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Let's Get One Thing Straight: A Photoshop Tutorial

For years now, I have been taking pictures of pretty much everything that I love; landscapes, children, families, vacation spots, you name it, I have probably photographed it!  Inevitably, I get a little carried away at one time or another, or I forget my tripod, and my pictures come out a little crooked. Normally, it is just a little off and that is ok. It's very rare that we get every single shot perfectly straight all the time and for the most part, it is rarely noticeable...that is until you take a picture of the horizon and you notice that your mountain looks taller on one side of your photo than it does on the other side of your photo! THAT is where using the ruler tool in Photoshop can really save the day!

Begin by opening the photo that you want to correct.  This is a picture I took while visiting Yellowstone National Park several years ago. I had good intentions with this photo, but I am standing on a man made bridge with people all around me, and I just took a quick shot. Unfortunately, it came out a bit lopsided.

You can see that my horizon is higher on the left side than it is on the right and this does not make for a a good landscape photo.

With the release of Photoshop CS5, came a wonderful new function called the Ruler Tool. It is a quick and easy way to straighten your pictures. Have no fear though, for those of you that do not have CS5, I am still going to share with you a way to straighten your photos..it just requires a few more steps!

You can access the Ruler Tool by locating the Eyedropper tool in your tools panel on the left side of your workstation, clicking on the Eyedropper tool icon and then dragging your mouse to the Ruler Tool in the pop out box.

With your Ruler tool selected, and your photo open, we are now going to drag and draw the line over the horizon. Click on the left side of your horizon(left click and hold down your mouse button and DRAG a line over the horizon line and then release the mouse button once you  reach the right side) It should look something like this.

You can see that I drew my ruler line OVER the Horizon line.

Next go to Image>Image Rotation>Arbitrary

A pop up dialogue box will appear. Do NOT make any changes. Press OK.

Once you press OK, Photoshop Will Make the necessary adjustments and rotate your photo.

You can see, however, that now we will need to crop the photo in order to remove the white that will appear from the image being rotated.

Select your crop tool from the Tools Panel. (C on your keyboard). At the top of your workstation, you can set the image size that you want your photo to be cropped to. I chose 5x7 at 300ppi.

Next, with your crop tool selected, you will click, drag and draw your crop onto your photo. If you selected a size that your want your photo cropped to, the box will stay in those proportions. You can however, move it around, drag the lines to adjust it, or increase and decrease the selection at any time.

Once you have selected your crop using the crop tool, you can adjust a few settings to help you see what your photo will actually look like when you are finished.  At the top of the workstation,locate the Crop Guide Overlay. Using the drop down menu, select Rule of Thirds and change your shield opacity to 100%.

Now, when you are cropping a photo, the unwanted parts of your image will turn black and the Rule of Thirds grid lines will appear on your image. This will really help you crop your photo in a pleasing manner!

Once you have your crop set how you want it, click OK. You now have an image that is straight and ready for print!

Now, for those of you that are not blessed with the Ruler Tool, there is still a way for you to straighten your photos!

Open your photo that you will be correcting.

At the top of your workstation, Choose Filter>Distort>Lens Correction.  In Cs5, it is Filter>Lens Correction. A dialogue box will appear.

Since I no longer have CS4, I am showing this to you in CS5 so my setup will look a little different. I think, however,  that you can get the gist of it!

In the dialogue box to the right of your image, select the Custom Tab or, in CS4 select Custom in the drop down menu under Settings.

Next, Select the Straighten Tool on the left hand side of the dialogue box. In the same manner as we did before, click, drag and draw your line across the horizon that you are wanting to correct.Once you release your mouse, your photo will instantly be corrected. If you can not immediately see the correction, make sure that your preview box is checked. You can locate the preview box underneath your photo in your dialogue box.  Click OK to set the changes.

In CS5, this handy feature makes the corrections WITHOUT you having to crop.  However, in CS4 and earlier versions, you  may find that the edges of your photo get a bit wonky. You can fix this by increasing the Scale settings in your dialogue box.  Depending on the size and the resolution of your photos and how much it had to be adjusted,  you can easily increase your scale setting 5-10%  without there being any distortion. If you need to adjust it anymore than that, I recommend you cropping the photo using the instructions I provided above!

There you have it! a quick and easy way to straighten your photos. Don't forget that you can use this method to straighten just about anything! I use it to straighten buildings and, when it comes to taking portraits, I use it to straighten different props, like the pillar in the photo of my daughter below.

I hope you find this tutorial handy in scrapping  your photos! After all, part of creating a gorgeous layout is scrapping gorgeous photos!

Have a GREAT week, and I will see you back here next Monday for another Photoshop tutorial!

Tamara