How Perspective Correction Can Rescue Your Photos

by Jan 25, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How Perspective Correction Can Rescue Your Photos

In this tutorial, I want to share how you can use perspective correction to rescue photos that you might otherwise delete. Although the article uses the Nik Perspective Efex plug-in for Photoshop (part of the Nik Collection) a lot of software has perspective correction features.

If you’ve never tried Nik Perspective Efex, it’s worth downloading the free trial of the Nik Collection from the DxO website.

The Problem Image

Let’s start by looking at the problem image which you can see here.

Starting image showing perspective problems to correct

The first problem is that the camera wasn’t level, so the image is rotated. But I’m also too far from the subject and it’s off centre. The idea is that I should be square on to the derelict shop front on the left. Cropping alone won’t correct this because the perspective of the image will look wrong. This is why we need to use perspective correction software like Nik Perspective Efex.

Launching Perspective Efex

Whilst we will be using Nik Perspective Efex in Photoshop, you can also use it with other software like Lightroom, Affinity Photo and even stand alone.

Start by opening the photo to apply perspective correction to in Photoshop. You should then duplicate the image to a new layer by pressing Cmd +J on your keyboard. If you’re using a Windows PC that’s Ctrl + J. We do this because the Nik Perspective Efex adjustments are a destructive edit and will change the image pixels.

Unlike other Nik Collection filters, it isn’t possible to use Nik Perspective Efex as a Smart Filter so applying it to a separate layer is recommended.

After duplicating the image layer, select it in the Photoshop Layers Window and then click the Perspective Efex option in the Nik Collection Selective Tool. Alternatively, you can launch it from the Photoshop Filter menu.

The Nik Perspective Efex Interface

When Nik Perspective Efex opens, you should see the image loaded ready for editing as seen here.

Image loaded in Nik Perspective Efex

On the right side of the interface, there are several tools you can use to correct different types of image distortion, including Perspective Correction.

Along the top of the Perspective panel are several icons that load different perspective correction tools. The first of these is an Auto button which is always worth trying. This will often perform an excellent correction using the features detected in the image. If it doesn’t, you can undo the change using the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Z on a Mac or Ctrl + Z on a PC.

Horizontal & Vertical Perspective Correction

If the Auto feature can’t correct the image perspective, you can turn to the other tools. With an image like the one used in this tutorial, it’s often best to use the Horizontal and Vertical correction tools separately. These are the first two options in the panel, to the right of the “Auto” button.

The Perspective correction tools in Nik Perspective Efex

The other two tools in the Perspective panel are extremely powerful but more difficult to use. We will keep things simple by making a Horizontal and then Vertical perspective correction.

Start by clicking the Horizontal perspective correction icon showing two horizontal lines. This displays two horizontal guides on the image, with a marker at either end of the lines. You then click and drag these onto points in your image to align them with objects you want to be horizontal.

Here you can see the two horizontal guides. The bottom horizontal guide is being moved into position.

Aligning the horizontal perspective correction tool

As you drag a line marker into position, it shows a magnified view of the area below your mouse. This can help you to position the line with a high degree of precision.

Once you have both horizontal lines in position, click the “Preview” button to the bottom of the interface as indicated in the following screenshot. This rotates and stretches the image so that the two lines become horizontal.

Horizontal perspective correction in place

If you aren’t happy with the preview, reposition the lines and then click the Preview button again. Then when the image perspective appears correct, click the Apply button to apply the change.

Having clicked the Apply button, you can select the Vertical perspective correction tool in the Perspective panel. This works in the same way as the Horizontal perspective correction except it has two vertical lines.

Positioning the vertical perspective correction guides

After positioning the two vertical guide lines, click the Preview button to see the effect. Then when you are happy with the perspective correction, click the Apply button.

Cropping the Image

The next step is to crop the image onto the area of the derelict shop front. And because we’ve corrected the perspective in the photo, the cropped shot will appear to be from in front of the building.

To make the crop, choose the Crop tool from the tools on the right of the Perspective Efex interface.

Using the Crop Tool in Nik Perspective Efex

There are then two settings we need to check before cropping the image. The first is the aspect ratio which you can select from the dropdown list. The second is the option “Constrain to image”. When this option is used, the crop is constrained so that it only includes areas of the image. You can’t stray outside the edges of the image, so you won’t end up with empty space around the edges of the frame.

When you have applied the settings, click the icon to the right of the “Auto” button. A crop overlay then appears on the image showing what’s included in the crop. After that, you can click and drag to position and resize the crop area.

Placing the crop on the image

When you have the image crop in the correct position, click the Apply button to make the crop.

Return to Photoshop

Whilst we have applied a perspective correction and crop to the image, there are other distortion correction and creative tools in Nik Perspective Efex. Once you have applied any of these that you want to use, click the Save button to the bottom right of the interface to apply your changes to the image and return to Photoshop.

It’s then a mater of finishing the image as seen below.

Finished image after perspective correction and conversion to black and white

Notice how this looks like I was stood directly in front of the building when I took the shot, even though I was off at an angle. This is the power of using perspective correction tools and they can save photos that you might otherwise be tempted to delete.

Now watch the video demonstration.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

Of course, perspective correction isn’t only for street photography. You can use the idea of changing perspective to produce more extreme angles in landscape photography. In this tutorial I demonstrate how to use the Liquify filter in Affinity Photo to exaggerate a wide-angle effect in a landscape shot. You can also do the same thing in Photoshop.

More Nik Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Nik Collection Tutorials page.

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