If you know anything about the world of photography, then you know that lenses play a crucial role in the outcome of your shots. A great photographer will tell you that timing and lighting are critical in capturing a masterpiece. But the same person will also agree that the right lens can make all the difference.
Product photography requires a different approach altogether. This genre of photography demands ultra-precision with the plane of focus. Correct usage of depth of the field is also needed for the photograph to look visually appealing.
Tilt-shift lenses are just one type of lens used by professional photographers. But are they any good for product photography?
What is a tilt-shift lens?
A photographic lens where the optics can be shifted or tilted with respect to the image or the film sensor on the camera is called a tilt-shift lens. The tilt-shift encompasses two types of camera movements which are:
- Tilt – It refers to the movement of the plane of the lens to the plane of the image. The tilt feature controls the orientation of PoF or plane of focus. It follows the Scheimpflug principle, where the plane of the lens is not parallel with the plane of the image or the image sensor.
- Shift – It refers to the movement of the camera’s lens that is parallel to the plane of the image. The feature is used to focus on the subject without physically moving the camera. The lens’ optics shift with respect to the image sensor of the camera. This allows you to simulate taking the picture from different positions without physically moving.
What is a tilt-shift lens good for?
Tilt-shift lenses are not your regular camera accessories that every photographer uses. But they are preferred by professional photographers for good reason. These types of lenses work best for different types of photography which include:
- Photographing vertical columns such as skyscrapers without the vertical lines converging
- Any photography that involves a mirror and its reflections
- Capturing panoramic photographs
- Capturing product and food photography
- Portrait photography
What makes tilt-shift lenses good for product photography?
Product photography has unique requirements. This commercial form of photography requires sharp focus, almost perfect lightning, the right depth of field, and correct angles of the camera, among others.
Except for the lighting aspect and the background details, all of these requirements can be achieved with a tilt-shift lens. So, whether you are capturing a product with a white background or with a ghost mannequin, using this lens can take your product photography to the next level.
The reasons why tilt-shift lenses are great for capturing product photography are as follows:
- Blur or Focus Selectively.
This is one of the best advantages of using a tilt-shift lens for capturing pictures of products. Using this specialty lens allows you to select which plane of the image you want to bring into focus and which areas you want to be blurred.
- Depth of Field.
A standard lens can present some problems with the depth of the field, which is the biggest hurdle.
A tilt-shift lens, however, can bring the right depth of field to your photographs seamlessly. And, you can capture studio-quality product photography without using smaller apertures as well.
- Angle and Position Control.
Using a tilt-shift lens to shoot products also gives you the freedom to shoot at the best angle. You also have absolute control over the frame of the subject, such as props. And the most advantageous part is that you can do this without adjusting the distance or the angle of the camera.
- No Autofocus.
Another fantastic reason why professional product photographers use a tilt-shift lens is that it has no autofocus feature. In a normal situation with a standard camera, the autofocus can be an indispensable feature. However, it can be limiting when it comes to specialty photographs, such as shooting a product. So the no autofocus feature becomes invaluable while shooting products with a tilt-shift lens.
- Expedited Productivity.
If you have been using a point and shoot camera, using the tilt-shift lens in your work can pleasantly surprise you. Because you can capture the pictures continuously without the need to focus the camera manually, you do not waste any time at all. The image quality is in no way compromised or reduced, which is the best part.
- High-Quality Optics.
Another reason why this style of lens is the gold-standard for those who capture product photography is brilliant pictures. Tilt-shift lenses produce a professional-quality image, which is the reason why professionals prefer them. Even if you don’t use the shift and tilt features, images captured by this type of lens are nothing less than spectacular.
Are there any drawbacks of tilt-shift lenses?
Having gone through all the features and benefits of tilt-shifts lenses, you might be tempted to think that they are perfect. But just like everything, tilt-shift lenses do come with some drawbacks.
The most significant downside about this type of lenses is the learning curve. Tilt-shift lenses come with a myriad of dials and knobs. These can take some time to get used to, especially if you are just dabbling your foot in the world of photography.
Another thing about the tilt-shift lens that deters most photographers is the price-tag. The ones from credible brands can cost up to two thousand dollars or more. Tilt-shift lenses are by no means cheap, so unless you use it for commercial or business purposes, it can be an expensive hobby only a few can afford.
One of the most novel, but also potentially detrimental aspects of tilt-shift lenses are that they can make subjects seem “miniature.” For example, in the picture below, the truck looks like a model, even though it is a full-size vehicle. This might not be great for product photography, where the aim is to convey the product as accurately as possible.
Tilt-shift lenses have long been a beloved of those who capture architecture. But the sharpness of the images captured, the ability to shoot the same object from different angles without moving the camera are among the reasons why it is an excellent choice for product photography.
This type of lens requires manual adjustments, and the multitude of dials can deter someone who is a casual observer. But if you are passionate about product photography, giving tilt-shift lenses a try can turn out to the best investment of your career.