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A True Perspective: Photographing Buildings

In some ways the wide angle end of a digital camera’s zoom lens can be more of a disadvantage than a help, especially when it comes to shooting subjects that are straight up and down. Like buildings.

So you stand on the street, line up the picture, try to get all of the building into the frame and you often find you have to tilt the camera upwards to get it all in. Oh! Oh!

City Buildings.jpg

So of course, the laws of optics intrude — bigtime! — and you get perspective distortion.

At this point it’s of no help to point out that some guys and girls with their ultra-smart SLRs can slap on a special perspective control lens to fix the distortion. No help! And besides, have you checked out the price of these specialist lenses?

So back to your digital camera. And you shoot the shot. You get home, download the shot — and all the verticals are leaning. But it’s nice to know that the fix for your vertical woes is waiting for you — right in your computer, with the help of some image manipulation software.

Most image editing programs offer a perspective or distortion control effect. So you have only to open the image of the building in that program, select the effect — and do your business.

City buildings corrected.jpg

Tricks of the Trade

Be careful. Don’t overdo it. Take some care when applying perspective change; don’t leave the picture looking more distorted than it began.

When shooting a building, try to shoot from as elevated a camera position as you can find. The benefit will be less work later in software.

When shooting the original picture and knowing that you will alter the perspective later in software, allow a little more room around the edges of the picture, so you have working room when the sides are pinched in. The shot used in this exercise was shot a little too closely; the final, corrected image is narrow as a result. The sharp-eyed will notice that there is also a little distortion on the edge of the left building as it bows out; that’s in the shot, caused by the wide angle of the zoom. The good news is that this can be removed — to some degree — with the Spherize filter in Photoshop.

Read more on this topic at How to Overcome the Problem of Converging Verticals

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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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