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When taking photos of buildings one of the challenges that confronts photographers is that of ‘Converging Verticals‘.
Converging Verticals is a term used to describe the effect in images when two parallel lines in an image (such as the two sides of a building) seem to get closer (converge) – as if they are leaning in towards one another at the top (as in the picture to the left which is of the Rialto towers in Melbourne – towers that don’t get narrower towards the top until the last few floors).
The effect is most noticeable when you angle your camera up when taking an image of a tall structure in an attempt to fit it all in. It’s particularly noticeable when using a wide angle lens.
Digital photographers have a number of options open to them.
1. Enhance it – as with all types of distortions in photography – one option is to enhance it and use the converging verticals to achieve a more dramatic image. You can enhance the converging lines but getting closer to the structure, angling your camera even more and by using wider angle lenses. Doing so can produce some pretty amazing results.
2. Minimize it – if you want to avoid the converging verticals in camera you will probably need to move further back from the structure that you’re photographing. This will decrease the angle that you need to hold the camera at. The more parallel you are when shooting the better. This will mean you will probably get more of the foreground in your end image – but you can always crop this later. Another strategy to get more parallel to the building is to take the shot from higher up. For example, if there’s another building opposite the one you are photographing you might want to explore if there’s an accessible point a few floors up where you can take your shot from.
3. Correct it – if you are unable to change the perspective that you are shooting from and just end up with converging lines in your shots another option is to do some post production editing. Most photo editing software will have some way of doing this. For example in Photoshop Elements there’s a ‘Transform – Perspective’ option in the ‘Image’ menu. This is how the image to the right had its converging verticals corrected.
4. Change Lenses – lastly, if you have a budget and will be taking a lot of architectural images you might like to invest in a special lens that has the ability to correct converging verticals. These Perspective Control/Tilt Shift lenses are able to move the lens axis (or optical centre) to compensate for the distortion. Such lenses are not cheap – so unless you’re going to be getting seriously into the photography of buildings you might want to use one of the other options stated above to fix the problem of converging verticals.