In this new tutorial, I will show you how to get those damn lines straight, first in Lightroom and then Photoshop.

I see a lot of drone images ruined by the fact that the horizon lines appear crooked and the vertical lines are not corrected. So today marks the end of this my friends. The world be a better place with straight drone images! The movement starts now! Ok, slightly getting ahead of myself here.

Anyway, let’s get the horizon straight in Lightroom. Easy.

 

Nothing screams like amateur a crooked horizon in a photo. We’ve all done it, but it couldn’t be simpler to straighten that line. Because of the gimbal not being calibrated or just being funny for a sec, you can end up with photos that appear crooked, or appear to lean on one side.

To change that in lightroom, you need to go into the Transform module. This is where the magic happens.

But first, you want to make sure you have the overlay, TOOL, TOOL OVERLAY, ALWAYS SHOW.

So now you can see what you are doing.

 

You want to click on lens correction first and click on REMOVE CHROMATIC ABERRATION (we will go through this in another tutorial) and tick ENABLE PROFILE CORRECTIONS.

Make sure the right lens DJI profile is selected. If it doesn’t appear automatically, click on make, and DJI and it should appear automatically.

 

Ok now into the TRANSFORM MODULE.

First, try AUTO and see what happens. In this picture, it works perfectly. I just have to select CONSTRAIN CROP and it adjusts the picture automatically.

Before

After

If this didn’t work, try the other options until one work. LEVEL will try to straighten the horizontal lines in priority, VERTICAL the vertical lines, FULL will do all of them (it rarely works for me). GUIDED you have to draw the lines yourself, ideally a horizontal and a vertical line to tell Lightroom where are the references point to try to straighten the image.

If none work, you can manually rotate the image using the ROTATE slider, I find that works better sometimes.

Here is the last option to do it yourself.

Click on the CROP OVERLAY click on the STRAIGHTEN TOOL. Then you can draw a line on the horizon line and it will straighten the entire image based on the line you have drawn.

Make sure you follow the line that should be straight. It works well for simple images with a clear horizon line, like the ocean.

 

Click ok (you might have to click on constrain image). And by magic your horizon is now straight. Great job, high five all around.

So I’ve shown you lots of different ways to get your images straight in Lightroom.

 

But sometimes, things aren’t so simple. Oh no, sir.

Let me introduce you to our last picture of Cinque Terre. If we look at the vertical lines, they are all over the place, looking like they are leaning towards the edges.

Here we need to understand something called ‘perspective distortion’ (Here’s a great article if you want to know more about it https://digital-photography-school.com/why-are-my-buildings-falling-over-a-short-guide-to-perspective-distortion-and-correction-in-photography/)

Long story short, cameras are designed to show straight lines, but only if the camera is pointed straight at the object (show video iPhone). As soon as the camera is tilted, looking up or down, the vertical convergence is changed, and the lines will start converging, like they all point inside of the centre of the photo or pointing outside.

This is a problem when we photograph things that should have straight lines, like buildings. It doesn’t look natural to have the walls of buildings fall off.

Lightroom is of little help here, whatever we do in the TRANSFORM module end up looking messy or cutting half of my image so we’ll have to go to photoshop to straighten those DAMN lines.

There are different ways to do this in Photoshop, I’ll show you two methods I use.

I need to caveat here that we will lose some parts of the picture. Correcting lines always result in having to crop further in the photo. It’s why it’s important to always shoot a little wider than you intend to so you have room to correct the lines without losing some important details. In this picture, for example,  I was already too close. So I’ll show you how to lose as little detail as possible.

 

First, duplicate your base layer. (CMD + J).

 

Go to VIEW select RULERS. So you can see what you are doing. Add rules by clicking on the ruler in the left bar and while holding you can position the ruler where a straight line should be.

 

Add as many as you feel necessary. To move then again, hold on to CMD before clicking on it.

Then go to EDIT > TRANSFORM > SKEW

Now move your top corners. For this image, I select the top right corner and move it to the left until the buildings in the centre appear straight. But that has pushed my image to the left. Now I need to do the same thing on the top left corner. While holding on it, I move the point to the right. You might have to readjust until all buildings are straight. Click on ok.

Now my buildings are straight BUT I’ve got a big problem, on both sides, if I crop to delete the parts of the images that look wrong, I lose almost half the picture.

 

By doing this, we’ve also got a very elongated picture. We can correct this by pressing CMD + T  to transform the image. And select the middle points on the left, extend it a little to the left, same with the right. We recover a lot of our images while making the buildings appear more natural. Don’t go all the way here, this will look strange.

 

There are two ways to finalise the correction this.

 

First one. Select a rectangle, around the corner to be fixed, going a little beyond the diagonal line. Then CMD +J  to create a new layer with only that part of the image selected.

Be careful not to select a building in your selection.

Click on EDIT > TRANSFORM > WARP

And playing with each point, you are going to try to extend the part of the image as to cover the part of the original image entirely. There is so much you can do here, stops when unnatural.

 

There is another way, less destructive which I prefer. It’s to use the stamp tool (shortcut S). Create a new layer and try to stamp the line away, blending the new picture and the original picture. Take multiple reference point by holding alt and clicking where you want to clone from. And blend away!

Using a stamp at opacity 100% and flow at 26% (do some test what works best for you), and a soft brush (0% hardness), I will try to paint the line away as to blend the new layer and the old one. Because there are no buildings in the corners I’m easily able to merge the lines this way, without destroying or further stretching my picture. (you might have to watch the video to see how I  do it).

You will always have some distortion still visible and lose some pixels here but it’s a vast improvement on what lightroom would have done!

As always, let me know if I’m missed anything, something isn’t clear or if you have a question. It’s a bit of work in Photoshop, but once you get used to it, it will become a second nature.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter to receive these tutorials before I post them on Youtube.

Fly safe!

jerome@masterdronephotography.com

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About Me

I'm Jerome, a French photographer based in London. I love drone photography, but know this can be challenging. My drone work last year was published in countless publications and website, and you can do too if you know the basis of photography and have decent editing skills. I wanted to create this website to teach you what I've learned to make your drone photos from meh to wow.