Pictures of the small and faux small

When you see a close-up photograph, something about it just looks small. Psychologically, what you’re responding to is the severely limited depth of field. Only one band of the photo is in sharp focus, and the foreground and background are both blurry. This happens because the physics blah blah optics blah blah blah.

But once you understand what signals your brain is responding to, the effect is easily faked in photos of much larger scenes. This technique is sometimes called tilt-shift because of how you need to modify the camera optics (blah blah Scheimpflug principle), and the result conveys an uncanny, and misplaced, sense of smallness. For instance, look at this. The picture on the left is genuinely small, a model. The picture on the right is an actual auto show being spoofed as a tiny one.

Once you’ve worked this magic on still photos, you can extend it to videos. You need to monkey around with the timing a little, but the effect can be spectacular. Here’s a video I came across on Ze Frank’s blog.

If you liked that, here’s one from Australia with some lovely music and an actual narrative arc: Bathtub IV.

3 thoughts on “Pictures of the small and faux small”

  1. hi ned.. i happened upon your site (very cool stuff here…) and noticed your interest in tilt shift. i’ve experimented with this myself (see link). i hope all is well with you. – wade

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