Straighten Those Lines

By Roger (27 June 2016)

In the last couple of weeks, Adobe released upgrades to Lightroom and Photoshop, and they are very useful tools to further improve your photos. We'll go over them, as we try them out in our photos. If you are a CC subscriber, you should definitely download these upgrades.

The first new tool I really starting working with was the Guided Upright tool, in a new Transform panel, in the Develop module. This tool is a great aid for correcting the problem of recording straight lines with your camera. I'm sure you've noticed, especially in building photos, that lines that should be straight – vertically or horizontally – tend to be bent.

The distortion (bending) varies by lens and your position, relative to the lines. If you stand directly in front of the building, with your camera level, you will minimize these effects. However, it may not be possible to position yourself properly, with the correct focal length (or you just might not think about it at the time). You can buy a specialized lens, with tilt and shift, to correct this; it is used by architectural photographers. Most of us will need to make do with the lenses we have. The perspective corrections have been a big help to me.

In the older version, Lightroom had several automatic correction choices and manual sliders to assist with perspective adjustments. In the latest version, they have re-located the automatic perspective controls, from the prior version, and added a new Guided Upright to the new Transform panel. All of the older buttons work as they did before, and the manual sliders are there for those who prefer them.

So, now that you know why you'd want to use it and where to find it, how does this new tool work?

I do all my normal color and contrast corrections, first, before going to the Transform panel. You may choose to go directly to the Transform panel. The order of the post-processing is not important.

When you click the Guided button, you get a zoomed-in window, with a cross-hair. You'll align the cross-hair at one end of an easily-referenced location in your photo that should be vertical or horizontal. If you click and hold, you can stretch the line out to the far point. Be aware you won't notice any change to the photo until you put down a second line.

Position the cross-hair on the line you want straightened.

Position the cross-hair on the line you want straightened.

You can put up to four reference lines, in either horizontal or vertical alignments. After the first two reference lines are in place, the photo will be adjusted for the third and fourth. You do not have to use four reference lines if the first two produce the desired effect. Here is an example of the changes you can make to improve your photo's perspective.

Original, Auto Correction, Guided Upright

Original, Auto Correction, Guided Upright

The Guided Upright tool warps the photo to straighten the lines. This is a fairly easy example, but little things can have a beneficial impact on the quality of your photos. You'll get the best results on simpler photos, but you might be surprised how much you can do. The tool can make really big changes to your photo. Look at this next series:

Slanted window washer

Slanted window washer

I photographed this window washer from the ground, while he was on the third floor. To complicate my error, I was about half a block away.  My telephoto lens brought him into focus, but I have perspective problems in height and angle. With Guided Upright, I can fix these problems.

Straightened and cropped

Straightened and cropped

The changes are dramatic, and the photograph looks much better. There is a slight stretching of the window washer, but it is only noticeable to the sharpest eyes or another photographer looking closely for hints of your post-processing.

So how much warping was required to straighten these lines? You can see this by moving the Scale slider under the buttons, in the Transform panel.

That is some serious warping

That is some serious warping

You'll quickly learn which photos will respond best to these corrections. If the tool causes warping that is too objectionable, you can un-do the effect. This tool is non-destructive, as are all the Lightroom tools, so you have nothing to lose by trying it on your own photographs. Have fun with it.

Krakow RD47018