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i'vebeen interested in miniature photography for some time, going all the way back to my model building days. I would place models (usually planes, trains or automobiles) against realistic backdrops and attempt to blend them in with realistic camera angles, depth of field adjustments and Photoshop (I think I have some samples of that old work somewhere - I'll have to hunt around for them...)
Recently, though, I've discovered (more like RE-discovered) the technique of manipulating photos of actual places and making them appear as though they're miniatures. I've found two really good techniques for accomplishing this, and I'm presenting the first of them here for your general amusement.
First, though, some general guidelines:
On to the How-To part of this post:
For this first technique, I started with the image to the left taken of Wrigleyville from the vantage point of Wrigley Field's concourse area. I made a few adjustments to the photo as it came out of the camera (Levels, a bit of sharpening, and I brightened it up just a skosh bit). I flattened the result, and I had my starting image as posted.
The first step is to duplicate the background layer and immediately hide the duplicate (click the little eyeball beside the layer in the Layers palette). Click the original Background and apply a bit of blur to it. I used Lens Blur that I hijacked from Photoshop.
You could also use Gaussian Blur to achieve roughly the same effect, but I found that the added control that the Lens Blur filter gives lends a little more realism to the end result, especially the noise settings.
Next, add a mask to this duplicated layer (What? You don't have a mask? You really should get Handy Actions if you want a bunch of the useful tools from Photoshop in your Elements installation, like layer masks, channels & other nifty doodads.) Create a Layer Mask on the duplicated original layer and then grab the Gradient tool. Click the eyeball icon beside the Background layer in the Layers palette to make it visible again, reset your foreground & background colors by pressing [D], and choose the Reflected Gradient option:
Draw a mask. Make sure the layer mask is active in the Layers palette, and draw the gradient starting from the point you want everything to be clear to the point where you want everything to be blurred. The mask will hide the parts of the top layer that are crisp a will reveal the blurred version underneath.
In my image, the flag was in the foreground and needed to be blurred to match the rest of the foreground. It was a simple matter of using a soft-edged brush and painting on the mask with black to blend it in. You can see what i mean by checking out the screen shot of my layers palette a little further down in this post.
To really give the image that "mini" look, boost the saturation by simply adding a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer at the top and pulling the Saturation slider over to the right. It generally takes more than you'd think:
That's the entire effect. My layers palette is there to the right, and the final image is posted down below. I've done several other images in this style - both with this technique and another I'll post later.
Comments are invited, and you can see a few more of this type of effect in my Flickr photostream.
Last updated: 9 months ago