It goes without saying that one of the chief goals as a photographer is to clearly convey what the subject is within your photo. Effectively doing so makes it easy for the viewer to focus exactly where you intended them to. However, it is not always that easy to do so when you’re in the field. Maybe it’s a limitation with the lens you have, or it could just be that you’re unsure about what you want to set as your visual anchor. That’s where adding a simple Tilt Shift effect can do wonders, and the great thing is that there is no shortage of apps on the desktop and for your mobile devices that can perform this easy task. Some of the notable ones on the desktop are the Blur Gallery in Photoshop CC and the lens blur filter in Perfect Effects by onOne Software.

Now, when I refer to the Tilt Shift effect, I’m basically describing a filter where you specify an area of your image to keep sharp and apply a blur effect outside of it. Usually, apps that have this filter allow you to control the size and shape, usually as a horizontal plane or a circle, of the protected area as well as the amountor strengthof the blur. One of my favorite apps that I use to apply a Tilt Shift effect is Snapseed by Google, which is free (iOS App Store | Google Play Store).

Step 1: Let’s take a look at the photo above that I took at Trillium Lake in Oregon, with Mt. Hood in the background. I’m going to open it in Snapseed on my iPhone 5s.

Step 2: My goal is to have the viewer focus on the beautifully arranged rocks curving in the foreground and let Mt. Hood fall into minimal obscurity in the background. To do this, all I need to do is load it in Snapseed and tap on the Tilt Shift filter.

Step 3: Next, I position the horizontal plane control so that it’s covering the lower third of the frame and pinch to resize it so that it just covers the rocks. The area outside of this control will be rendered out of focus. You can also control the strength of the blur to your taste.

Step 4: Finally, after some basic editing tweaks, I’m able to make it so the viewer’s eyes go straight to the rocks in the foreground and give them the opportunity to roam around afterwards without fear of cluttering the image.

Here are a few more examples of how I used a Tilt Shift effect to add depth and accentuate my photos.

Disclosure: The author, Brian Matiash, is employed by Google, Inc. who have acquired Nik Software, developers of Snapseed. This post is not affiliated with Google or Nik Software.

BrianMatiash_Headshot2014Brian Matiash is a Portland-based published photographer and author. He is a member of Sony’s Artisans of Imagery as well as the Global Photos Products Evangelist for Google.

To find out more about Brian’s work, click HERE.

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About Brian Matiash

My name is Brian Matiash and I am a working photographer and author based in Portland, OR. I specialize in landscape & travel photography and have spent over seven years educating and inspiring photographers all around the world with my tutorials, videos, and presentations. Additionally, I work for Sony as the Alpha Team's Social & Content Strategist and am a member of Sony’s Artisans of Imagery program. I also contribute regularly to Photofocus, and a variety of other online and print publications. Admittedly, I have [not-so] tiny obsessions with long-exposure photography, neutral density filters and fisheye lenses. Basically, my passion is helping others help themselves with their pursuits of photography.


Landscape, Phoneography, Photography, Software, Technique & Tutorials


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