Are you one of those people whose eye is immediately drawn to wonky lines in an image? Have you abandoned pictures you loved because you didn’t stand perfectly parallel to a wall, roller shutter or building when you took it, or do converging lines on a wooden backdrop drive you mad? Well hands up, I’m one of those people. Maybe it’s my work as a picture framer, I can spot a 1mm discrepancy in the squaring of a mount or frame, or maybe it’s Instagram and the traditional 1 x 1 format that have made me into a straight line obsessive. There is no where to hide a wonky line in a small square! Whatever the reason, all is not lost. I have some simple tips here on how to banish the wonkiness forever with both mobile apps and Lightroom.
Ok so I do my best to get things straight as I’m taking the picture, but however hard I try, I don’t often get it bang on. Most DSLRs have a grid within the viewfinder that you can use to guide you, and on your mobile phone you should be able to turn on a grid function within the camera there too. On an iPhone go to settings > photos & camera > grid and the tap on the slider so it is green. This will help you frame your shot as you are taking it, you want to do a minimal amount of fixing afterwards otherwise you will find parts of the image distorting and looking unnatural. There are however times when it’s impossible to get it perfect. Straight facades for example, we are usually taking this shot from street level and therefore a low angle. Holding your iPhone above your head can help but you will often still find a building tapering towards the top of the frame, and with a DSLR this is really tricky to avoid. I have been known to take a step ladder on photoshoots with me, but it’s not ideal for walking the city streets!
The picture I’m going to use is one I took just after Christmas on the beach at Wells next the Sea. Obviously my kids are in the frame, so I had to move pretty quickly to capture this moment. I was also at a low angle, and whilst I managed to expose the shot and get them in focus, I didn’t get myself into the exact right position in the dead centre of the steps. That fact will irritate me forever! Haha. However I can fix the rest, and hope that people are too busy looking at the sweetness to notice those hand rails too much 😉So first things first I would try and work out the issue, so you know what you’re trying to achieve. I can see in this image the top rail of the frame of the beach hut need pulling towards me on the right hand side. In Lightroom in the develop module, scroll down your control panel on the right until you find the lens corrections section as you can see in the screen grab below. I’m going to start by straightening that top line using the horizontal slider.
As you move your mouse over these sliders you will see a grid appear over the image to help you move it the correct amount. Below you can see the difference in that top line after moving the slider 5 points to the right.
Next I’m going to tackle the vertical slider. As I said before I was standing at a low angle so the beach hut tapers slightly towards the top. I’m going to move the vertical slider 3 points to the left, and you can see in the image below that it pulls the top of the hut towards me.
Now things are looking a lot straighter, however I think there is a tiny bit of curvature visible on the left hand of the frame. This distortion is unavoidable and happens to an extent with every lens, it’s just more noticeable with straight lines in the image. I’m going to use the distortion slider this time and move it 5 points to the right, to counteract this very slight convex effect.
Now I’m happy that the image is nice and straight, I’m going to crop it. The frame of the beach hut now provides a nice frame for the image and by cropping a little from the foreground I can focus in on the boys moreHere is the final image below, and despite those darn hand rails I think it’s still a framer!
You can achieve exactly the same thing with your mobile phone. Until recently there was only one app (as far as I know) that did this, however now there are horizontal and vertical perspective tools within other apps such as VSCO and even in the Instagram editing tools. Personally I think the original and best app for this is SKRWT. Unfortunately they didn’t come up with a snappy name, but it’s a really great app nonetheless!
Here’s an image I took with my iPhone. I almost always use my iPhone for flat lay shots (if they are for Instagram), and again, however hard I try, there is always a little tweaking to be done! With this picture I didn’t try very hard to get it right, so that I can show you a clear difference from beginning to end. Here it is edited to my liking. You can see how I edit pictures like this here.
Next I opened SKRWT and followed through exactly the same steps as I did in Lightroom, except this time I altered the horizontal perspective, then straightened the image and adjusted the horizontal again, and then tweaked the lens distortion very slightly. As you can see in the screen shots below, this app even gives you several different options to choose from on this last step.
What I like about this app is you can make tiny adjustments, it’s incredibly sensitive and does’t try and leap back into the previous “notch” as others do. For me it’s all about fussing over that last millimetre remember! Here is the image finished and ready to go.
I suppose I’m always trying to add a little bit of polish to my pictures, and this is one easy fix to something that would otherwise (and has in the past) been a huge source of frustration! I am far better now and trying to frame my images well within the camera, but for those times when it doesn’t quite work out… a little cheat is ok isn’t it? 🙂