Starting with Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe added a powerful new tool for correcting perspective issues. The Guided Upright transform tool allows users to manually define lines in their photos that need to be horizontal or vertical. It works with skyscrapers, churches, bridges, and an almost endless list of subjects.
This feature is similar to the Perspective Crop tools in Photoshop, but in Lightroom, these adjustments are non-destructive. Having this feature at my fingertips in Lightroom means I can save time and disk space while creating a PSD or TIF file. In Lightoom I typically work on a virtual copy (Control-Apostrophe), but that is not absolutely necessary. Note: This feature, along with a long of other cool features, have not been added to the “Standalone” versions of Lightroom.
Most images taken with a wide angle lens introduce perspective distortions as seen in the image above. I took this image at Mormon Row with a Nikon D5 and a Nikon 14-24mm lens at 24mm. I started out the Lightroom project by applying the proper Lens Corrections for the lens. This step often corrects a few distortions and removes vignetting common to the lens. These are quick and easy adjustments. Just click the two check boxes! (Occasionally, you might need to select a Make and Model of the lens).
In previous versions of Lightroom, the Upright tools were located in the Lens Corrections panel. You had the option of trying Auto, Level, Vertical, and Full, and typically one of them would do a good job. With the release of Lightroom CC 2015, these tools were moved into their own tab, and “Guided” was added to the array of choices.
While in Transform, click Guided, as seen in this screen grab. Near the bottom of the tab, you’ll see a hint, “Draw two or more guides to customize perspective corrections”. (The limit is four guides)
At least initially, you shouldn’t need to adjust the other sliders like Vertical, Horizontal, and Aspect. You can always tweak them after the original corrections.
Also Note: For this example, I chose to do some basic adjustments to the image before attempting to straighten it. In reality, it doesn’t matter! You might find it better to straighten first, then apply your adjustments for hue, saturation, contrast and so forth. Lightroom is very forgiving and extremely flexible. If you captured your image in JPG format, the technique still works!
Note: You might notice that my menus are collapsed—except for the Transform tab. This saves a lot of scrolling through the adjustment tabs. To use Solo Mode, simply right mouse click on any of the tabs and choose “Solo Mode”. To adjust the Basic controls, all I have to do is click Basic. It expands and the Transform tab collapses.
This screen grab should help you understand what to do the first time. Click on the image to set a point. Then align the white guide along the edge and click the second point. Nothing actually changes until you assign the second guide.
The magic happens after clicking the second point on the second guide! You can always click and drag any of the nodes to tweak the guideline.
For this image, I opted to crop the results with a 2×3 rectangle using the standard Crop Tool (R is the shortcut key). Note: Click the lock icon to make an arbitrarily proportioned rectangle (A).
I applied the crop by clicking the Enter key. For this image, I did some minimal “Spot Removal” (Q) to reduce and simplify the parked vehicle, and darkened the footbridge using the Adjustment Brush (K).
Tip: Occasionally, you might find an image that looks a bit “unnatural” if everything is perfectly vertical. For Mormon Row image above, I aligned my guides exactly along the side of the building, but you can fool Lightroom by offsetting the guides slightly. The Evanston Railroad Warehouse image above had considerable perspective issues. I originally straightened it, then deliberately returned a bit of tapering.
Another Tip: You can always adjust an image that was originally captured “square” to make elements tapered.
This shot taken at the Chapel of the Transfiguration shows some typical distortions. Most viewers wouldn’t care or even notice if some of the lines are out of square.
With only a few clicks in the Transform tab, I was able to apply three guidelines. Note: You can turn the visibility of the guides on and off by clicking “Shift-T” or clicking the crosshatch icon in the upper left corner of the Upright tab.
The beam at the upper left is still slightly out of square, but the bulk of the image was corrected.
The examples on this page should get your creative juices flowing! Of course, you don’t have to live in the Tetons to put the features to work for you. The tools work great on almost any architectural subject, as seen here. It also works for squaring the window inside the Chapel, or capturing the reflections off the window on the back side of the chapel. If you ever see your own reflection in a glass panel or a glare in an image, try stepping slightly to the side. The captured image might be slightly distorted, but using these tools, you can always straighten it. All I can say now is, “Give it a try!” You’ll soon find lots of uses for the technique.
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