Lightroom 5 – Using Upright to Straighten Photos

Today I took the plunge into the world of Adobe Creative Cloud. This post is the first of many over the next few weeks as I explore the new versions of Lightroom, Photoshop, InDesign, and probably a few other tools. Each will be short to focus on just a single new thing that catches my eye as noteworthy. A few things already have my attention, so it won’t be hard to come up with topics.

Although Lightroom 5 has been out for a few weeks and is not exclusive to Creative Cloud, I waited to get it, knowing that it was included in Creative Cloud. Lightroom is my main digital photography tool, so it is also the first one I installed.

Lightroom 5 Upright Controls

Lightroom had previously introduced features involved with lens correction that could manually help fix issues of perspective and distortion. Although the corrections were very good and useful, there was still a lot of time needed to really “correct” such issues. Lightroom 5 has a new feature called Upright which makes these corrections as simple as pressing a button.

In the Develop module, near the bottom of the right drawer is the Lens Corrections panel. The Basics tab now has a series of buttons for the Upright feature. Each changes the photograph you are editing in different ways to adjust the perspective.

NYC Building - OriginalNYC Building - Auto
NYC Building – Original
NYC Building – Auto

The original image definitely shows the perspective of the building from the street. The vertical lines of the windows eventually converge off-frame to the left. Pressing the Auto button produced the right photo. This looks better. There are still perspective lines but they seem to converge above and centered, instead of to the left. Notice that some details from the edge of the frame got cropped out. The cropping improves this photo, but is something to watch for.

NYC Building - LevelNYC Building - Vertical
NYC Building – Level
NYC Building – Vertical

The next two options are Level and Vertical. Level seems to be the option that Auto chose. The perspective lines still converge centered above the image. However there is some vertical stretching that Auto did not do. That’s a guess at what the feature is trying to do. This option seems to be best if there is an obvious tilt that needs correcting. The Vertical option goes further. This option makes all those vertical perspective lines parallel. To do that, it must skew the image, making the bottom part smaller than the top part. This is why there are empty areas. These can easily be cropped away.

NYC Building - Full
NYC Building – Full

The Full option goes further than Vertical by also making the horizontal lines parallel to one another and perpendicular to the vertical lines. This building’s windows turn into a nice grid. This is pretty amazing considering that the angles needed to be detected from the content and the heavy duty math to correct it all. A lot of this image does get cropped away. Only the one plane of perspective is kept. It does look like the grid of windows is normalized like a piece of graph paper. So the reflected building no longer seems correct. The Full option must squish the sides and the top to achieve its results. This can be corrected somewhat using the Aspect slider over in the Manual tab of the Lens Correction panel. Or you can bring it into Photoshop to stretch it further.

LR5 Manual Controls

I like architecture, so while I was in New York, I photographed a lot of buildings. Because I am just a small person in the land of tall skyscrapers, the photos contain distortions of perspective. Looking up causes the lines of a building to skew. Many professional architecture photographers use a tilt-shift lens to correct this, making the building look more objective. This new feature is not a substitute for a tilt-shift lens in good hands, but can be easily used to adjust the perspective of a photo for the rest of us.