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What Is The Best Way For Real Estate Photographers To Straighten Verticals?

June 9th, 2015

UprightKelli asks the following:

I have been a professional photographer for many many years but I am interested in real estate photography as opposed to family/senior. I am having a really hard time getting my verticals right and I would love to perfect this before going public. Do you have a resource (blog post/video tutorial)? I searched your blog and most the posts on this subject are really old, I didn’t know if there was update software or hardware to help.

Kelli is right while I’ve done a lot of posts over the years on the subject of verticals I’ve not done one since Lightroom 5 has been out. Since the release of Lightroom 5, it is the best and fastest way to straighten verticals. There are many other ways to straighten verticals, but Lightroom is amazingly fast and easy. This single feature is worth the cost of Lightroom for a real estate photographer! The Lens Corrections panel contains everything you need to quickly straighten verticals and horizontals.

I find that if I just get the verticals close in the camera that a click on the Auto button in the Lens Corrections panel gets them right on during post processing. This Lynda.com video tutorial explains all the features and details. Note that there was no changes in this area between Lightroom 5 and 6/CC.

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19 Responses to “What Is The Best Way For Real Estate Photographers To Straighten Verticals?”

  • Although I have Lightroom CC I choose to use Adobe Camera Raw CC to process my raw files. First thing I do is select all images, Lens Correction, Correct, Manual tab, Verticals. All it takes is about 30sec. to correct 30 raw images. Before I discovered this I used Ptlens or DxO Viewpoint 2 but I could only use it on one image at a time. Now I’ve cut my average post time from 2.5 hours to less than one hour including downsizing and upload to the net.

  • Kelli,

    You didn’t say what make your camera was. If it is a new Sony, the chances are that you have the ability to get Capture One for free. This software will remove the wide angle bending common to wide angle lenses.
    If you don’t hvae a Sony, you can still download a copy of the pro version of Capture One on a trial basis. The cost of the software is a whopping $300.00 but you own it as opposed to leasing or renting it. I would investigate it just to see how well it does.

  • First and foremost, I would say it starts with the positioning of the camera. I always start by trying to have my camera anywhere from 4.5 – 5.5 feet high and pointed straight on to my composition. If it is pointed slightly up or down – or tilted left or right, you will not get very good results and will have to spend a little more time editing in post. I also try to keep my lens focal length between 20-24mm if possible to avoid too much distortion. Doing these three things usually yields great results with minimum time in post trying to straighten them. Lightroom’s auto feature works pretty well to correct any slight mistakes you made during the photo shoot.

    A few more tips I would also add: 1. I have found that these tips especially apply to kitchens. There are a LOT of vertical lines in kitchens – mostly from cabinetry, windows, counters, etc. It is especially important to have your camera aligned properly when making the photo. 2. Compose your photograph in live view opposed to using the viewfinder. In my camera my viewfinder seems to have a slight tilt… this could also just be bad eyes, of course 🙂 3. When doing a 1 point composition (a straight on shot) , pay extra attention to not only verticals but also horizontals. These can become a huge nuisance in post if you don’t get it right in camera.

    Hope that helps!

  • I find that LR auto straighten doesn’t always work, and can even make an image worse. I find using Transform in PS to be the best solution. I often use Skew, Perspective and Distort in PS.

  • If the film plane of the camera is perfectly level in all axes , then the verticals will be straight. It as simple as that. Many cameras have displays for this for the pitch (tilting up and down) and the roll build in. Or put a bubble level in the hot shoe and you will be extremely close. LR will finish the job.

  • Since I don’t use LR I use Photoshop, I batch correct for barrel distortion using Adobe RAW but to straighten out the parallex correction, I adjust each image manually. I do not try to line up the verticals in the camera since it usually means I get a lot of ceiling and not enough of the interesting floors. I just hit Command A then Command T and drag the corner grippers and straighten the verticals so they are aligned with the sides of the image borders. Seldom takes more than a minute per image. But obviously, the barrel lens distortion has to be done first to make all verticals and horizontal lines straight to start with. Since all my shots are very different in so many ways, I tend not to batch any processing. But that’s just me minimizing my profit margin in favor of custom quality. After 40 years of professional photography, I still resist considering it as a business. More of a passion.

  • I would suggest to avoid any converting verticals from the beginning by levelling the camera perfectly before shooting. This is very easy with the built in water level with the high end Canon cameras (I don’t know if other brands have this feature as well). Any post production, especially an extreme correction of verticals results in a dramatic loss of image resolution. This might not be significant for real esate clients but might be unacceptable for serious architecture photography.

