“Wow,” you say. “Another tilt-shift lens simulator? No thanks, I’ll stick with Instagram.”
I thought the same thing when I came across TiltShift Generator by Art & Mobile. ($.99 on the App Store.) (By the way, I recommend you check out the rest of this companies apps as well – they’re all very well-designed and do good things.) For those of you who don’t know, tilt-shift cameras and lenses are often used to simulate a miniature-style scene. This is done chiefly by blurring sections of the photo in a manner similar to the shallow depth-of-field often associated with large apertures and macrophotography. As I mentioned before, this effect is one of the more popular effects found on Instagram.
TiltShift Gen does this, and it does it very well, but it has also serves primarily as my photo-adjusting app for quite some time now. How is this? Simply put, the app is the prettiest and most-intuitive app that I have found with blurring, saturation / brightness / contrast editing, and a vignette tool, which are some of my favorite and most-used post processing tools out there. I find that I can take a picture very far with simple adjustments to the basic color and lighting settings, and the vignette and blur options are welcome additions to the app. All of this is, of course, contained in a well-designed and easy-to-use system that has yet to give me any problems.
As is the case with many photography apps, you have the choice of taking a shot with the app (an option I never use) or loading in a previously-shot picture. If you do decide to use the camera option inside TiltShift Gen, you’ll find a useful square-cropping tool for that vintage square-photo effect and the ever-useful rule-of-thirds grid. Snapping a picture here takes you straight the editing screen, in which your photo dominates your screen.
The blur effect, which is the principal effect that the app is designed around and primarily responsible for the “tilt-shift” nomenclature, is surprisingly advanced and capable, for what it’s worth. You have the option of a circle, a rectangle, or a more-rounded, ovular shape in which to design your blur around, and these shapes can all be easily adjusted and angled and rotated with your fingers. Furthermore, a slider on the bottom of the screen allows you to adjust the extent and tightness of the blur effect (think “feathering” on Photoshop.)
If you’re not into the miniature photography scene – and I am definitely not - the blur effect can still be (mis)used as a simple focusing tool, though you should expect it to seem not-quite-right. After all, there won’t be any bokeh or other appreciable aspects of a true soft-focus effect since the app really is just artificially blurring the image data. I have found that the blur tool is still useful for creating interesting effects with composition and focusing.
This brings me to the real reason I wanted to review this app – besides its tilt-shift focus, most of the use it gets from me involves simple photo editing. There are hundreds of apps with similar capabilities, but TiltShift Gen does them all very well and with an astonishing ease-of-use. Everything from square cropping, black-and-white effects, contrast adjustment, brightness enhancements, and, of course, the blur effects, are here, and fully adjustable. The best part? There are no filters and no presets. Every parameter comes with a sliding bar to allow for complete customizability. And each of these sliders does everything perfectly - never have I been more content with fewer options.
So, in conclusion, TiltShift Gen is more than just a tilt-shift generator, and although it does that better than any other app I have found, I recommend it chiefly for its capabilities as a general photo editor. Since I have discovered it, it has served as my go-to color setting customizer and vignette-izer and allows me numerous blur and focus possibilities as well. For me, TiltShift Generator is definitely my “Lightroom-on-the-go.”
Conor McClure is a student at Appalachian State University in western North Carolina. Most of his time is taken by his classical piano studies and the rest is spent geeking out over Apple products or shooting professionally for whitewater rafting companies. You can find him on twitter at http://twitter.com/conorjmcclure