Three easy methods for straightening your photographs.

It is very easy to end up with a crooked photograph, especially when you are shooting hand-held. Even the most seasoned pro photographers make photographs that need to be straightened, usually this is because you are so focused on the subject, trying to a capture a moment that the background becomes a lesser priority and you end up with a photograph that is a little wonky. The image itself may be stunning, but needs a little correction in order for the horizon line of the background to be straight. In the darkroom you would simply turn the easel that is holding your photographic paper until the image appears to be straight.

Crop Tool

In Photoshop there are several ways you can straighten the horizon line in your photographs, and they are all quite easy to do. The most common way and the most similar to turning a easel in the darkroom is using the Crop Tool. You do this by selecting the crop tool in the tool bar or just using the shortcut key ” C ” on your keyboard, and then drag your cursor from one of the corners diagonally across the image, making sure to leave enough space in order to turn the crop box, but still have the image within the box. You then place your cursor just outside one of the corners and the cursor will change and you will see two arrows which indicates that you can move the crop box in either direction. You move the cursor in the direction that best suits your needs, using your judgment to know when the image is corrected enough.

Ruler Tool

The second way to straighten your photograph is to use the Ruler Tool. You will find the ruler tool in the drop-down menu of the eyedropper tool, which is just under the crop tool icon, click and hold the eyedropper tool button until the menu opens and then select the ruler tool. Now that you have the ruler tool selected just click and drag a line across part of the image that you need to be straight, then release the mouse button, and you will see a line that you made using the ruler tool. Above your photograph you will see two buttons, the one on the left says “straighten” and the one on the right say “clear“.  If the line looks correct to you then press the straighten button, this will make Photoshop straighten the image using the line you had made as a guide.  If you want to redo the line just press the clear button which clears the line and then you can redo the line.

Straighten Tool

The final way which is the way I have been doing it, is using the Straighten Tool which is in the lens correction filter. To access it click on Filter and from the drop-down menu select Lens Correction or you can use a short cut Shift+CTRL+R,
( Shift+Command+R on a Mac ). The Lens Correction filter window will open and on the upper left side you will see five different tools. Placing your mouse cursor over the tools will give you a description of each tool. The second from the top is the Straighten Tool, which should already be pre-selected by default. Just like the ruler tool you draw a horizontal or vertical line on the image, but with the Straighten Tool as soon as you release the mouse button it corrects the image. You don’t have to draw a line across the whole image, you can make a short line which might be easier to do depending on the image you are working on. After you have made the line and Photoshop makes the adjustment to the image you have three options to choose from You can cancel the action by selecting cancel. You can accept the changes to your image by pressing OK, or your can reset the image and try again . The reset button is hidden and you access it by pressing and then holding the Alt key on your keyboard, this makes the cancel button become the reset button that you then click with your mouse, you image then resets and you can then try again until you are happy with the results.

Here is a video I produced to show you how each of the tools works.


Model in Video Paula Patrice at Ford Models NYC


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