to be honest with you and upfront, I don't always see these in the aspect ratio beforehand. As I'm taking the picture, going from left to right, I try to keep that the same. Sometimes I start over here, and I just look at the back of the camera, what's on the LCD, and before I start taking the pictures I rotate it over until I find something in the far right corner that I want the exposure to end on, and I calculate that out as much as I can assuming I have time in the field before I start photographing. So in this case I lined it up on the far left, so that this tree, where it bisects the distant horizon was the beginning of the composition, as well. I wanted this cloud to come down and kind of meet up with that ridge. And then on the other side, same thing, I had this big beautiful tree over there that I wanted to kind of frame the composition with. And so, essentially I just took as many pictures as it required to get to the point where those were the two end points of my composition. All right, this is an example of not having the camera in portrait position. The camera's in a horizontal position and essentially the clouds were moving really quick, I didn't want to take the time to take that many vertical shots. So when the camera's in landscape position, or horizontal position, you have to take fewer pictures. And so I rattled off these three so that I could stitch that one together. In that case, it turned out to be 3:1, and honestly because the light was doing what it was and the clouds were moving that fast, I had not clue whether it was gonna be 3:1 or 2:1. I just knew it wasn't going to be 2:3. So sometimes you have to go as fast as you can and speaking of that, we also have something we shot on handheld panoramas. So, creative lens choice, there's a couple things I wanna address and talk about why I call it that. One is sometimes we don't have a lens for what we see, and so as I've mentioned, we take multiple pictures, stitch them together, and turn it into a new aspect ratio and a new point of view. The other is the tripod, the dreaded tripod. This actually can take away your creativity. Especially if you're learning photography. Because you take a lot of time setting the tripod up and then putting the camera on, and all of a sudden maybe the light changed or you're frustrated with it, because all tripods are just as terrible as the other. But some work better and they're a little more efficient. However, I like working handheld, it's part of the creative process, and so one of the things is you don't need a nodal slide, you don't need a tripod for using a telephoto lens and taking multiple pictures to stitch together into a bigger frame. And in the end, this really gives you more resolution so that you can make a much larger print on the wall. So, couple things, again I'm handheld so I'm gonna turn the vibration reduction on, I'm gonna turn continuous low on, 'cause I wanna take multiple pictures. I have a higher ISO. I'm gonna go back up to 800 'cause it's cloudy. And I'm gonna shoot this particular lens at f5.6. Because I know it's very sharp at f5.6. And then I'm gonna get my meter reading, just off the gray sky, and what I'm gonna do is I've got Rainier out, so I like that as a subject today, especially since we can see it. And I'm gonna start over on the left where those homes are on the cliff, and then keep taking pictures all the way to the right until I get out here to these islands with the beautiful low fog just swirling around them. (camera clicking) (camera clicking) Couple other things, inside the camera you have the option of turning the grid on. And that helps tremendously for aligning each shot as you're going. You wanna give yourself at least 30%, in some cases 50% overlap so Photoshop can stitch these together easily. Now you can see, I can go all the way from the left here where these people are playing frisbee on the beach, or football, and make this huge pano, 180 degrees all the way over to the Olympic Peninsula. And that's what's fun about it, is you can see things beyond what you're used to looking at with a normal lens. Okay, and it truly is fun, I recommend taking many, many frames and panos because the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll get with this. In addition, we can go yet another step further, and that is using a tool which I showed you yesterday in the morning to do multi row panorama photography. So, another option for your creative lens choice is doing a multi row pano. And in order to do it so that everything lines up perfectly, unlike the handheld version, you can use a pano rig, and what that is it's gonna replace my tripod head. And this is why these clips are so handy, or these quick releases, 'cause you can take the tripod head off. On this tripod I have a, what's really made for a video leveling head, but I'm gonna use that with this particular rig. And so, first thing I do is put this on. Just like so, replaces the tripod head, because you really don't need it because I have this leveling head. And then the camera actually gets mounted just like this, and again, this does rely on what's called the nodal point, and so it's going to pivot on the nodal point on this slide vertically, and on this slide horizontally. And so what you want to do, is you turn live view on and you line it up with those cross hairs at the bottom. And then you're on the nodal point. So you bring this camera back around, level this off just like so. And now you're gonna set this up as if you're taking one picture. So you have to pick a aperture and shutter speed that you're gonna use throughout the whole exposure to make your life easier. You don't want the exposure to change as you're taking multiple pictures. And it would because I have a 50 mm lens on, and so I'm getting a tighter view of this so that I end up with more resolution. And if I point the camera towards that dark tree, it's gonna give me one