A little perspective correction can make a big difference in your images. While this is particularly evident in architectural images, it’s true of all images. If you think of it as perspective adjustment or controlled distortion, the visual possibilities open to you will grow dramatically.
Perspective adjustment has never been easier with the new feature Upright, introduced in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC. It’s virtually automated. The results are often magic. How Upright knows what it knows and how and when it decides to work are somewhat predictable, but sometimes mysterious.
Found in the Lens Corrections panel, Upright also uses lens profile metadata and works in conjunction with the Enable Profile Corrections. If you activate Enable Profile Corrections after using Upright, for best results click Reanalyze. You can also use Upright without lens profile metadata or corrections.
Upright has four settings: Level, Vertical, Full and Auto. Level straightens horizontal lines. Vertical straightens vertical lines. Full straightens both horizontal and vertical lines. Auto attempts to find a pleasing balance between both horizontal and vertical distortions, often aligning neither perfectly, but still delivering impressive improvements. Upright offers buttons, not sliders. In other words, it’s all or nothing—there are no in-between settings. Nonetheless, there are many ways to finesse the results you get with Upright, in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.
The distortions Upright creates can be modified further with Manual Lens Corrections. "Upright resets crop and perspective correction settings. To preserve these settings, press Option when choosing an Upright correction." Start with Upright and then proceed to Manual, as using Upright will inevitably change the values you feel are optimal for Manual transforms.
You can change the effects of Upright settings by first drawing straight lines onto an image. To do this, you have to draw lines on a rasterized image in Photoshop and then convert it to a Smart Object before applying Upright with the Camera Raw filter. Knowing exactly how thick, where and at what angle to draw these lines isn’t easy to predict. It can be done, but with the amount of trial and error this involves, it’s almost certain you’ll choose another method.
There will be times when the results of Upright perspective adjustment work well for one area of an image, but go too far in another. When you encounter this, consider using Photoshop to select and Free Transform (the simplest of Photoshop’s many distortion tools like Perspective Warp and Puppet Warp) the adversely affected area. It’s possible to apply different kinds and/or amounts of Upright and Lens Correction distortion to different areas of an image. Import an image into Photoshop as two separate Smart Objects, each with different settings. Mask the top layer to blend the two together. In some instances, using Edit > Auto-Blend Layers > Panorama can convincingly merge two different distortions, but this affords less customization and can’t be used with Smart Objects.
Crop after Upright adjustments have been made. Constrain Crop will crop the image so that no blank canvas after distortion will be seen. Don’t use Constrain Crop if it delivers too tight a crop or eliminates important image elements. Instead, click on "Manual" and use the Scale slider to reduce the scale and reclaim the image information you desire. Then move into Photoshop and retouch any blank areas that were created during adjustment/distortion. Try selecting these areas and using Content Aware Fill (Edit > Fill > Content Aware Fill) before moving on to the more time-consuming and customizable Healing Brush tool and Clone Stamp tool. My preference is to reduce Scale so that all of the original image is seen. Then, once the image is imported into Photoshop, I mask areas to be removed and retouch the remaining blank areas.
There will be times when the results of Upright perspective adjustment work well for one area of an image, but go too
far in another.
When you use Upright, it’s possible to produce results that look good, even convincing, but are optically impossible. For instance, if you make an image of a window from below, you won’t see or photograph the bottom sill, and depending on your angle of view, what’s resting on it. Upright can correct the perspective, but it can’t show you the sill or what’s resting on it. Upright can’t render new information into a photograph; it can only distort existing information. Whether you think this is good or bad (I think it’s neither), you have to admit this is fascinating! It opens up so many new possibilities.
It’s magic when Upright works, but it doesn’t always work perfectly or work well enough to justify using. There will be times when it doesn’t work at all. Typically, this happens when lines in an image are too low contrast for the software to detect. It makes sense that it doesn’t work on images that don’t have any straight lines, most of the time. There will be times when the results you get are ridiculous in appearance. Some images undergo such extreme distortions that they look like they have come out of a hall of mirrors in a fun house. There will be times when the gains you make aren’t worth the losses you incur. Other image elements may become too distorted. Sacrificing image elements near the border of the frame may not be acceptable.
In some, but not all cases, Upright can become an effective substitute for tilt-shift lenses. Nevertheless, I prefer to think of them as the ultimate complement to Upright. The range of tools at our disposal has never been richer or more sophisticated than it is today.
The lessons software features like Upright and Lens Corrections offer about the differences between angle of view and image distortion are invaluable. Learn these lessons (not just the t
ools), and you’ll take both your images and your seeing to a whole new level.
John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist, an authority on digital printing, and a respected lecturer and workshop leader. Get PDFs and his enews Insights free at his website, www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.