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My Mission: To Straighten All Walls in the Realm!

Published: 20/09/2007
By: larry


I have found my mission in life and it is to make sure all the walls in real estate marketing photos do not have converging verticals!

There is something about making walls straight that is hard for photographers to get. Apparently, it just isn't obvious that walls like the ones above detract from an image. I see many real estate photographers out there charging Realtors to shoot property photos that think it's not a big deal to produce photos with converging verticals and color casts like the photo above. They are wrong. It is a big deal.

This is the same photo with the distractions removed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I think one of the reasons converging verticals and color casts are not fixed in property photos is that some photographers are not familiar with or are opposed to post processing photos. These problems are quite easy to fix when post processing an image.

The fact is, if you are going to produce high quality images you MUST do post processing.

20 comments on “My Mission: To Straighten All Walls in the Realm!”

  1. I find the best way to aviod this is with a tripod. I mount the camera at about 5 feet high and always confirm it is level before shooting. It seems easier to shoot it right then fix it later...

  2. Larry-

    Agreed about post processing. With the introduction of Adobe Lightroom (up through version 1.2 now), it is easier (at least faster) to post process than previously with just Adobe CS2/3. When you go to an on-site full-day class and one of the the most experienced Photoshop gurus like Scott Kelby pronounces Lightroom to be (paraphrasing) "one of the important developments for digital photography since the introduction of the initial version Photoshop", it is worth taking note of an adjustment or alignment in the market/industry. Lightroom, like many Adobe products is complex, but worth the investment of time and money in taking a seminar. Between fixing white balance (even if through "Auto WB", although I'd prefer more control) and cropping to fix the converging verticals which are unfortunately "well tolerated" by many agents, it's probably no more than 120 seconds to fix both in Lightroom and move on to your next series of shots, without switching programs; Isn't this what defines professionalism and commitment to craft, not just ethereal artist "vision statements" that one might find on a portfolio website?

    If opposed to post processing photos "professional" high megapixel DSLR images, I'd suggest that the end content for the buyer/seller is perhaps no better than a horizontally misaligned P&S shot with "clown" color high saturation.

  3. Absolutely true.

    I know it's for the example, but applying the real tungsten WB, 2800°K, is a bit too much: white is white in the kitchen, but more of the photo is colder when more of the light come from the outside (north-faced apparently).

    The natural perception is to find the inside color temp warmth
    even camera makers use that to tun the incandescent WB. Remember there is no such thing as a true WB: our own eyes use an auto WB based on our habits, even if the reality is complete blue in shadowed areas, and complete yellow in incandescent lighting.

  4. What dictates the WB value used in PP is often not what we think it should be (just to make some "whites" absolutely white).
    For instance, that wood paneling.
    Is it really brown, does it have a red tint to it, or something in between.

    Some dSLRs are known for unfaithful colour reproduction in some of the channels, particularly red.
    The D70 has an issue with oversaturating the red channel, so some purples & shades containing a large red component can appears as a murky brown instead.

    Having been caught once, I always ensure I eyeball some scenes and try to remember what the actual hue should be. (Especially when a feature wall is involved).

    Larry, to be honest, I think the reworked image is too "cold" and harsh.
    It doesn't hurt to have a little bit of warmth about it (IMO, it becomes a more inviting place), providing it is not overdone.

    What does push my buttons is the overuse of evening shoots, where it's almost shot in the dark, revealing bugger all of the home. That's another topic though for another day! 😉

  5. Would you mind listing the adjustments you made to the original photo? I would like to see the areas you adjusted to fix the verticals in particular.

  6. Lee,
    To straighten the verticals I opened the image in photoshop (this will be the same in all versions and Photoshop Elements), Select All, Edit>Transform>Distort and then after dragging a couple of vertical guide references on the left and right of the image I dragged the distort handles at the bottom left and right of the image (each one separately) until the verticals were aligned.

    I should note that this "distortion" of the image does not significantly degrade the quality of the image.

    Adam and Marc,
    Yes, I agree. The WB is a much more subjective thing. My main point is that the color cast can be fixed to what you thing looks good.

  7. While the verticals in the photo are vertical, the waterfall falling away effect on the floor tiles can still be quite distracting, IMO. Sometimes the are un-avoidable, but I often times will try to shoot from a diffent angle so as to avoid get the floor tiles pattern.

    What I have been doing in PP works pretty simply. I use the white balance in the RAW viewer (CS2), then, warm it up just a touch and adjust the tint if nesc. That's assuming, of course, there is a known white in the shot, otherwise, I just manualy tweak the WB till it looks right. I find I like them just a little bit warm.

  8. Since learning about the PTLens plugin for Photochop (right here on Larry's blog actually), I don't use the built-in tool for that anymore.
    PTLens will read the EXIF data and correct for any lens distortions too.

  9. I'm not so sure I agree with your post Larry. While correct verticals tend to be very important, they don't take precedence over getting the best shot when it comes photographing for real estate. Lately, I have been asking some agents if they mind that the walls aren't vertical and most don't mind as long as it's a conscious decision made to better show the space or how spaces relate to one another.

    Straight walls used to be a rigid rule of mine but I am starting to break it.

  10. I agree with Aaron on this point. In some situations I need a shot or perspective and it's 'straightened verticals be damned'. But if you're goint to do it, make it obvious that's what you're doing. I think that Larry has also referenced exceptions to the rule in past posts. In photography as in life, it's best to not get too stuck on the rules.

    One time I was in a restaurant where I saw a travel photo of of Thailand and the pagodas were leaning soooo dramatically to one side I could hardly believe my eyes. I had to to lean in the opposite direction just to get my bearings. : )

    @scott. I use Distort but I'm not sure I see much difference from the skew.

  11. @Scott
    Yes thank you, I meant Skew. Distort works too but Skew is better.

    @Aaron & Mark
    Yes, I'm raising this point for beginning interior photographers that are oblivious to converging verticals.

  12. @Scott
    You are indeed correct, inartfully expressed on my first mention, while technically not cropping to straighten, I'm thinking of the "Straighten" tool in LR off of the "Crop" grid in LR's Develop module. Obviously, this only works if the issue affects verticals with more than one frame of reference (left and right sides). If the verticals only look off on one side, you'd have to head into Skew/Distort which is taking you out of LR (which I'm trying to reduce doing as frequently).

  13. Pablo,
    I have not tried Lens Corrector PRO. In fact, I'd not heard of it until you pointed it out.

    It appears to be quite complete and has some unique and interesting features. I'll give it a try in the near future and see how it works with Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop Elements.

    If you decide to use it please let me know how it works for you and what software you use it with. I'd like to add it to my list of lens correction software.

  14. Hi Larry,

    I tried the demo with Jasc PaintShopPro (v.7.04) as a Plug-in Filter, and I liked the controls and realtime preview update.

    I don't have much experience in 'straightening walls' but after trying Jasc's own deformation controls (I guess they are similar to Photoshop's), I gloogled for other software and found Lens Corrector PRO. I couldn't try another, PTLens, because I have Windows'98 (yes!) and couldn't run it.

    Regards,
    Pablo

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