How to Correct Perspective in Photoshop

Shot from too close and too low, this little building is foreshotened and distorted. Canon 16mm @ f5, 1/125th sec, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Shot from too close and too low, this little building is foreshortened and distorted. Canon 16mm @ f5, 1/125th sec, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

When shooting buildings with a wide angle lens, you may be confronted with lens foreshortening. This is distortion that occurs when you have to shoot from too-close with the lens pointing up: maybe you don’t have room to back up ( a common occurrence).  The result is a photo in which the top of the building is distorted, appearing too small, as if it’s falling backwards.

The traditional fix for this problem was to shoot the photograph with a view camera. By keeping the camera level and raising the front lens standard, you were able to shift the photograph vertically, accommodating the height of the object in front of you. Tilt/shift lenses for 35 mm cameras accomplished the same thing on a more limited scale by allowing you to shift the front element. (But pricey! Ouch!)

Fortunately, there’s a really great way to accomplish this right in Photoshop. Here I’ve shot a simple building from down too low, with my 16-35mm lens pointed up at the subject. The result gets the whole building in, but the result is distorted.

Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to draw a box around your image. Leave extra room around the edges. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool from the Tools palette. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Click and drag a box around your object. Leave some extra room around the edges. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Click and drag a box around your object. Leave some extra room around the edges. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Using the Rectangular Marquee Selection tool, draw a box around the distorted object, making sure to leave some room around the edges.
Now go to Edit>Transform>Perspective.

Now go to Edit>Transform>Perspective. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd

Now go to Edit>Transform>Perspective. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Click and drag from one of the top corners of the image left or right. You’ll see the top of your selected area begin to resize itself. Stop when your vertical lines look vertical. Hit Enter.

Click and drag outwards from one of the top corners of your selection box. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Click and drag outwards from one of the top corners of your selection box. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

The top of your photo may now look likes it’s ‘squished’ down. If so, go immediately (before you lose your ‘crawling ants’ selection) to Edit>Transform>Scale.

Go to Image>Transform>Scale. Click again on the top of your selection box and drag straight up till things look right. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Go to Image>Transform>Scale. Click again on the top of your selection box and drag straight up till things look right. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Drag straight up to correct the overall perspective of your photo. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Drag straight up to correct the overall perspective of your photo. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Click on the top line of your selected area and pull it straight up.  You’ll see your selected area resize again, but this time it’s contents will start to regain their proper perspective. Stop dragging when things look right. Hit Enter.

Now select your Crop Tool. Carefully crop your image from inside your selected, transformed area. Hit Enter.

Ta-dahh! You’ve fixed it, without spending thousands on view camera equipment.

Here are Before/After results for this photo. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Here are Before/After results for this photo. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Related articles on the web:

Avoiding and Correcting Linear Distortion in Buildings at Phototuts+

9 Architectural Photography Tips at Digital Photography School

Perspective Adjustment in Photoshop at Luminous Landscape

Posted in: Photoshop

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

5 Comments on "How to Correct Perspective in Photoshop"

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  1. Larry says:

    Pretty cool tip, Andrew. It took a while to figure out how to do this in Elements 6.0, but it’s not too different.
    Elements users…when you get to the point of correcting Scale, it’s found under Image>Resize>Scale instead of under Transform.
    Thanks…backing up far enough is frequently a problem in places like Marigny and the FQ. This will really make a difference…
    LPS

  2. Thanks Larry. The ‘scale’ tidbit is something I realized would be helpful later, long after I’d been using the basic perspective piece. This is a life saver at times. Having owned a view camera system, I really like the simplicity of this digital darkroom solution!

  3. Karen, an expungement attorney says:

    I found this article very helpful. Ive been having these problems in my Photoshop. Glad I found your article. Looking forward to your next posts.

    Regards,
    Karen

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