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Simulate original pictures as model photography


Using the power of Adobe Photoshop, you can take existing photographs of everyday scenes, like aerial views of cities and make it look as if they’re actually miniature models. It doesn’t take much time and effort to fool the mind of the viewer, but there are a few basic rules you can follow to help convince your audience that they’re looking at a model set rather than the actual world. Lets get to business!

Step 1

Download any image from the web, preferably aerial views of cities (I have chosen, London).


Open the image in Photoshop and press Q to switch to Quick Mask mode. Make sure the name is changed as shown below:


Click on the Gradient tool. Set the colours to the default black and white by pressing D, Us the above image as reference for the gradient and the style. Make sure you select the reflecting gradient type (looks like a cylinder)

Step 2

Choose where you want the focal point of the photo to be – usually near the bottom to give an accurate depth of field – and click and hold at that point. Drag the line of the gradient tool upwards, then release it towards the top of the frame. You should be ending up with an image similar to the one below. Press Q again to switch back to Normal mode.


Once you do that, the softer layer will have a rectangular marquee selection as shown:


Step 3

Choose Filter>Blur>Lens Blur to bring up the Lens Blur filter pane.


It can take a little tinkering to get the settings just right, but try the below values as an experiment and meddle with it until you get it right. The Iris section controls the shape of the virtual iris in the lens; a hexagonal iris is most normal(even triangular iris done fine), and you could try rounding out the sharp corners of the geometric shape using Blade Curvature. Rotation controls the angle of the hexagon. The Specular Highlights section adds little glints to bright areas, keep it below 250.


Click OK to apply the effect, then clear your selection (CTRL + D). The image should look something like this:


Step 4

To add to the feeling of artificiality, open the Curves palette (go Image>Adjustments>Curves) and drag the RGB curve to something like the one below. It blows out the colours in the image, and makes it look more as if it’s built from polystyrene.


If all went well, then you must have an image quite similar to the one below:


Now, we need to make the image appear a bit more dramatic, so duplicate the existing image layer by selecting the layer in the layers palette and pressing CTRL + J or drag the layer down to the ‘Create New Layer’ icon.

Desaturate the duplicated layer by presssing SHIFT + CTRL + U, and then apply Guassian Blur of 4 px (Filter>Blur>Guassian Blur). Change the blend mode of the layer to Soft Light. Finally the image looks like this:

11From now on, its all about experimenting and most importantly, you must choose the right starting picture. Try to go for a more subtle landscape which has more of building and less of sky. Here are some more of the “fake” photography pictures that I made using this method:

Sydney, Australia


Construction Site, Japan


Bangalore, India


London, England


  1. October 30, 2009 at 8:33 PM

    This is too cool!…can’t wait to try it…Thanks for the inspiration!

    • October 31, 2009 at 3:25 AM

      You’re welcome….. yeah.. its very cool, and if the pictures are chosen wisely, the results will look awesome…

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