Tilt-Shift Apps for the iPhone

Tilt-Shift Apps for the iPhone


A Guest post by Patrick Ashley from Tiltshiftable. Check out his previous Introduction to Tilt-Shift Photography which is Part 1 of this series.

Airbus Fleet.jpgIt seems that about the only thing it can’t do is brew coffee; but there will be a new model out in a few months, and if it has a coffee brewer, I’ll marry it.

I’m talking of course, about the iPhone, Apple’s juggernaut in the the smart phone world, the electronic gadget I can’t live without. Pacemaker? I can live without it; iPhone, no. The reason is, because I’m a photographer, and thanks to the iPhone, I always have a decent camera with me where ever I go. Is it my Nikon? No; but in many ways, I have more fun with the iPhone camera than my Nikon.

At my blog, tiltshiftable.com, I deal only in the photographic effect of tilt-shift, that is, making real world photos appear as though they are photos of miniature subjects (tilt shift lenses are also used for controlling perspective). When I first started tilt-shifting photos, they were done in Photoshop with some fairly horsepower-intensive filters, such as blurring on a gradient. Saturation levels are increased, and curves are curved, and sometimes the blur isn’t where you want it in the photo, which means you start over again. Jeez, too bad you can’t take a photo on the iPhone, and just tilt-shift it right there, but that would take too much horsepower, and that’s asking a lot of a phone.

Well, silly me.

Turns out there ARE apps out there – and good ones – that let you do just that. Even more mind-blowing is you can post-process videos into tilt shift movies! What’s next Apple, weather modeling?!

So let me give you a run down on the photo tilt-shift apps out there, and you can have even more phone on your phone.

TiltShift Generator – Fake Miniature

Art & Mobile

TiltShift Generator - Fake Minature.jpg

Well done, complete package – except perhaps for a more adjustable focus band.

Pros: Load photos from your camera roll (not available in free version), or take a new one with their camera. Adjust where the focus band is to be placed, set blur, contrast and saturation. Vignette feature. Export to Mail, Twitter, Facebook. Save to Camera Roll.

Cons: Focus band can’t be set to an angle, or tapered.

TiltShift Video

Fidel Lainez

TiltShift Video.PNG

Primarily meant for video obviously, Tiltshift Video also does a great job with photos. The video portion of this app will be reviewed in my next article about Tilt Shift Video apps.

Pros: Very adjustable focus band – can tilt and taper, change shape from a bar to circle or elliptical. Control brightness, contrast, vignette, saturation, blur amount and smoothing (blur gradient).

Cons: Interface needs to be polished; lacks that professional look. Can’t export directly to Facebook, Mail, etc. Once the focus band is in place (the last step) you can’t go back to change it if you aren’t happy with it’s placement – it simply saves the image. Should present you with a preview image, then allow you to save, or go back. Focus band placement should be first.

Tilt Shift Focus


Tilt Shift Focus.jpg

One trick pony – simply applies a graduated blur band. Saturation control is required for a tilt shift photo.

Pros: Different blur bands, which are easily adjusted.

Cons: No contrast, saturation or blur controls; can’t export to social media.

Tilt Shifter

Sednia Labs

Tilt Shifter.jpg

Simple app, no frills.

Pros: Adjustable focus band.

Cons: Can only load previously taken photos from the Camera Roll, not albums; No focus band guides; No contrast, saturation or blur controls. “Tilt” control should be re-named “blur”; can’t export to social networks.




Full-featured app, one of the top three.

Pros: Different blur bands, which are easily adjusted; different blur types; different aperture types, bloom control; in-app help; pre-loaded test photos.

Cons: A cropping tool would be a nice addition; can’t export to social media.

Tilt-shifting is really a simple concept – define a narrow band of focus, and apply a high-quality blur gradient to the remainder, add saturation and curves, and there you have it. Three apps do tilt-shift very well – TiltShift by Imimux, Tilt Shift Video by Fidel Lainez, and Tilt Shift Generator by Art & Mobile. There are many mediocre and just plain bad ones, which I didn’t include in this piece.

The one feature that I would have liked to have seen is a curves control. This is just like contrast, but you can control the contrast in defined tonal ranges – usually the very light portions of the photo. High contrast in that range really goes a long way in providing that miniature effect of tilt-shift.

All-in-all, it’s still amazing that we can do tilt-shift photography on a little gadget that supposed to just make phone calls.

profile.jpgIn the next article, we’ll explore creating tilt-shift videos on the iPhone.

Patrick Ashley is the editor and founder of TiltShiftable.com. He lives in Pittsford, New York.

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Some Older Comments

  • Patrick Ashley June 4, 2011 01:12 am

    One amendment to my previous comment, regarding the Tilt Shift Focus app - contrast, saturation, brightness and blur controls are available, though on a somewhat less than obvious menu. I am happy to see this feature is there, and am sorry that I missed it for the review. I have suggested to the developer that they make these great features more apparent in future releases.

