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How to use tilt-shift lens for food photography

When it comes to food photography or food photography, the photographer’s arsenal has several perfect lenses. One of them is a tilt-shift lens. It allows you to creatively work with the depth of field and perspective of your photos. Tilt-shift lenses are often used in architectural photography – they solve problems with controlling perspectives and help visually align the “falling buildings” in the photo.

How to use tilt-shift lens for food photography

Read our article in which photographer Darina Kopcok helps to learn more about how these lenses are useful for food photography and food photography.

What is a tilt shift lens?

Commercial food photographers or still-life photographers constantly use tilt-shift lenses in their work. Such a lens cannot be called a “budget option”, but it is still worth investing in it if you plan to specialize in food photography and will often use it.

Tilt-shift is a lens that allows you to tilt or rotate (English tilt) and shift (English shift) the image plane at an angle / along the photosensitive layer. Thus, it gives a wider range of images than traditional. As a rule, it is referred to as wide-angle lenses.

The traditional lens does not “see” identically with the way the human eye, even though its angle is quite close to what a person sees. A tilt-shift lens opens up many other possibilities. Thanks to it, by tilting or moving the lens relative to the plane of the matrix or film, you can shift the frame within the boundaries of a high-quality image that exceeds the frame area. That is, the tilt shift helps to rebuild the frame so that it is more familiar to human perception (and, as you know, we do not perceive the world visually exactly as it is geometrically constructed).

In a conventional lens, the focus plane is parallel to the camera sensor. This affects what gets into focus. Everything that is at the same distance as the subject in the frame will look sharp.

The focal plane and depth of field will depend on the selected aperture. That’s why when you shoot with a wide aperture (a small f / stop number), you have a very shallow depth of field.

Wherever you place focus, it will be that line of the image where everything will turn out in focus. The tilt-shift lens allows you to control the convergence of parallel lines and the focus plane. You can shoot two objects instead of one at two different distances.

How does a tilt shift lens work?

The tilt-shift lens allows you to do two things:

the tilt function allows you to change the focus plane so that it is not parallel to the sensor (it controls sharpness);
the shift function adjusts the position of the object in the image without the need to move the camera (it controls the perspective).
With these two functions, you can use the lens to shoot an object at the most flattering angle – complete control over how much you include in the frame without changing the camera angle or distance.

The ability to control the focus plane allows you to clearly focus on a specific area of ​​the visible field (for example, in the foreground). The rest of the objects (in the background) remain out of focus, quite blurry enough.

Tilt shift lenses also give more control over the depth of field of the image. In a traditional lens, everything that is at the same distance as the object will be in focus, since these elements are in the same focal plane. When the lens is tilted, the focal plane also tilts and becomes a diagonal line. This creates a significantly greater depth of field.

Thus, you can create an image in which two objects located parallel to each other are not in focus. You also have the ability to move the lens up or down, or from side to side. This, in turn, means that you can capture elements in the frame that would not fall into it if you used a conventional lens, in fact, you can get angles that otherwise would simply be impossible.

It is important to know that the tilt shift can only be focused manually, no autofocus. The tilt-shift function works only when the focal plane is parallel to the sensor plane. The bonus is that it makes the lens universal – it can be used as usual.

How to use a tilt shift lens for food photography

When you first encounter this kind of lenses, they may seem strange and incomprehensible. These lenses look different than traditional ones. On each side of the lens there are two adjustable handles that allow you to shift the lens left and right. When the lens shifts to the left, the focal line shifts to the right.

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