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Typical distortion found in many hand-held photographs

Typical distortion found in many hand-held photographs (caused by roll, yaw and pitch of the camera): We will fix this in Photoshop.

Getting your photos straight is one of the basic requirements of photography. Crooked horizon lines in landscapes and architecture photos where the horizontal lines in buildings lean towards one side are a real show stopper. The first thing you should always try to achieve is to get straight images straight out of your camera. Use spirit levels and align your shots carefully from a tripod. But in some cases, this is not possible or you have only limited time, or you’re forced to shoot hand-held.

This can result in photos that are not only rotated but distorted in complex ways with rotation around the roll, pitch and yaw axes. The effect is that the sensor plane is not parallel to the lines in the actual scene.

In this video tutorial, I am showing you

  1. How to correct such a complex distortion in post-processing by using the Transform tools in Photoshop.
  2. How to correct slight asymmetries using the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop.

Make sure you watch the video in HD 1080p mode to see all the details.

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12 Responses to Hands-on Photo Tips: Advanced Distortion Correction in Photoshop

  1. Great article…thank you. One thing: for those that DO NOT have Photoshop, there is an excellent plugin from DxO, DxO ViewPoint that corrects keystoning, vertical convergence, tilted axis, etc. I currently use CS5.1, so these distortion correction tools are not available. That is why I use (and recommend) DxO ViewPoint.

    Question: does the latest version of PSE have distortion correction built-in?

    Frank V.

    • farbspiel says:

      Hi Frank,

      thanks for the DxO tip.

      Actually, Photoshop CS5.1 has all the tools used in this video. You will find them under the Edit menu just like in CS6.

      Photoshop Elements has Transform tools (go to Image > Transform), but it’s only a limited set of tools. E.g. there is no Warp transformation and no Puppet Warp there.


  2. Simon__X says:

    This is an awesome tutorial that explained all the techniques with such a clarity. I was really, really impressed. I had always been wondering how the best images of the architectures were captured with such precision in perspective. I was especially excited about the puppet warp function. I do not think this is splitting hair, because it was an obvious issue to my eye. On the contrary, this became the highlight of the entire video, like a surprising ending or grand finale in a movie.

    Thanks for sharing with us your marvelous expertise.

    • farbspiel says:

      Thanks a lot for your feedback, Simon!

      Of course, great architecture shots should already be great in camera, but with these tools, you can make them perfect.

      Puppet Warp is a very powerful tool. But be careful not to overuse it. You cannot push around the objects in your images arbitrarily, or else ugly artifacts will show.

      Have fun with your next architecture shots!


  3. Gary Mills says:

    Hi Klaus, Thanks for the video. Your teaching is not only very easy to follow but is something I will able to use.

    Also I would like to double up on Simon’s response.

    Great Video

  4. Gary Mills says:

    Hi again Klaus, I wanted to ask you a question about your statement to “Make sure you watch the video in HD 1080p mode to see all the details”. I don’t know that I have a choice to do anything other that to click on the start of your video’s. If I do, can you please explain how??

    Thanks again

    • farbspiel says:

      Hi Gary,

      thanks for your kind feedback.

      As for the 1080p mode: Once you’ve clicked on the video to play it, the player will load. As soon as the video starts, you can hover your mouse over the video to display the controls at the bottom of the player. On the right side, you will see a little gear wheel icon. If you click that, you can chose different resolutions with 1080p at the top. Click on the 1080p mode and then display the video fullscreen. To do that, click on the right-most icon (the one showing four corners of a square).

      That’s it! You will now watch the video in full resolution and fullscreen.

      Have fun!

  5. [...] Hands-on Photo Tips: Advanced Distortion Correction in Photoshop – this great video tutorial by Klaus Herrmann takes us on a detailed exploration of how to correct distortion issues resulting from compositional and lens challenges in the field.  Klaus’ video tutorials are detailed presentations accompanied by an illustrative image to see the work in progress. [...]

  6. Lynne says:

    Wow, Klaus! Thanks! Mastering these techniques, which always look effortless but mysterious in your videos, has been a wish for a long time. This is a really clear, excellent tutoria (as always).

  7. Terry says:

    Great tutorials, Klaus. I like the way you explain things and the tools you use to do so.

  8. [...] Hands-on Photo Tips: Advanced Distortion Correction in Photosho p [...]

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