  • A 10 Dollar hotshoe spirit level gets the walls straight from the beginning. Job Done. No need for Lightroom this, and Photoshop that. Get it right in camera.

  • Here is a great little open source bit of software that will correct converging lines in batch mode. I use it after exporting from LR. Even if I use the LR’s Lens Correction there are still some small angles that are not completely straight. This finalizes everything for me. In batch it produces a new file so you’re not re-saving, and degrading, your jpeg.

    http://www.shiftn.de/links.html
    http://www.shiftn.de/ShiftN_functionality.html

  • First, I always level my camera as best I can using the bubble levels on my tripod. You can get a two axis bubble level that fits into a hot shoe that works well, but will lose your hot shoe synch and have to use your PC plug to fire your strobe (if you have one).

    After importing the images into Lightroom 5, I use the lens correction auto button. This works (most of the time) when I edit the images one at a time.

    But, I cant figure how to Auto synch multiple images as the first image looks fine, but the additional images are not. Sometimes I will correct similar images, by first correcting one, then, copy the setting and pasting that setting into the other images. This works well for images color and contrast, but the lines do not straighten.
    Any suggestions from you lightroom users?

  • I process all my RAW files in batch through DxO OpticsPro 10 which corrects for chroma, barrel, color, vignetting and more, specifically unique to a lens and camera combination.
    Vertical, Horizontal and perspective issues are taken care of by DxO ViewPoint, a plugin in CC, during post processing, .

  • I usually attempt Lightroom’s Vertical button. As others mentioned, this only works if your verticals are fairly close and only need minor adjusting. If the Vertical button doesn’t work, this is the technique I use for straightening: 1) Find the center of the image and use the rotation slider to get that portion of the image straight up and down. 2) Use the vertical slider to get the left and right edges straight up and down.

    Don’t always force yourself into getting everything straight in your shot. While this is usually desirable, there are situations where you may need to get a little higher so you can see surfaces like tabletops and counter tops. This is a great case for correcting the verticals in post. Be careful not to overdo it though. If you have too steep of an upward or downward angle, it will look really goofy to straighten it. Embrace the perspective.

    Don’t worry about perfecting everything before going public. The best way to perfect your photography is to get out there and start shooting.

  • If all else fails one of the easiest ways to get perfect verticals (if Lightroom auto-vertical doesn’t work) is to use Photoshop’s skew transformation tool. Simply drag out two verticalguide lines from the side rulers in the photoshop workspace. Then select skew and drag the corners of the image until the verticals of the image match perfectly with the guides.

  • Another tool not mentined here so far is the Perspective Correction tool in Photoshop. It’s part of the crop options. It allows you so select the entire image and independently adjust each side of the image by dragging one of the guides. Simply align the guide with something that should be vertical but isn’t and hit return. Depending on your image you may need to do this more than once to get it where you need to.

  • I guess I am really an old timer… Tilt/Shift lenses for me.
    Straightening verticals with software robs the image of wide angle potential.
    Of course the closer your camera set-up is to being “architecturally correct” will minimize the loss.
    With a T/S lens I don’t have to have the camera halfway between the floor and ceiling of a room… I can shoot at higher and lower angles and still get straight verticals.
    I believe in shooting it in camera as well as you can before turning to software to save me.

  • Although it is expensive it is well worth having a tilt shift lens. We use a 24mm on our 5d3. If we still need additional straightening we use photoshops perspective warp tool especially if we have bracketed in Enfuse. When you have 15-50 images per home if you get it right in the camera it saves you time on the post processing. More time means more jobs or fun time – your choice!

  • I prefer to keep the camera level whenever possible and either use a shift lens or shoot wider with a zoom lens and then crop down later. I think it takes less time overall to do it this way than to try to fix major convergence in the processing.

  • my two cents…

    Interiors: on my older Canon 5D mkII I used a cheap little hot-shoe spirit level. My 5D mkIII it has a built in electronic level. I try to shoot as much as I can from half the height of the room to about 5′ and keep the camera level.

    Exteriors: Tilt-shift lens. I keep the camera as high as I can on the tripod, keep the camera level (via spirit or electronic level) then adjust my lens.

    I always try to get it right in the camera as much as I can. Then I’ll use Lightroom’s Lens Profiles and Perspective Correction to fine tune everything automatically.

  • Shoot at around 4 1/2 feet, Level in all planes and use dxo Viewpoint 2. Viewpoint does a great job especially with odd angles but manually control the crop.

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