Tutorial: Fixing Perspective on Panoramas in Photoshop

edit: with the latest updates in Lightroom CC and the ability to create a RAW dng file panorama we’ve switched to doing our stitching in LR instead of photoshop for the power of non-destructive editing. However we sometimes still have to finalize it in photoshop using these techniques if the perspective controls in Lightroom aren’t good enough.

 

The early evening/golden hour light in Edmonton has been great in the last couple  of days. I’ve had the opportunity to photograph a few exteriors both for my own portfolio and for jobs, so it’s worked excellently for timing.

 

When photographing tall buildings it can be hard to get proper verticals -straight and parallel lines 90 degrees to the horizon. When you tilt your camera up to get the top of the building in the frame you create converging lines, or keystoning, where the building appears to be falling away from you. I don’t think the architect would appreciate you giving his well-designed structure the Pisa treatment.

 

You don’t have to own an expensive tilt-shift lens, (though it might be a good idea if you’re a purist and do this a lot). With a single shot, you can get your file to look great just using lightroom’s manual lens correction panel under the develop module. The big topic for today is something a bit harder, but we’ll lead up to that.

corrected single image

above: before any adjustments in LR to colour or perspective

 

You can see lots of keystoning/converging lines from where I had to tilt the camera upwards to get the whole building in.

 

So that’s the main area of alteration if you’re working with a single image. HOWEVER, what I really have enjoyed doing lately to make my landscape or exterior shots stand out is to shoot panoramas, which allow me to interact with foreground objects when I would otherwise not be able to. Here’s a good example from a few days back.

“I don’t shoot landscapes, I shoot Background-Foreground relationships.” -Ansel Adams

 

There’s no way I would be able to show the building and the sign in a clear and meaningful way with just one shot because of the way things were laid out. I couldn’t just pull the sign out of the ground and move it!

Shooting as a panorama of about 4 shots also gave me a great opportunity to shoot the left portion with the sign in focus, and the rest with the building in focus. Sort of like focus stacking, but with less photoshop effort, actually.

 

When you shoot a panorama, especially with a wide lens, you often end up with perspective problems in your stitched photo, even if the individual shots have been corrected. I’m going to teach you that it’s not so difficult to get into fixing perspective on panoramas in photoshop.

 

For example, I shot the same downtown office building with a series of 4 vertical pano shots. This gave me a larger feeling of depth and the building feels much more impressive.

 

You can see especially in the left image that because of the varying perspective of the building in a wide-angle lens, it would be easy for those automated pano stitching algorithms to get a little confused. This is the pano straight out of stitch.

baaaaaaad. But using the transform tool you can get a lot accomplished. Here’s the final shot below.

 

A few tips:

 

-Under the view menu hit the setting to bring up your rulers. When you click and drag from one of those side rulers you make a guide line, which you can use to make sure your lines are really, really straight, not just “eye-ball looks about right”, straight.

 

-Start by duplicating the whole layers you have merged into one (shortcut Cmd-Shit-Alt E on a mac)

 

-Use the transform tool (Cmd T) first, you can control the perspective by holding down command when you click and drag on a corner of your transform box. Dragging the top left and right corners outwards is the gist of what fixed the problems here, but it takes a bit of tweaking.

 

-Always try to do your transformation ONCE, because the more you go in and out of the transform tool the more you degrade the quality of the photo.

 

-If things are still looking a bit off, like my street area did, you can click the little warp-tool icon near the cancel and check mark icons. This gives you a grid where you can click and drag to warp things. Just be careful to not overdo it, because it’s easy to do so, and it can quickly start looking worse than it did when you started. Less is MORE!

 

Very rarely I’ll have to use the liquify tool to just nudge something into place. The yellow taxi cab in this shot was looking a little squished, but it was easier to fix with a local adjustment like that, rather than transforming the whole photo, which was messing up the building, which was just how I wanted it.

 

That’s all for today’s lesson. I hope you learned something. If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments below. happy panoramic shooting, everybody!

 

Cheers,

-Bryan

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