Manually fixing distortion in Photoshop is easier than you think

Dec 30, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Manually fixing distortion in Photoshop is easier than you think

Dec 30, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

When you’re photographing interiors or tall buildings, perspective distortion is often inevitable. There’s ways around it with tilt shift lenses or large format film cameras, but for most of us that’s not an option. These days, Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop and other tools provide a number of fancy automated ways to help correct for this. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t quite hit the mark, and we need to step in and do it manually.

This particular type of perspective distortion is commonly known as “converging verticals”. It’s caused by things getting smaller as they get further away from the camera. It’s essentially the same thing you see when looking down a straight set of train tracks that seem to eventually arrive at a point. Only, this happens vertically when shooting up or down on objects oriented vertically. Fixing it manually is fairly simple and straightforward. This video from the folks at Sleeklens shows us how.

YouTube video

The process is actually pretty simple. All you need to do add a few vertical guides for reference, and then use Photoshop’s Transform command. With Transform active, right click on your image to choose Perspective, and you’re good to go.

One thing you’ll want to make is that your photo is on its own layer. You won’t be able to transform it at all if it’s set as a locked “Background” layer. I would also suggest turning the item into a Smart Object. This way, if you decide it’s not quite right, and you want to tweak it further, your adjustments are always being based on the original image. You’re not losing detail each time you apply a new transform.

After you’re in Perspective Transform mode, you just need to click one of the corner handles and slide it across to the side.

Once you’ve got your vertical lines vertical again, you might notice that the image may become squashed or stretched. So, before you finalise your perspective adjustment, right click on the transform again, and choose scale. Then simply drag it to achieve the desired height.

Before we had fancy tools like Adobe Camera Raw, Adaptive Wide Angle and a host of Lens Correction features available to us, this was just “the way” for digital images. Most of the techniques we’d used with film in the darkroom to correct for this didn’t really translate to Photoshop.

Today’s automated tools make life a whole lot easier, but sometimes they just need that manual tweak. Even if those automated tools do the job right 99% of the time, it’s always good knowing the manual way for that 1% of images.

What’s your favourite or most reliable method for correcting perspective? Do you still do it manually with the transform tool? Or do you have another favourite go-to tool? Or do you not worry about it and just leave the photos as they are? Let us know in the comments.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One response to “Manually fixing distortion in Photoshop is easier than you think”

  1. Joe Hogan Fotografia Avatar
    Joe Hogan Fotografia

    Nice! Thanks for the tips… one of my bigger problems in post