Turn Real Life into a Miniature

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.

9 Responses to “Turn Real Life into a Miniature”

  1. laila Says:

    omg that is the kewlest thing ever!!!! u should totally turn it miniture!!!!!!!! that would b the kewlest dollhouse
    please do that i collect dollhouses!!! and would buy that if u did it

  2. Eugene Wong Says:

    Blurring a real image does not make it look like a dool house. The chalenge would be to photograph a doll house and make it look like a real house??

  3. savannah Says:

    omg that looks better than my house its so realilistic

  4. Mary Says:

    It kinda looks like it could be a miniature but I don’t understand the point. Also the wires give you away. To make it better you should circle the sockets and the wire and use the fill tool on photoshop to get rid of them because they are right in your sharpest focus area and look too realistic. I still just don’t get why you would want to do this.

  5. Gette Says:

    It’s called “tilt shift”. It’s something people have been using in many different photo/video elements for years. There’s an amazing Coachella video from 2010 that was shot with a tilt-shift lens. it looks crazy to see a bunch of miniature things running around Coachella!

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