Tilt Shift

San Francisco is a hilly city. It’s a hard place to find level ground, and all sorts of things (like this row of houses) point in unnatural directions. Tilt-shift photography does what it says on the tin: it rotates a camera’s lens plane relative to its image plane (i.e., tilting it) while moving the lens parallel to the image plane (shifting it). This elaborate process allows the photographer to control which part of an image remains in focus, adjusting their subject’s position relative to its background. Often, the technique is used to make a real scene seem artificial, but it can also make parallel lines seem to diverge. It is a means of playing with perspective.

Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0. Image cropped.

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Perspectives on History December 2023 Cover.


L. Renato Grigoli, editor
Laura Ansley, senior managing editor
Lizzy Meggyesy, research and publications assistant
Alexandra F. Levy, communications manager
Liz Townsend, manager, data administration and integrity