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Fixing perspective in Photoshop CC

When taking pictures of buildings I usually avoid tilting the camera up or down in order to avoid converging lines and this has worked fine for me so far. However, converging lines also show up when you pan the camera left or right, which usually goes unnoticed because the subject is in the center of the frame. As soon as you try to move the subject off center the effect becomes apparent all of a sudden. A tilt/shift lens will not help with this either, as you can’t shift horizontally, so this has to be dealt with in post.

Case study

Let’s take a look at the picture in question to get an idea how horizontally converging lines manifest themselves. I used a 35mm lens, but the effect applies to any focal length, although it becomes more apparent with wide angle lenses.

Original image.

This is a picture of Neuhaus Castle in Paderborn, Germany. There are many boring images showing this building, but I didn’t want to add to that pile of pictures, so I tried very hard to come up with a composition that is more engaging. Leading lines never fail (if done well), so I opted for this curve starting in the bottom right corner and leading the eye towards the castle. I moved the castle itself off to the right to break the total symmetry of the background and the resulting composition looked great – at least on the display of my camera.

Back home and with the picture imported in Adobe Lightroom there was no denying that something was off.

Something is off.

The green lines are perfectly horizontal, the red lines show the converging lines. As the bottom line is closer to the vertical center of the frame the effect is hardly noticeable at the base of the castle, but the roof shows significant left tilt as it is quite far away from the center line.

Let’s fix this

Adobe Photoshop offers a couple of tools for dealing with perspective, all sorts of transforms (free, skew, scale among others), perspective warp, puppet warp and so on. I tried them all, but none of these tools produced a satisfactory result. Research then pointed towards the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter and it turned out that this is a fantastic tool which yields great results.

I used the Contraint Tool from the tools menu, which lets you straighten curved lines as well as make lines perfectly horizontal or vertical. In order to straighten lines, click the start point of the line and then the end point. Photoshop will then warp the image such that the former curved line will appear straight. If you press the shift key while clicking the start and end point, the tool will act differently and help you make perfectly horizontal or vertical lines.

Straightening the roof out.

Applying this tool to both, horizontal and vertical structures, I could effectively fix the perspective. Here’s the final result.

Final image.

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