No matter how you try to compensate while taking a photograph, many things you shoot will end up distorted in the end product. Personally, I don’t mind a little distortion. I think it gives the photo some flavor. But I completely understand the reasoning behind those who like to correct their photos. To them, it’s about accuracy, not flavor.
Adobe applications have many tools to correct the accuracy of photographs. From the Upright tool in Camera Raw to the warp features of Photoshop, there’s really no reason to leave a building that should be standing straight and tall, crooked and short. There really is no reason. Especially since so many of these tools are so easy to use.
In today’ post, I’ll be walking through a tool I haven’t discussed yet in Adobe Photoshop. It’s called the Perspective Warp tool and it’s really very cool. After getting used to how it works, it’s super simple to take advantage of. It’s also extremely powerful. There are options to have Photoshop suggest the outcome and there are options to allow you to decided what’s going to happen. Sometimes Photoshop doesn’t give the best result and you need to take over. That’s fine. There are a lot of options available.
Since this tool is so frequently used with architecture, I decided that a photo of a building that’s slightly leaning would be the best to use. It’ll give you an idea of what can be done to buildings in general.
Here’s the photo.
Now just so you know, this was a taller photo. I cropped it so it’s wide. Wider photos are easier to display on this blog. The tool works just as good on taller photos.
The Perspective Warp Tool
I already have the photo launched into Photoshop. Since the photo layer was locked in the Layers panel, I clicked on the small lock icon to unlock it. I can’t work on it if it’s locked.
Once the layer is unlocked, I can head up to the Edit > Perspective Warp menu item and click.
Defining the Building’s Planes
The most important task while using this tool is to define the planes of the building. All this means is that the sides of the buildings need to be accurately identified by Photoshop. If something is leaning, Photoshop needs to be told that. If something is distorted, Photoshop needs to be told that. While this might sound like a challenge, there’s actually a very handy tool to help out in this regard.
The moment I clicked on the Perspective Warp tool from the Edit menu, my mouse cursor changed. Now, I’m able to draw an outline on the photograph itself. This is sort of like the one I drew when I wrote about the Perspective Crop tool in Photoshop. It’s like a web that overlays the photo.
To draw the overlay, I’ll click and drag. Once I do that, I’ll see a box form. It makes no difference if I let go of the mouse and stop drawing the overlay because at any time, I can click the corners and pull them anyplace I want. In this case, I’ll line the left edge of the overlay up with the leaning center of the building. Then, I’ll trace the current distorted perspective of the right side of the building. If you look closely at the screenshot below, you’ll see the overlay.
Now let me explain what I did. For the left edge of the overlay, I made sure it lined up with the leaning center of the building. This is critical because when it comes time for Photoshop to make it’s correction, it’s going to look at this edge and say, “Hey, that’s not perpendicular. Let me make it so.” It’s going to straighten out that edge. Also, I traced the perspective of the building with the top and bottom edges. I did this because Photoshop is going to look at those two lines and lock them in place with the vertical ones so everything shifts as one unit. For the right edge, you can see the building is really distorted and leaning towards the right and left side. Those are usually the worst. I made sure to follow the lean with the edge because Photoshop is going to stand those straight up as well.
I drew one overlay. While I could stop there and begin the correction, I do have the ability to draw another overlay that covers the left side of the building. I’ll do that now.
Take a look at this next screenshot. I haven’t finished drawing the left overlay yet, but I wanted to stop here for a moment to show you something. When two edges are drawn near each other, they turn blue. If I let go of this plane, the blue edges would combine as one. Since that’s what I want, I’ll let go, let them do their things and then I’ll click and drag the corners to continue on.
Okay, I have finished the overlay. Take a look.
Since you probably can’t see the overlay too well, let me show you another way. I added another layer under the photo layer and filled it with black. Then, I reduced the opacity of the photo layer so the grid clearly shows.
That’s much better.
Correcting the Perspective
Back when I clicked the Perspective Warp tool to activate it, the options bar up top changed to fit this particular tool. Here’s the new one. It’s not all that extensive.
If you look at the options bar, you’ll notice that the working mode is currently in Layout. That’s just one of the buttons and it happens to be activated. Once I’m done with the layout overlays, which I am, I can click on the Warp button to begin the correction. When I click the Warp button, the three buttons to the right of that will become available to click on. The first one straightens vertical lines, the second one levels the horizontal lines and the third one auto warps by straightening both the horizontal and vertical lines. In general, for photographs like the one I’m working on, the first option works the best. Also, at any time while in Warp mode, I can click and drag the outer edges and corners of the overlay to manually warp the photograph. If Photoshop doesn’t do that great of a job, I can clean the photo up myself. In today’s case, I’ll simply let Photoshop do it’s thing.
Let’s see what happens when I click the first button that corrects the image vertically.
Yes, this is definitely what I want. That looks good. I’m going to keep going though. I want to show you what happens when I press the next two button. This next image is the result after I clicked the horizontal correction button.
Do you see what I meant when I said that Photoshop will make the top and bottom lines perfectly horizontal? Also, if I wanted to extend the correction to the remaining areas of the photo that are outside of the overlay, I could simply stretch the overlay outside of the photo area into the workspace. That’s fine and it would just create a large area of correction. Now, let’s see what happens when I press the third button. The vertical and horizontal correction. This isn’t going to be pretty.
Actually, this one sort of looks like that last one. But with this one, all the overlay lines are perfectly vertical or horizontal.
Additional Options Bar Buttons
As you may have noticed, there are three more buttons towards the right side of the Perspective Warp options bar. These are easy to explain. The first one is to undo the warp that was just acted upon, the second one is to cancel the tool and to exit it and that last one is to accept the changes and to apply them to the photo and exit the tool. It’s that simple.
A Note About Manually Warping an Image
No matter how Photoshop might correct an image, you may want to go ahead and make some minor changes after the fact. As I explained above, this is a very simple thing to do.
To move a corner of the overlay, click on the corner pin and drag. You can move up, down or anywhere you’d like with any of these pins.
Let’s say you want to straighten an edge and lock it in place while you click and drag around other areas of the overlay. To do this, simply hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click an edge. It will turn yellow and straighten right out. Take a look.
Once the edge in question turns yellow and straightens out, you can go ahead and work on other areas of the overlay. You can also even Shift click again on another edge if you wanted to.
Keyboard Shortcuts For the Perspective Warp Tool
While working with this tool, you have some handy dandy keyboard shortcuts at your disposal. I’ll list and explain them below.
H – While in Warp mode, press and let go of this button to hide the overlay grid.
L – While in Warp mode, press this key to go back to Layout mode.
W – While in Layout mode, press this key to jump to Warp mode.
Arrow Keys – Click on a pin to activate it. Then, use your arrow keys to move that pin.
Enter Key – If you’re in Layout mode, you can press this key to jump to Warp mode. If you’re in Warp mode, you can press this key to apply your changes. Doing this would have the same effect as clicking on the check button in the options bar.
Shift-Click – I explained this above. Doing this straightens an edge of the overlay. Must be in Warp mode.
Shift – If you click Shift an edge, it will be highlighted in yellow and the perspective will be constrained. If you click a pin and drag it around while an edge is yellow, that edge will remain constrained during your other modifications.
Okay, I think I’ll stop there. I covered most of the Perspective Warp basics in this post. While I’m sure there’s more to talk about, what I shared above should give you a good idea of what you need to get going. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!