meter reading. If I point it out here towards the brighter fog, it's gonna give me another. So I have to pick that happy medium. Again, it's daylight, well sort of daylight, it's cloudy. And so you remember that old rule, sunny 16, well it's probably cloudy 11 right now, or it may be eight and a half. So you set up your camera for manual exposure. And in this case I'm using a manual focus lens. I like a little small 50 mm for these shots because 50 gives you a tight enough focal length and allows you to get so much resolution. The wider the lens, the less resolution you'll get. The fewer the shots. So once you get everything dialed in, your shutter speed and aperture, then it's a matter of adjusting this so that you get enough overlap when you make the first row. And you start clicking pictures all the way around, probably five or six. And you rotate this down, and you take another row, five or six again, and you rotate it even down further, as far down as you wanna go, and take the last row of pictures. Bring all those together in Photoshop, stitch them together and then you end up with one brand new file. Okay, couple things to think about when you're stitching like this, if you really want Photoshop to work the best, 50% is what I would recommend. Sometimes when it's 30% I've noticed I don't know why but especially on the ocean horizon, of all lines that should stitch together well, it doesn't. So I always recommend 50%, okay. And that's pretty much the best tip I can give you, especially on overlapping in the beginning and even when you're hand holding these, consider that as well. Just take more than you think you need, that's really what it comes down to. Exercise, photograph two different aspect ratios of the same scene, not just vertical and horizontal, but try photographing for the resolution at a different aspect ratio. Okay, so if that's not enough resolution, then you have to start looking at a medium format system and that's a whole different way to work. But this is a wonderful tool to use so that you can get the quality as I mentioned again that's just unparalleled. The files that you're gonna be able to stitch together with a full size sensor or even a crop sensor in this method, are tremendous. And the resolution well, you'll be very pleased. Okay, onto something. Mark, I would love to jump in and ask some questions about that, about panoramas. Lots of stuff coming in. So I'd love to if you don't mind take just a second to ask some of these. First of all, from Ben, Michelle and one other person, you don't need the multi row pano rig when you're using a shift lens, right? The multi row pano setup is only for non shifting lenses. Is that correct? Correct, that's very correct. Okay, perfect. Now there were a ton of questions that came in about identifying the nodal point on the lens. Abdul, J. Jutrap and 13 other people all wanted to know how you identify the nodal point of your lens. Perfect question, I really, since this procedure is done so well on the Really Right Stuff website, that's where I would go to look for it, because it's listed there in exact steps that are technically wonderfully written and so I would recommend just to look at it there. There might be other websites as well, but that's the one I know that really explains it well. Because I don't wanna miss a step when I don't have a perfect lesson prepared, so anyways, that's where I'd go. Rich and four other people wanted to know, does Mark take bracketed exposures with each shift on the tilt/shift lens? Good question, I do sometimes. Especially in a situation where I have something really incredible happening and if the light is so dynamic, and you'll see in some areas as we've talked about in auto exposure bracketing, where the color is fabulous and I'm seeing something that I probably won't see again, I believe. And I have everything set up. I'm gonna set that camera to auto exposure bracketing and take every single scene bracketed. So absolutely. Most of the time though, I try to get away with that one exposure, even though I compromise a little bit of that shadow detail, little bit of noise in the shadows, it still ends up because of all the resolution, to be a adequate compromise. Great, let's see, quick question on the leveling video head on your tripod, Rajun Cajun wants to know about that and we had somebody else, Bertie Duboi and three others wanna know the name of the brand for the heads and nodal slider. Okay, the brand for all that equipment the tripod, the nodal slide, the video leveling head, all that stuff that I use is the same company, Really Right Stuff. And they have everything on their website including I think some of these videos that are gonna tell you not only how that equipment works, as well, but also shows you all the different parts. K Max 77 and two other people, when using the nodal rail, does the nodal point for a lens change for different points of focus. If not do you use the same predetermined placement on the rail for a specific lens? I do, good question though. No, it doesn't change with focus, but it does change with lenses and some zoom lenses do change, so you have to check that. But pretty much I have the same nodal point for my 24 tilt/shift lens. Okay and just to follow that up from JDs, in a multi row panorama, do you change the focus as you change the elevation? Or do you just leave it the same. The problem occurs if you change the focus or the aperture in the middle of any exposure that you're creating or image you're creating, what happens is the image area changes. And so it can become more difficult to stitch together. So you really typically don't wanna change your focus, and you don't wanna change your aperture. So having said that, there are some people that have put together auto bracketed focus stacked panoramas. So you can go as crazy as you wanna go. In the end it's just gonna take you quite a bit more time to process.

