The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.
The first step is, like you guessed, opening up our image. When creating or taking a tilt-shift photo, make sure that you’re above the area you are capturing or using a photo at that angle. The higher the better but I absolutely love this shot.
Once you have the image open, press (Q) to edit in Quick Mask Mode. Select your Gradient Tool (G) and make sure it’s Foreground to Background with the colors being black and white. Select the type of gradient as Reflected Gradient and you’re good to start selecting which area you want the focus to be. Drag your gradient with a small stroke — it doesn’t take much to cover a lot. Everything inside the red gradient is what will be the focus point. Everything outside it will be blurred. Make sure to stop your gradient just before the edges of where you want your focus point. When we apply the Lens Blur it will smear it out a good ways so spend the extra time to get the selection just right as this will make or break a good tilt-shift photo.
Once you have selected the area where you want the focus to be, press (Q) again to get out of Quick Mask Mode and back into Standard Mode. The red gradient will now turn into a selection area, showing you that the split is where your focus point will be.
Now that we have our selection, go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. You may play around with the settings but the default works just fine for this. Click “OK” when you’re done and hit CMD/CTRL + D to deselect the selection or Select > Deselection.
Now that the focus is set, it’s time to apply some adjustment layers. Go to Image > Adjustments. We’ll be playing with the Hue/Saturation, Brightness/Contrast, Curves and Exposure. Enter the values I have entered in the images below:
There we have it! Go nuts and play around with the adjustment layers to create your own combinations — I ended up backing the saturation off a smudge to make it a little easier on the eyes. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and remember that this effect can be used on almost every photo (at the angles we discussed in step one), so go experiment! You can take any normal photo you like and turn it into a stunning tilt-shift image with Photoshop’s powerful tools.