The No-Fuss Way to Straighten Your Horizons in Photoshop

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The No-Fuss Way to Straighten Your Horizons in Photoshop

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No matter what type of photography you create, nothing screams “snapshot” more than an off-kilter horizon. This is especially true for landscape images where sloping horizons, even if just a few degrees off, distract from all your painstaking composition and patience for the right light. Unless your viewers can tell that you’ve shot at an extreme angle on purpose, the horizons in your images need to be horizontal.

An off kilter horizon, not a pretty sight.

An off-kilter horizon, not a pretty sight.

If you weren’t able to get your horizon straight in camera, when you shot (because the ferry chain jerked big time right as I clicked the shutter in this shot!) you can relax – there is an easy ,and accurate way to do this in Photoshop.

The One-click Tool for Straightening the Horizon

The Photoshop Toolbox palette is a wondrous and often confusing place. Just like your old grandpa’s toolbox, it contains many mysterious things, many that rarely get used. But let me introduce you to the simple Ruler Tool. What would a tool box be after all, without a ruler?

The Ruler is “conveniently” hidden in the Eyedropper fly-out menu in the Tool Box Palette.

Untitled-1 ruler

Now let’s see how easy this horizon straightening job is with the right tool. With your image open, and the Ruler Tool selected, drag the ruler along the crooked horizon.

rulertoolinaction

No go to the Image>Image Rotation menu and select Arbitrary. Accept the default angle and hit OK.

rotate

You’ll see your horizon is now straight. All you need to do now is crop.

straight

Here’s a short video of this in action so you can see how quick and easy it is:

Have you got any other super quick methods?

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Alex Morrison is a professional fine art and nature photographer, accredited by The Professional Photographers of Canada. She was the Canadian Photographic Artist of the Year in 2009. She teaches photography, runs workshops and online classes on fine art and nature photography, as well as infrared and iphone photography. Her educational website with photography tips is at nature-photography-central.com. View her art photography portfolio here. Alex has a coupon code for her Infrared Post Processing e-book, use DPSTKS to save $12.00.

  • It is even faster to straighten the horizon in Lightroom using the icon to the left of the straighten slider and you can check the constrain crop box so that the first crop is on the house. Lay the ruler across the horizon and the rest is all automatic. The proceed to edit in PS as per usual.

  • J. Adam Sowers

    What about selecting the crop tool, cmd+click and dragging along the horizon? That’s way faster, and has the advantage of being in crop mode so if you need to make any other adjustments you can do them at the same time.

  • ROF

    Why not just click on “Straighten Layer” after using the ruler tool instead of going into the menu?

  • Chardphoto

    Yep! J. Adam Sowers is right on with this one. Command + Click and Drag when in the crop tool is WAAAAAAY faster!

  • Lowell Peabody

    Straightening in Camera RAW, under lens corrections / manual / rotation, is not only easy you don’t have to crop afterwards. Just need to adjust scale if anything.

  • David

    Right. There are multiple ways to do so many things in both Photoshop and Lightroom. This is a new one to me! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate your taking the time and will promote you accordingly 🙂

  • Ashley Scott

    It might just be me but, your photo opens in Camera Raw ( we all shot raw files anyway ). Click the spirit level icon, draw along the horizon and press enter. No need to crop and you only need to click on one button

  • freeopinions

    Actually, this is an old one. The ruler was the straighten tool in earlier versions.

  • This is a good one. There is another simpler one too. Open in Adobe click on top menu bar> Image>Image rotation and you can turn it either way till its stright.

  • thenaturephotog

    Yes, this is another good one. thanks for adding it to the list!

  • thenaturephotog

    This one only works if you are on a layer, if you’re still on your background it’s not an option. You could double click the background to make it a layer though.

  • thenaturephotog

    Hi Siva, thanks for this tip. For me I never know if my adjustments are in fact level so that’s why I like the ruler tool. But like all other good software there are many ways to do the same task, depending on your preferences, workflow and time.

  • thenaturephotog

    This is a good tip for Lightroom users. Thanks for sharing it. For those that don’t use Lightroom, there are a few alternative ways in Photoshop that readers have submitted here as well.

  • Awesome!!! Absolutely great tool, thank you!!

  • Kurt Breakpoint Charlie

    How about getting it right in the first place? Many cameras have virtual horizons or in-viewfinder levels.

  • Ola

    I open my photos in RAW mode. There is also quick tool to straighten the picture and it get crop at the same time.

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