On Embracing The Dutch Tilt… sparingly

By |2012-01-04T12:55:12+00:00Jan 4th, 2012|

The other day, on January 1st, I went out shooting with as small cadre of great photographers around New York City. We didn’t have much of an agenda when we started on Essex Street in the Lower East Side. I strapped on my Canon 14mm prime lens and resolved to use it as the only lens for the day. I wanted to see how much fun I could have with the linear distortion that this lens is famous for.

After about an hour of roaming the streets, we decided to walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. Whenever visitors come to NYC and we go shooting, I usually opt to cross the iconic Brooklyn Bridge because of how gorgeous it is. The Williamsburg Bridge is certainly more of a utility player here. Not much in terms of aesthetics – it just faithfully serves its purpose of allowing commuters to cross from one borough to another.

About halfway through, the bridge forks into two primary paths. My original knee-jerk reaction was to shoot this head-on. That’s how I started my frame and almost as quickly got back up and walked away. There was nothing to it. It was so boring. I wanted to change the frame up a bit to add something more dynamic, incentivizing the eye to follow through.

Enter our friend, the Dutch Tilt. A quick Google search will give you an idea of how the Dutch Tilt can be used – or overused. Like anything in life, it’s good to enjoy in moderation (leave your HDR is the devil comments at the door, though :) ). I felt that, by tilting the lens counterclockwise just a bit, the scene became that much more interesting. Since I was going for distortion, I wasn’t fazed by the lack of perfectly rectilinear lines. I also liked that I could terminate the arm bar onto the lower left corner of the frame. I love doing that.

In terms of overall processing
This is a nine exposure tone-mapped HDR image, processed in #Photomatix. I had to tone-map here because there was a huge amount of dynamic range that exceeded the capabilities of a single RAW file. Doing so allowed me to preserve highlight detail and also keep the darker shadow detail. I added a series of effects from +onOne Software Perfect Effects 3 to stylize and created a shallow depth of field using FocalPoint 2.

When I returned to Lightroom, I used an adjustment brush to bring out the detail and gamma of the pedestrian icons on the ground by boosting clarity and brightness. I also added some saturation to the yellow lines and grate using another adjustment brush.

So there you have it. And with that, I ask – what is your thought on using a Dutch Tilt?Share it out.

In album Pic Picks Over The Years (105 photos)


[map w="745" h="130" lat="40.71274" lon="-73.96917" marker="yes" z="18" maptype="SATELLITE" 680 /]

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  1. Boris Gorelik January 4, 2012 at 8:45 am - Reply


  2. Ryan Steele January 4, 2012 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Great processing. I love the tilt, it makes the image much more interesting and artistic to me. It helps the eye flow from the bottom right to the top left of the image. Good work

  3. Chris Chabot January 4, 2012 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Nothing wrong with it at all when not over-used – in this case it really made those lines all wonderful and dynamic

  4. helen sotiriadis January 4, 2012 at 8:48 am - Reply

    love the tilt — you got interesting drawings on the street as the center of attention — and, as always, your processing.

    i tilt often, especially when my lens and position can't get wide enough to get the information i want into the frame.

  5. Lisa Jones January 4, 2012 at 8:53 am - Reply

    I'd never heard of the term Dutch Tilt before, so thanks for explaining something I had seen but never known what it was!

  6. Brian Matiash January 4, 2012 at 8:54 am - Reply

    +Lisa Jones My pleasure! That's why I love trying to add some educational/anecdotal content to each image I post.

  7. Todd Green January 4, 2012 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Your photo is a good case for it. Honestly its the first time I heard the term. Always nice to learn about a new concept in photography. The changes you made in the photo are very subtle. I never would have known if you had not mentioned it.

  8. Bryan Hanna January 4, 2012 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Great perspective and wide view. Nice image.

  9. Shane Srogi January 4, 2012 at 8:56 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash Very cool image. Dutch tilt can work for the composition, as it does here. Doesn't every Photographer go the a tilt phase, I know I did. Hence the caution about its overuse. But that led to a better understanding of when and how to use it….so it was worth a month or two of throw away images. Lastly this is very timely, we just talked about Dutch Tilt in a hangout Monday. I see that +Boris Gorelik has already added his "+2".

  10. onnie hull January 4, 2012 at 9:00 am - Reply

    dutch tilt absolutely works here and i love everything about this shot!!

  11. Stephen Zacharias January 4, 2012 at 9:01 am - Reply

    Great Love how you captured and processed this!

  12. Nicole S. Young January 4, 2012 at 9:01 am - Reply

    I like to throw a tilted shot in with my lifestyle photos of people, especially when I'm doing a tighter shot. I usually shoot it all ways though: horizontal, vertical, and tilted … then again, I am shooting stock and want there to be more than one option for designers to pick from.

  13. Brian Matiash January 4, 2012 at 9:01 am - Reply

    +Shane Srogi That sounded like a great hangout – hopefully I can make future ones!

    And I do agree with you – and you do bring up an interesting point to chat about (could make a great hangout). Namely, I think it would be really interesting to discuss all of the different phases that photographers (both new and seasoned) go through as they grow and learn. I'd love to get a hangout scheduled around that.

  14. Dave Wilson January 4, 2012 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Nice one, Brian. The tilt works beautifully here. I can honestly say I've never heard the expression "Dutch Tilt" before. I wonder where it came from. Google time…

  15. Mikey Clark January 4, 2012 at 9:58 am - Reply

    My first time hearing that phrase as well. There is a "Tilt-Shift" option on my camera360 app that is pretty cool, I don't know what that term means or what exactly it is doing, but it seems to make part of the image more focused than the other. Interesting and informative post, I like reading about the actual process of creating such an image.

  16. Howard Jackman January 4, 2012 at 10:22 am - Reply

    I love the tilt I just forget that I can use it, honestly I probably have about 5 (purposefully) tilted images, something I'l have to work on keeping in mind while I'm out shooting. What do you think about tilting during a portrait?

  17. Scott Wyden Kivowitz January 5, 2012 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Dude this came out rockin. Nice job!

  18. pete collins January 5, 2012 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Brian, when you were here last, you showed me something called the "Dutch Tilt" that had nothing to do with a camera. Now I feel so cheap… :D

  19. Brian Matiash January 5, 2012 at 7:09 am - Reply

    +pete collins Ahhh yeah, those were the good ol' days.

    I mean… what? :)

  20. Justin Van Leeuwen January 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    I dutch tilted my wife once, but it didn’t work out and she spent a week on meds.

  21. Kimberly Peterson January 8, 2012 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Very cool shot.

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