Archive for November, 2007

Turn Real Life into a Miniature

Friday, November 9th, 2007

There’s something magical about macro photography–getting up close to a tiny subject is one of the most exciting ways to use a digital camera. But why stop there? Almost any photo editing program lets you turn that idea on its head and make ordinary pictures look like they are actually miniatures!

Tell-Tale Signs

Even without thinking about it, your know when you’re seeing a photograph of a miniature. Usually, it’s the depth of field that gives things away. If you fly over a city and photograph the skyline with a wide angle lens, the entire scene will appear in sharp focus. But try to photograph a miniature, and the camera will only be able to keep a particular section of the photo in focus–the foreground and background will quickly “roll off” into an out of focus blur.

doll_house1Simulating a Doll House

Thankfully, it’s easy to achieve that same effect with a photo editing program.

Take this photo of my kitchen, for example, which I shot while my house was still under construction.

I was curious if I could make it look like a doll house by creatively blurring the scene.

Miniaturizing in Photoshop Elements

Open the photo that you want to miniaturize in Photoshop Elements.

The first order of business is to select a horizontal band in the photo that represents the section of sharpest focus. This is where the camera would be focusing if you were shooting a miniature version of the scene in macro mode. To do that, select the Rectangular Marquee tool (fifth cubby from the top in the toolbar) and drag it across the screen through the middle.

Now choose Select, Inverse from the menu. Choose Select, Feather, and set the feathering to about 25 pixels. Click OK.

We’re almost done. Now just choose Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur, and set the level to 4.0. Click OK. Turn off the selection (choose Select, Deselect.)

You’ll end up with something like this:


That’s not bad–it definitely has a doll house vibe. I especially like the way the blurry stairs look tiny and fake, as if they were made of balsa wood. To read a somewhat more detailed version of this tutorial, see my PC World Digital Focus newsletter.