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More on Straightening Walls

Published: 24/09/2007
By: larry


Lots of good comments on the last post about straightening walls. There are several of the comments that are worth expanding on.

The best way is to get the wall right while shooting. Absolutely, do everything you can to get the walls straight while shooting like using a tripod and using the right and left frame edge as a reference. Many find a tripod limits the places in the room you can to shoot. That is, its hard to get in those tight corners with a tripod. Some have suggested in comments earlier this year that they like a mono pod with small legs on the bottom. Also, someone always brings up tilt and shift lenses when discussing this subject. Canon makes the TS-E 24mm and Nikon makes the wide angle shift 28mm. Yes, if you have an extra $1,000 in your equipment budget this is an alternative. The downside of this alternative is you are constrained to never shoot wider shots than 24 or 28mm. I find this too much of a limitation. For real estate work I'd rather spend my money on a ultra-wide zoom. Ultimately, whether you get the walls straight while shooting or in post processing is a workflow preference.

Are there exceptions to the straight wall rule? Yes, perhaps. The image above is an example of the kind of shot I always end up shooting at a home where there is an overlook or unique stairway view. With these kind of shot There is certainly no "right way" to get the walls on these kind of image. But at the same time I feel like this kind of image is never a very strong image compared to other images. I frequently shot them but almost never end up using them.

There is more than one way to adjust verticals. In Photoshop there are three commands under the Edit>Transform command. They are Distort, Skew and Perspective. Here is a nice description of the three methods. I'm in the habit of using Distort because if done it that way for so long. However, as you will see if you play with Skew a bit it works exactly like you want it to when you are straightening verticals. That is it straightens ONLY verticals. Perspective moves verticals symmetrically on both sides... this is usually not what I want to do. Distort has the advantage of being able to change verticals AND horizontals at the same time. I like Distort because I frequently find myself wanting to adjust both horizontals and verticals. There are a bunch of other ways to modify verticals. I summarized many of them in a previous post.

The thing I find amazing is how quickly the eye spots a vertical that is slightly off and the visual tension it creates. Some times you can feel the vertical is off but you have to get a reference guide next to it to tell for sure.

6 comments on “More on Straightening Walls”

  1. The thing I find amazing is how quickly the eye spots a vertical that is slightly off and the visual tension it creates. Some times you can feel the vertical is off but you have to get a reference guide next to it to tell for sure.

    This is a very good point Larry about the "visual tension" that a converging or slightly misaligned vertical creates. Based on a conversation that I had with another real estate photographer recently when looking at shot that we were trying to figure out, I'd suggest that the effect is almost "dizzying" or making you want to look away after studying it, because your eye is inclined to try to "fix" it, but it may not be able to, one side is converging and the other has no discernable point of reference so it may not look "off" on the opposing side.

  2. In my case, I use the Manfrotto Monopod with retractable steel legs. The legs are all the same length, so in most instances, it works perfect for keeping my camera straight. On the other hand, I'm working through a set of images that I shot today, and I just figured out that the head on my Monopod must have come loose because all of my images need to be rotated. Soooo frustrating that I have to fix every one of them, and this of course results in cropping off part of my image. It is so much better to just have everything straight to start with. Often I place a bubble level in the hotshoe to make sure that everything is lined up before I begin my shoots, but I neglected to do so today. I guess I just assumed that it was level.

    My next purchase is the 14mm rectilinear lens from Canon. That coupled with a perfectly straight Monopod head should simplify editing in the future.

  3. First, I would like to say that I found this site while searching for information on ethics in real estate photography. I want to thank Larry for his knowledgeable and helpful suggestions. I have posted a link to this site on my auctioneers association's web site that I think will be very informative and helpful for us auctioneers who do high profile marketing.

    About verticals: In the past I have not worried so much about such structure but concerned more with informative content. I now see bad verticals sends at least a subconscious signal of bad vibes as well.

    My question is what is more important: Should a real estate photo convey information to help a buyer determine if the room is right for them, or should the photo's primary job be to bend the buyers mind toward buying the house and not really help them decide the house is right or them.

    Using the photo above in this post, which I like because it is dramatic, I immediately can determine that this room could be horrible as TV room. Look at the useless position of the TV. But then I can see where the sofa could be used as a room divider between the room on the right and suddenly become more "decorator and useful".
    I am sure that ultimately a photos job is to just sell the house but this has really made me to start thinking there is ethics concerns in photography.
    I'm sure this post probably belongs on a different thread but I wanted to use the photo in my example. BTW I think this photo is a good example of honest portrayal.

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