The scene in the photo above has the precious quality of a carefully constructed scale model, the meticulously crafted miniature boats floating in an inch-deep bay. But in fact, this fakeness is fake, because this is no model — it’s a real scene made to look tiny and toylike with the use of a Photoshop technique known as faux tilt-shift photography.
You can see many more examples like this on Flickr, in pools like this one, where tilt-shift enthusiasts showcase their best work. It’s especially amusing when tilt-shifters use photos with people in them, as in the one below. The people look like toy figurines, and it’s easy to forget for a moment that those are real people with names and lives, and not molded pieces of polystyrene.
It’s also wonderful when you see a familiar scene, like this typical New York City block, transformed through tilt-shift. This transformation, from familiar to strange, is at the heart of what’s joyful about tilt-shift. It’s about more than just getting the joke. Yes, there’s a moment of revelation where you discover what you’re looking at is actually a new perspective on something you know well. But jokes get old, punchlines fail to have the same impact once you know what’s coming, and yet these photos make me smile whenever I see them. I think it’s because the apparent scale shift jars us out of our customary position in relationship to the world around us. Through these distortions, we’re given a moment in which we can realize how small we are, how tiny even our biggest structures can seem, and this momentary change in perspective is liberating.