How To Avoid Converging Verticals

by Dec 6, 2023Photography Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How To Avoid Converging Verticals

Converging verticals is the name given to a perspective effect seen in photography. It’s commonly associated with using a wide-angle lens. Because of this, some people mistakenly call it wide-angle distortion, but that’s incorrect. You can see converging verticals with any lens under the right conditions. It’s just that wide-angle lenses tend to exaggerate the effect.

Let’s look at an example of converging verticals in a photograph.

Example of converging verticals seen when photographing tall subjects

Notice how the tall buildings in this scene appear to converge towards the top of the frame. It’s this converging effect that gives the converging vertical distortion its name. And whilst the effect can create dynamic photography, many photographers would like to avoid it.

In this tutorial, we will look at why it occurs and a simple way to avoid it.

Why Converging Verticals Occur

Converging verticals is a perspective effect caused by tilting the camera. In the example above, the effect is seen because the camera is tilted upwards to include the tops of the tall buildings. Often, when photographing tall subjects like skyscrapers, you need to use a wide-angle lens. Even then, you may need to tilt the camera to include the entire building in the frame. It’s this tilting of the camera that causes the convergence. You can easily test this out using your camera and a wide-angle lens.

How To Avoid Converging Verticals

Given we know tilting the camera up or down will cause converging verticals, the solution is easy. All we need to do is keep the camera sensor perfectly vertical. If the camera sensor is vertical, we avoid the perspective effect.

Other Forms Of Perspective Distortion

So far, we’ve only talked about converging verticals occurring because we tilt the camera up or down. But this isn’t the only form of perspective distortion. Another form can occur because we’ve tilted our camera left or right. This isn’t very noticeable with an image such as the one above. But when photographing a subject square on, any camera tilt left or right will produce noticeable distortion.

Take the following two photographs as an example. This first photograph shows a view inside Liverpool Cathedral captured using a wide-angle lens.

wide angle view inside a cathedral showing no perspective distortion

Notice that despite being taken using a wide-angle lens, there is no perspective distortion. This is because the camera was vertical when the photograph was captured. Now, compare this with a second image from the same location.

wide angle view inside a cathedral showing perspective distortion caused by tilting the camera to the left

In this second image, the camera was tilted to the left, which is causing perspective distortion.

If you want to avoid converging verticals or perspective distortion, you need to ensure that the camera sensor is perfectly vertical and isn’t tilted left or right.

Problems When Avoiding Converging Verticals

Although it may appear easy to avoid converging verticals, you can run into another issue. If you’re photographing a tall subject, it’s quite likely that you can’t fit it into the frame. Even when using an extremely wide-angle lens, you may not achieve a sufficient angle of view to include the full subject.

When you encounter a problem like this, you may need to turn to a fisheye lens or a tilt and shift lens.

A fisheye lens typically provides a much wider angle of view than many wide-angle lenses. But this brings additional problems because the lens produces an extremely distorted image or fisheye effect. You can see this in the left image below, which displays a distinct curvature caused by the lens.

Fisheye lens distortion and removal

If you don’t want the fisheye effect, you must remove it, as in the image on the right. This can be difficult without specialist software like DxO ViewPoint 4.

In contrast, a tilt and shift lens allows you to correct the image’s perspective with complete control during capture. The drawback of these lenses is that they can be extremely expensive and can be tricky to use. You may also find that depending on your camera, such a lens isn’t available.

When faced with these problems, software is the easiest solution to correct converging verticals. Many raw converters like Lightroom include perspective correction controls. In addition, consider dedicated perspective correction software like DxO ViewPoint. Using software like this, you don’t need to avoid converging verticals. Instead, you can correct this perspective during later editing if you wish as explained in this DxO ViewPoint tutorial.

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