How to Level the Horizon in Lightroom

If you have ever taken a Landscape Photograph then it’s quite possible that you have suffered from the common problem of not having your horizon level or your verticals vertical. This is an especially common problem when you are shooting handheld. The photo below is a typical example of this problem. Notice how the Lighthouse seems to slant over to the left.

Photo Illustrating a Leaning Lighthouse

Photo Illustrating a Leaning Lighthouse

This simple tutorial explains how to level the horizon in Lightroom using the Crop (and Straighten) tool.

The Lightroom Crop Tool

The Crop Tool in Lightroom is found in the Develop Module. You can see this in the illustration below.

The Crop Tool

The Crop Tool

When you click on the Crop Tool icon a panel will open similar to that shown below.

Crop Tool selected

Crop Tool selected

Here you can see there is now a crop overlay covering the image. To the right side of the screen you will see the Crop & Straighten tools displayed.

The usual approach to using the Crop overlay is to click and drag one of the corners or one of the edges to crop the image. This only crops a region of the image but it’s also possible to straighten the image. When you hover your mouse of the corner you will see the shape change to an arrow indication the corner can be dragged in or out. But if you move the mouse that little further away from the corner you will find the mouse changes again. At this point you can click and drag to rotate the image from the corner. You can see this being done in the illustration below.

Manually rotate the image

Manually rotate the image

Rotating the image to level the horizon can be difficult so there are a few more tools that make the task easier. These can be found in the Crop & Straighten panel as highlighted below.

Elements of the crop tool

Elements of the crop tool

The first is the Auto Tool. Click this and Lightroom will try to determine the rotation to apply to the image in order to level the horizon.

Next you could use the slider to rotate the image. As you move the slider left and right you will see the preview rotate. The angle of rotation is also displayed to the right side of the slider.

The Level Tool or (Straighten Tool) is the final method we can use and provides great flexibility. Click this icon and you will see the mouse pointer change. You can now click on a point on the horizon and drag out a line. When you release the mouse button the image is rotated to make the line you have drawn level, before the line is removed. This is a great tool to use when you have a well-defined horizon. It can also be used to draw vertical lines against buildings. When we do this the image is rotated to make the live vertical. Once satisfied with the adjustment click the “Close” button to accept the adjustment. If you decide the adjustment is wrong there is also the Reset option.

The final point to make is that this rotation and cropping is none destructive. If you later return to an image and realise that you didn’t quite get the angle correct, you can click the Crop Tool a second time. This time when it opens you will see the crop overlay in place allowing you to make further adjustments.

 

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