Class Description


  • Capture great shots of landscapes and nature
  • Confidently shoot in manual mode
  • Fine-tune your eye for composition
  • Master light for landscape photography
  • Work with HDR and panoramas
  • Perfect your images with post-processing in Lightroom


Turn a spark of passion for the outdoors into beautiful landscape photography in this start-to-finish course. From gear and exposure to light and post-processing, master the landscape photography workflow with veteran artist Marc Muench. End the frustration of being unable to capture the raw beauty of nature and capture inspiring awe-inducing views on camera.

With both live instruction and on-site photography tutorials, you'll master both the technical and creative necessities for capturing better landscape images. After the adventure, learn to perfect the scene using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to crop, color and fine-tune those images. In addition, you'll tackle advanced techniques including HDR and panoramas.


  • Beginners ready to get off auto mode
  • Intermediate photographers looking to improve
  • Photographers ready to tackle landscape photography as a new genre

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


As a third-generation photographer, Marc Muench has spent nearly 30 years working as a landscape and sports photographer. His work has appeared on the cover of publications like Time, National Geographic, Traveler, Outside, Sierra Magazine and more. In addition to shooting, he leads photography workshops around the world. He teaches with a mix of technical and creative details and personal insight.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Lightroom Develop Module Tutorial

Lightroom Master Catalog Tutorial

Tips and Tricks

Equipment List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Jeff McPheeters

This was my first class with Creative Live and also my first exposure to landscape photographer Marc Meunch. I've been a photographer for many years, an educator in science and technical fields for more than two decades, and a lifelong learner of the craft of making photographs. I am pretty picky when it comes to educational resources and when it involves recommending something that I want to reflect my own standards of excellence. That said, I came with an open mind, with some expectation that I would learn a few tricks, but also with the understanding that after spending thousands of hours in books and online courses as well as direct workshop and tutorials from a range of photographer workshops, Adobe training, KelbyOne and other professional organizations, that some of what I'd hear would be stuff I'd already known. My first impression was positive, as I think Creative Live did a good job explaining the purpose, intent, and scope of the workshop, as well as giving me a good idea of the speaker's credentials. As the session begin on Day 1, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the technical aspects of the live feed. It was like I was there. The sound quality was outstanding. The video streamed effortlessly and I only have wireless access to the Internet. I'm not on high speed wired cable. The bandwidth can fluctuate, yet it worked extremely well. The speaker, Marc Meunch, was relaxed, engaging, professional, and possessed such a comprehensive and deep understanding of the topic that I felt extremely lucky to have been told about this workshop. I don't think I've ever been able to watch someone who was so masterful in their presentation, so thorough in their organization and outline, so enthusiastic about their work, so passionate about the craft of landscape portraiture, or so articulate and engaging with the audience; at least in the realm of Photography. I'd jump at any chance to listen to Marc Meunch again; and especially to attend one of his outdoor workshops. One of the unique aspects of this workshop was that Marc uses some video clips from his outdoor workshops to illustrate what he's talking about in the classroom. Very effective. And the slides he chooses to share are effective and easy to understand. It's very inspiring to watch Marc present ideas and illustrate them through his own work, showing before and after and alternate compositions to demonstrate the point he's making. Day 1 was so good that before it was over I'd already purchased the two day workshop. I was that certain it was worth the cost. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd find a class like this for under $100/day. This is a pretty good deal. Day 2 was equal in usefulness and inspiration as Day 1. The discussion of gear selection and scouting techniques along with the introduction to his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow was very helpful and would be especially apropos to someone getting more serious about their landscape work but not very experienced with Lightroom or Photoshop, even perhaps a little intimidated by the prospect of needing to learn those two software giants, because Marc shows the power and easy of learning them. I was pleased I was able to attend and even more pleased I can watch these over and over and study points I didn't quite grasp the first time through. I highly recommend this course. The viewer will be inspired and encouraged as a result. Marc doesn't make it look easy; rather he makes landscape photography look fun and exciting and worthy of the effort and time to find ones own style and vision, clearly imparting the practical how-to's to aid each person in their own journey to make it more enjoyable and satisfying.

a Creativelive Student

I don't like writing reviews. Seems like everyone just wants to hear that everything was... awesome. So, let me try to be specific about what I liked: I thought that the concept of the creative trinity was brilliant. I thought that Marc's presentation on composition was the best I've ever seen. His ideas on having a theme for shooting was inspiring because it was simple. He also had some great tips on light. The other thing I appreciated about Marc's presentation was the wide variety of locations shown and his knowledge of them. I also am always interested to learn more about the people that have inspired presenters. Sometimes, it feel like CL classes are aimed at the lowest experience levels. But, as someone else said in review... there is always a nugget or two and review is beneficial. I wish Marc was more animated. He's obviously very self contained and reflective -- gotta be who you are, right? I have purchased Marc's class, the Shive class, and Art Wolf's class. All have had different benefits. I wish they would do others and take complexity up a notch -- specifically, helping others understand the planning necessary... how they find reliable contacts to guide them and what those things cost. How they are transporting all the gear they carry. More specific information on permits, camping gear, dealing with adverse conditions, etc. And, more information on how they get different images of frequently photographed locations.


I happend to stumble upon the course by an email. I clicked on it and realized that Mark had come to my town (Sitka,Alaska) to do a trip with my good friend. So I thought I'd watch a bit. After awhile I realized this is good, way good. So I shot a lot of that day just eating it up. The director would come on every bit and say there was a show price. I thought well I'll just watch. Then on the second day he did some things that the announcer said he had never seen. I thought the same thing. So I bought. I have been shooting for 40 years and I still LOVE to learn. A noted psychologist said "We are happiest when we are learning" and I couldn't agree more. Thank you Creative Live for offering these courses. I live on an Island in Southeast Alaska with 14 miles of road. BUT I can be a front row student with some of the best teachers in the world. Thank You! Also a Huge thank you to Mark. It takes a ton of time to do this, and Im sure you get tired of the same questions again and again, but it truly changes the lives of us who love this type of life.