How to Use Lightroom's Perspective Tools
Lightroom is so packed with features you can use to improve your photos that it’s easy to miss some good ones. The perspective correction tools in Lightroom’s Transform panel is tucked away toward the bottom of the panels, but it’s well worth the scroll to use it. If you haven’t tried this tool yet, read on to learn how it can improve your photography.
Why You Need Perspective Correction
Certain photography scenarios can introduce perspective aberrations that make your whole image feel “off.” For instance, if you shoot upward at a building, lines like doors and windows can become skewed. Or, if a whole building is showing, like in the case of a skyline or an outdoor architectural shot, buildings can look like they’re tipping backward. This effect is called “keystoning.” Wide-angle lenses, in particular, are prone to issues like this.
Perspective Correction can take your contorted photo and elevate it to a whole new level. Perspective control can make or break a line-heavy photo, and learning to use Lightroom’s Transform tools can make all the difference.
How To Use Lightroom’s Perspective Correction
You can find Lightroom’s Transform panel third from the bottom in the Develop module. In the panel, you’ll find a set of buttons and sliders. The buttons make automatic adjustments based on lines that Lightroom can detect in the scene, and the sliders are for manual adjustments. Most of the time, you can get by using just the buttons.
When you use the Auto button, Lightroom analyzes the photo, takes its best guess at how the lines should look, and adjusts accordingly. Pressing the Level button will tell Lightroom to find the horizon, if it can, and level the photo horizontally. The Vertical button finds verticals in the picture and corrects the vertical perspective only. The Full button will find vertical and horizontal lines in the photo and try to make them all straight.
More often than not, the “auto” button will do the job. With any of the previously mentioned buttons, though, Lightroom can become confused by the lines in the photo and either not apply any changes or do something totally off the wall and not what you wanted it to do. For those cases, there are two things you can do to address the perspective issues in your image.
There is another button that I hadn’t mentioned yet, and that’s the Guided button. When you choose the Guided button, you can use guidelines to tell Lightroom which parts of the photo you want it to look at for perspective correction. After pressing the button, hovering your cursor over your photo will show a loupe and a crosshair cursor. The loupe helps you see exactly where you’re placing the guides, so you can click with the crosshair to draw lines for Lightroom to analyze.
Finally, there are the sliders below the buttons. When Lightroom can’t figure it out on its own (or with your help using the Guided tool), you can turn to these sliders to make custom perspective corrections. You can also use this in conjunction with the more automated adjustments. If “Auto” is super close but not quite there, you can find the slider that matches the quality that still looks wrong and make minute adjustments.
When you’re fixing perspective with the Transform panel in Lightroom, sometimes major adjustments will transform the photo in ways that leave blank canvas space around the edges. One click will fix this - check the “Constrain Crop” box at the bottom of the panel. This will automatically crop the image so that the blank area is out of the frame.
Integrating With Photoshop
Sometimes after adjusting for perspective and cropping, you can lose something near the edge of the frame that was important to the image. If the areas you’d like to bring back aren’t too complicated, you can easily use Photoshop to fill blank spaces and keep the essential element.
After applying perspective corrections, use the “scale” slider from the manual adjustment section of the Transform panel to make the photo smaller on the canvas so you can recover the portion of the image that ended up outside the frame and see what you need to replace in Photoshop.
Then, right-click your image and choose Edit In > Edit In Adobe Photoshop to bring your image into Photoshop. Once you’re there, there are a few methods you can try. If the area you need to re-create is very simple looking, Content-Aware Fill can do a great job. To use Content-Aware Fill, select the blank space and navigate to Edit > Content-Aware Fill.
You can also use the heal and clone tools for a less automated approach, which can be useful if the part of the image you are working on is too complex for Content-Aware Fill to do a good job.
For a perfect example of an edit like this, skip to 19:23 in the video in this article! Watch the whole video to see several great examples of how to use Lightroom’s perspective correction tools to make your images stand out in the crowd.