  • Patrick Ashley June 3, 2011 11:51 pm

    Nico, Tilt Shift Focus has not updated substantially. I do have the current version, and I used their own screenshot in my review, which at the time, was for the previous version. The only substantial upgrade was the ability to export to some social media. Still no contrast or saturation controls, unfortunately. Blur can be controlled with the adjustment bands.

  • Nico May 31, 2011 10:47 pm

    Why are you using such an old version of Tilt Shift Focus? Looks like 1.0, but 1.5 is available since weeks. It includes everything you are missing, so plz update your apps ;)

  • Jen May 30, 2011 02:43 pm

    @ Belinda

    "I’m a die hard fan of ‘TiltShift’ on my ipod touch…I’m desperately struggling to find something comparable for the android. Any suggestions?"

    I found a cool little app for the Android called Vignette (Demo - free, full version about $3) which does the TiltShift effect, among others. Can't compare it to the ipod/iphone apps, but i's not bad.

  • Iza May 27, 2011 01:28 pm

    Great post, interesting and useful. I am only issing one thing and that is the prices of those app. It would be very cobvinient if they were added as footnote for each app. Looking forward reading part 2,

  • Patrick Ashley May 27, 2011 06:16 am

    DANFOY: The technique is commonly called "Tilt Shift", or sometimes "miniaturization", and it refers to, as you declared, a physical lens tilting or shifting in relation to the focal plane of the camera, often used in photographing buildings, to reduce the effect of a building tipping backward, for instance. Never the less, photographers have used actual tilt shift lens to make miniature-like scenes, and that's where the term comes from. Technically speaking, you're correct, but the common use of the word is for miniaturization.

  • Kelley Mitchell May 27, 2011 06:10 am

    Loved the article. I have a hobby in miniatures and am searching for some resources on taking pictures so that the miniatures seem life-size.

  • Belinda May 27, 2011 05:10 am

    I'm a die hard fan of 'TiltShift' on my ipod touch...I'm desperately struggling to find something comparable for the android. Any suggestions?

  • B May 27, 2011 12:40 am

    Thanks danfoy, I wanted to make a similar comment but had too much rage over "Tilt-shifting is really a simple concept – define a narrow band of focus, and apply a high-quality blur gradient to the remainder". You said much more nicely than I would have.

  • danfoy May 27, 2011 12:20 am

    Good article on how to fake miniaturisation on an iPhone.

    Having said this, as with the first article, the repeated misuse of the term 'tilt-shift' is incredibly misleading for a blog that aims to teach people about photography.

    To be clear, neither of these articles on tilt-shift technique actually tell you anything at all about tilt shift. Tilting a shifting is the process of physically moving the lens in relation to the film plane in order to achieve certain effects: 'tilting' is for increasing or decreasing depth of field relative to the film plane; shifting is for correcting perspective errors. They are two separate techniques (sometimes you might add tilt to a shift image to correct focus), both of which are available to anyone who owns practically any large format camera or specialist tilt-shift lens.

    I appreciate that this is a guest post, but the authors description of tilt-shift is simply and plainly inaccurate. I appreciate that the posts now clearly mark when a post is by a guest writer, but I would have hoped that a guest post by the owner of a site called 'tiltshiftable' would have some experience of using tilt-shift techniques rather than describing it purely as an effect that you apply in post-processing to make things look smaller.

    Other than that, a good round up of iPhone apps.

  • Niki Jones May 26, 2011 11:52 pm

    Dammit iPhone! Stop making it impossible for me to ignore you!

  • Aziz May 26, 2011 07:22 pm

    Great article!! Since i use an iPhone, i know exactly what you mean when you say that it can be more fun than a Nikon!! I think that the iPhone is the best phone for a photographer - there have been times when i have clicked pics with my iphone, and people have thought that i used a high-end DSLR to click it!!

    Thanks for the great article, again!! looking forward to reading more such articles!!

  • iPhone Apps Development May 26, 2011 06:38 pm

    With TiltShift by Michael Krause you'll also be able to take a simple photo and adjust the details of each picture taken with camera apps. This sounds amazing.

  • valiant May 26, 2011 05:13 pm

    agreed with hans!

    instagram is a cool app!

  • MessengerBoy May 26, 2011 10:13 am

    I am so tired of tilt-shift on the iPhone. In my humble opinion, tilt-shift has jumped the shark. :)

  • Hans May 26, 2011 07:39 am

    What, no mention of Instagram - free with tilt-shift and huge community of user, with interfaces to post on Twitter, FB, Tumblr and more!

  • Alison May 26, 2011 07:37 am

    Hi, I have TiltShift Generator and you can change the angle and width of the focus plane, you just need to use two fingers to move it or resize on the screen. I agree that you can't taper it though. Hope that helps!

  • Jeff May 26, 2011 07:28 am

    "All-in-all, it’s still amazing that we can do tilt-shift photography on a little gadget that supposed to just make phone calls."

    Good article, but strange ending. No, the iPhone wasn't intended to just make phone calls, in fact that's one of the things it does poorly. It was intended for all sorts of lightweight apps for everything you can imagine. But thanks for the reviews, I'll check some of these out, since I really enjoy tilt-shift. Adding in pricing would have been nice as well.