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Selective Perspective Correction – with Garey Gomez

December 23rd, 2018

As real estate photographers, shooting interiors often presents challenges with getting the camera positioned far enough away from the subject to get the desired field of view for what we want to capture. Interior spaces are obviously defined by their walls and since walls don’t move, we have to resort to shooting with wide-angle lenses. As a general rule, most architectural photographers will try to shoot with as long of a focal length as a space allows while still getting all of the important design elements and features into their composition. Generally, 24mm is the accepted widest focal length an interiors photographer will use but of course, there are times when we just have to shoot wider. But even 24mm can present problems, especially near the edges of a frame. That’s where I find this Photoshop trick to be especially helpful.

Before we get into it, I want to make the distinction between lens distortion and wide-angle distortion. They are two separate issues, and are handled in different ways.

Lens Distortion: This refers to the curvature that a lens adds to a photo. When lines that are straight in real life are rendered with a curvature by a lens, that is lens distortion. There are different types of lens distortion, but the most common ones we’ll see are barrel distortion (where the edges of the image are bowing outward) and pincushion distortion (where the edges of the image are bowing inward toward the center of the frame). Luckily, photo editing programs like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop have built-in lens corrections that fix these issues with a single click by using their extensive database of lens profiles. We have it pretty easy when it comes to correcting lens distortion!

Wide-Angle Distortion: This refers to the perceived “stretching” of an image, and you’ll typically notice it near the outer edges of a frame. High end specialty lenses, such as tilt-shift lenses from Canon and Nikon, can be made with little to no lens distortion that I’ve described above and render lines that are nearly perfectly straight but can still have some wide-angle distortion. An example of wide-angle distortion that you’ll most commonly see is when you have, say, a chair near the edge of your frame that appears to be much wider or more stretched out in your image than it does in reality. Or recessed lighting in the ceiling–notice that the cans farther from the camera appear normal, but the ones closest to the camera become unnaturally oblong. That is wide-angle distortion, my friends.

Okay, now that we’re on the same page, how do we address wide-angle distortion?

In the Field:

  1. Back up. If the space allows it, back your camera up as far as you can and shoot at a longer focal length. This is always the best approach, but often you are not able to get as far as you’d ideally like (those darn walls!).
  2. If you can’t get back far enough, try to move objects farther away from the camera and/or away from the edges of your frame whenever possible (get permission first!). The closer things are to the camera, the more distorted they will appear.

In Photoshop:
Here’s a video I made recently about a really great trick for reducing the appearance of wide-angle distortion in an image.

In this video, I talk about my method for reducing it in a more extreme situation. The image shown in this video was shot with a Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens. There really isn’t much lens distortion, if any, but you can see just how stretched out the image is near the edges. Follow along in the video to see how I handle that.

Here’s another example of a photo I shot for a local architect that I think was helped tremendously by this method.

Architecture Photography Perspective Correction GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It was shot with a Canon 24mm tilt shift lens and I was backed up as far as I could. I had more room to back up, but the further I got, the less of the porch I saw (the main subject here) and the more of those doors. We moved the furniture as far away from the camera as possible to minimize the wide-angle distortion, but it was still apparent. A quick and easy correction on the left and right sides helped quite a bit!

I find that I do this trick on most of my images that I shoot for architects and interior designers. There’s a lot of flexibility in this trick–you can do it just a tiny bit for a subtle improvement, or you can make multiple passes and make quite a large correction when you need to. I especially like using it for one-point compositions.

Go back through your library of images and find a few photos that you think might benefit from a selective perspective correction and give it a try. In the comments below, let us know how you make out and fire away with any questions you have.

 

*Garey Gomez is an interiors/architectural photographer based in Decatur, GA.

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11 Responses to “Selective Perspective Correction – with Garey Gomez”

  • Great trick! Fast and easy to do. Gary Gomez, your website looks super nice.

  • I find that shooting at 24mm is often the long end of my lens choices as clients want to see everything. Perspective distortion is my life and struggle.
    Good solutions and lovely work.

  • I saw a tutorial where they were shooting wide rooms with a 24mm tilt/shift, but creating a stitched panorama by shifting the lens. Any comments on doing that way? Seems like you’d get the width of a 12 or 17mm wide shot, but with the distortion of 24mm. It’s a lot to keep track of, if you’re also shooting 5 brackets. That’s 15 images if bracketed and shooting 3 images for Left, center, right width. Plus flashes, you could end up with 20 images.

  • Hi Lee, I can’t imagine suffering through that workflow! It’s too much, especially for real estate. I’ll stick with my 16-35mm lens 🙂 I’ll just say that I have used that method many times, but for higher paying architecture work. Even then I find it too tedious, and I eventually saved up for a 17mm tilt shift (I don’t even bring it to RE shoots). But knowing how to do things like that, and the perspective correction method discussed here, in Photoshop can really come in handy. I’m all about “shooting for your edit”, and when you’re in the field making decisions about your shot with a complete understanding of how you’ll be using each shot you take in post, you are in complete control. That’s a great feeling!

    Having more tools in the tool belt is ALWAYS a good thing, but don’t make a habit of taking the hammer out for every shot 🙂

  • I really like the simplicity of your method, Garey. I’ve had more than a few remarks about distortion with regard to small rooms, finished basements, etc., when using the 16 or 17mm. They want a wide field view, but don’t want a room to look deceptively larger than it really is in person. This method helps to solve that problem…invisibly.

  • Hi Garey, Thank your for sharing this! Is it different than “Transform” – “Aspect” in Lightroom?

  • Hi @Loughton Smith, glad you found it useful!

    @Amy Harley, it’s a similar concept, but the Aspect adjustment under the Transform panel in Lightroom does not give you the ability to apply the effect selectively. It applies it to the whole image, and I have only encountered a few images where that is enough to get the result I was after. The beauty of doing it manually in Photoshop is that it allows you to control what part(s) of the images get transformed, and by how much. Try it out both ways on the same image and see if you can tell the difference. I think you’ll agree that having complete control over the result will outweigh the convenience of staying in Lightroom. And if you’re going into Photoshop anyway, it’s a no-brainer in my book. Let me know how you make out!

  • @Garey. Thank you for that explanation! I’ll check it out!

  • Lee Miller wrote: “…they were shooting wide rooms with a 24mm tilt/shift, but creating a stitched panorama by shifting the lens. Any comments on doing that way? Seems like you’d get the width of a 12 or 17mm wide shot, but with the distortion of 24mm….”

    No. You’d get the distortion of a 12mm or 17mm lens. Distortion is a function of the FIELD of view, not the focal length.

  • Great info… thanks for sharing.

  • Great trick Garey!
    I wonder why it did not happen to me. Because it is common to stretch the legs to the models with the same method.
    In any case, thanks to you, it will be difficult not to use it in all the pictures of my 12-24

    Best wishes!

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