How to Overcome the Problem of Converging Verticals

How to Overcome the Problem of Converging Verticals


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.

So what should a photographer do about converging verticals?

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.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Twila December 17, 2012 12:06 pm

    Nice response in return of this query with real arguments and explaining everything about that.

  • Mark September 28, 2007 03:06 am

    I don't see it as a problem, while I can't say I like the first picture that much - mainly because its subject matter is hardly interesting - the second one looks flat and boring.

  • wade August 10, 2007 02:02 pm

    there is a program called photo stich. it allows you to take two photos and merge them together. most people use it for panning scenery, that way you can get all the scene into one picture with the computer.

    instead of getting close and using a sharp angle to fit it all in, back up, take the picture. load them into photostitch, and them merge them together.
    it's complicated, but it works.

  • Maria June 27, 2007 09:45 pm

    This is a handy tip as I am currently trying to edit my photos taken of Venice. Majority of my photos have this problem... I should of shot more parallel and then cropped. I can now have a go at correcting in photoshop.

  • PhotoBump June 23, 2007 08:55 am

    Thanks for the tips ;) I always had this problem.

  • Beth June 23, 2007 07:27 am

    I'm all about tip #1! Sometimes (as ahref="">here I'll also align the long axis of the shot along one line that is not a perfect horizontal or vertical, to emphasize convergences and odd angles even more.

    We forget when we look at pictures that the human eye does a lot of auto-correction for convergences - we don't notice them when looking at a scene with a lot of straight lines unless we stop to look for them, but we do pick out interesting angles, tilt our heads, scan from side to side to take in a whole view, and often not even realize we're doing it. It's more fun, easier (for me at least) and, I think, more honest, to compose a picture that plays on the ways we actually look at things than to make it look the way we expect it to.

    That's not to say that the other tips aren't valid - the second picture is a nice, even composition, and for a lot of purposes it's the only really appropriate treatment, but it wouldn't fit into my body of work in any way.

  • John Pozadzides June 23, 2007 01:47 am

    I'm sorry to report, but I was disappointed with this article.

    This article for me did not live up to the title. I was hoping for some actual detail, but it was so general that I learned nothing from it, and I don't feel like I've got any additional information to advance my skills further.

    As a few examples:
    - When you say "enhance it" why not give us some idea of what you mean? Show me a "control" photo and then show me an "enhanced" photo.

    - Same thing with "minimize it". Show me multiple photos of a subject from the angles you are talking about so I can actually see what you mean.

    - When you say "correct it", why not at least pick one program and give some specific details about where the option is found and perhaps a before and after photo?

    - Finally, why would you recommend changing lenses without giving a couple examples of lenses that do what you are talking about? How about a link or something? I don't have the slightest idea what lenses you are talking about, how they work, or where to find them.

    Generally speaking, I'm a fan of the site, a regular subscriber and reader, and I've even blogged about it. But articles like this just lack the kind of detail that I think we need to see, and therefore just leave me frustrated.


  • Vince June 23, 2007 12:46 am

    Thanks Jerry, the ShiftN tool is really great!!

  • Reggie June 22, 2007 11:20 pm

    I use PTLens for correcting perspective and lens distortion simultaneously. It is available as a stand-alone program or a plug-in to PhotoShop and PaintShopPro. I believe it is also included as part of the Bibble raw convertor.

    PTLens allows you to place a grid over your photo and adjust vertical perspective, horizontal perspective and the rotation of the image.

    Note also that the vertical in the centre of an image should be vertical on the photo - this is a useful tip for getting the horizon level.

    One photographer who often corrects for perspective is Sam Javanrouh at daily dose of imagery. One of his techniques is to take multiple photos and stitch them together.

  • Tim June 22, 2007 05:07 pm

    I know this might be anathema on a digital phtography site, but a second hand large format camera and lens (which easily overcomes the perspective distortion issue) is cheaper than a tilt-shift / perspective control lens for a modern SLR. Of course, it's also far less portable.

  • Lia June 22, 2007 03:57 pm

    I use the transform -> skew tool in Photoshop (got the tip from a flickr-buddy :)) and it is working great for even a bloody beginner like me :)

  • Jerry F June 22, 2007 10:57 am

    There is a free program called ShiftN (google it) that does this perspective correction automatically.

  • Jacq June 22, 2007 10:06 am

    Per Andrew's comment about being behind glass: also prepare for the possibility that the windows might not be clean! I've a had a few urban shots from higher floors ruined by grungy windows that can't be cleaned from the inside.

  • Rob June 22, 2007 09:34 am

    In a pinch you can also align the plane of your film/sensor with the target your are photographing. This will minimize convergence (but also leave you with some cropping to be done as you'll likely have the center of the photo being eye-height in front of you). To think more about this read up on how view cameras work.

  • Andrew June 22, 2007 09:30 am

    I came here to say exactly what Ian said, only to find that he had already said it.

    Wonderful example of "I don't know how to use HDR properly!"

  • Brian Auer June 22, 2007 07:43 am

    I tend to go with the "Enhance It" approach since it can give some really crazy results -- especially with a 10mm lens!

  • Joel June 22, 2007 05:46 am

    It should be mentioned that when trying to get vertical lines to be, well, vertical, you're also fighting other factors such as barrel distortion (or pincusion distortion in some cases), camera tilt and sometimes unwanted horizontal convergence (if you want to get a building "elevation"). If you want that elevation shot, like the second pic, be very mindful of standing perfectly square to the building face you're photographing. Photoshop's Transform tool is a bit more flexible than the perspective correction tool for some of these problems. There is also software out there that generally does a better job of correcting for all these things than Photoshop.

  • mdwsta4 June 22, 2007 04:51 am

    ugh. some people take HDR, the 'dave hill' look, and photoshop to another level. that first picture is absolutely terrible. put it in a computer magazine, not a photography blog.

    good article tho

  • Andrew Ferguson June 22, 2007 03:07 am

    I find that in most major cities, it's pretty easy to find at least one accessible point on the opposite building to take a photo.

    Unfortunately, you may be behind glass so you'll have to get right up against it to compensate.

    You may also want to use a wider lens, since you're directly across the street now.

    I keep looking at the first shot and I think part of what's drawing me to it is all the horizontal lines in the older foreground architecture offsetting the verticals in the skyscraper at the back.

    This could be another way to overcome converging verticals.

  • ian June 22, 2007 02:19 am

    good tips.

    first image could be used for an article on "when hdr goes wrong"