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- The ethics of cleanup
- Reviewing the image
- Nondestructive cleanup
- Cleanup tools and techniques
- Removing strong color casts
- Gradient adjustments
- Extending the frame
- Using multiple exposures to remove subjects from an image
Skill Level Beginner
One thing you might not necessarily think of as being image cleanup is correcting for distortion caused by your position relative to a subject. In other words, perspective correction. When you're photographing a subject such as a building that's considerably taller than you, or where you're just at a little bit of an odd angle. One of the first things you'll want to do when you're capturing the image is to make sure you leave a little bit of room for the corrections that you apply later. For example you can see on either side of this church I've left a little bit of extra space, I've also left space above and below the church. I'm not terribly concerned about the overall composition. I'd probably crop a little bit off the bottom, perhaps a little bit off the top. But mostly I cropped a little bit loose in camera so that I have more room for my correction.
Because the transformations we'll apply are destructive. By virtue of the fact that they're stretching and skewing the overall appearance of the image. It's important to work on a duplicate copy of your image. So the first step is to drag the thumbnail for the background image layer down to the Create New Layer button. The blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will create a background copy which we can apply our transformations to. There's actually a filter in photoshop that's designed to compensate for lens distortion, among other things. And you can also use it to apply some correction for perspecive. But I find that it often doesn't give me quite the level of control that I like. That filter is called Lens correction, you'll find it on the Filter menu. I'll go ahead and launch it here.
You'll see that there are some automatic corrections available based on the speicific camera and lens you were using. But I generally look to the Custom tab in order to for example adjust vertical perspective, in essence lean the building forward or away. When I'm working in this way, I'll make sure to turn on the Show grid check box. So that I can better evaluate when the results are looking good. We can also remove barrel or pincushion distortions, so in essence bulging the church outward or pinching it inward. And in some cases that will be necessary especially with a wide angled lens, for example.
But in this case I don't think I actually need to apply those corrections. And I want to exercise a little bit more control over the adjustments. In other words, over the direction in which I'm stretching and skewing the image. So I'm going to go ahead and click the Cancel button, and instead I'm going to choose Edit and then Free Transform from the menu. That will put the image into Transformation mode. You can see that I have handles here where I can adjust the size of the image, for example. I'm going to start off by turning on the grid display though on the View menu under Show and you can choose the Grid option.
You could also press Ctrl apostrophe on Windows or Cmd apostrophe on Macintosh to turn on the grid display. I'll go ahead a choose that menu Cmd and you can see now a grid. Overlaid on top of my image, which will make it much, much easier to evaluate the results as I'm working. In general, I think what I need to do here is to stretch out the top of the image to correct for perspective. But I think in this case, I need to correct one side more than the other. Looks like the right side needs to be stretched out a little bit more than the left side.
So I'm going to work on each side individually. I'll hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Cmd key on Macintosh, and then grab the top right-handle, the corner of the image. So that I can stretch just that corner without moving the other portions of the image. And I'll drag that outward a little bit. I could also drag the corner down or up as needed. In this case, though, I think for the most part I just need to stretch it outward in order to straighten out that right side of the church. That looks to be reasonably close, maybe a little bit further. Somewhere over there.
We'll call that good for the moment. I can then look at left side. Now keep in mind, as we adjust each side of the image it will affect the overall image. And so I'm going to need to return to the right side to fine tune things a little bit later. So I usually don't start right off the bat trying to get one side or the other absolutely perfect. But rather trying to get both sides to line up with each other, essentially. And so I can continue going back and forth between them, and we'll stretch that out a little bit. Move the right side over just a little bit more, and you can see that I'm continuing to fine-tune the result here.
It's actually looking, contrary to what I expected originally, like the right side needs a little less adjustment perhaps than the left side. But in any event, I can use that grid as my reference. I can also increase the overall size of the image as it were. I'm going to zoom out just a little bit here so that we can see some more area around the image. And then I'll grab the top of the image and drag that upward. Because I've stretched the image a little bit left and right. And that has caused the top to essentially shrink downward just a little bit as I'm applying those corrections.
I can also apply rotation as needed. I'm going to zoom in just a little bit so I can reference the grid lines here, and actually it looks like things are pretty darn straight. And this was a handheld shot so I'm impressed that I was able to get it as straight as it appears to be. But I could also if need be point my mouse outside the transformation box and then click and drag in order to rotate the image. But in this case I think I'll leave that set to the value of about 0 because I don't think I need any transforamtion whatsoever.
If you have a difficult time getting the rotation set to exactly a 0 degree angle. You can also always go up onto the options bar and specifiy a value of 0 for the degrees for that angle and then press enter to apply that change. I think that looks to be a pretty good adjustment, though, it looks like overall I have things pretty well straightened. So, I'm going to go ahead and click the Commit button up on the options bar in order to apply that transformation. I'll then choose View, Show, and then Grid to turn off that grid display and it looks like we have a much better result. Now, I do think however that I could still use just a little bit of barrel versus pin cushion distortion, I see a little bowing out on the sides of the building here.
So now that I will apply the transformation, I will go to the filter menu and choose Lens correction. I'll turn on the quick display so that I can better reference the actual effect in the image. I am going to turn off Geometric distortion, I have already applied my adjustments with transformation. And so I don't want any additional adjustments applied here I'm also going to turn off Auto scale. And then on the Custom tab, I'll adjust the, Remove Distortion slider so again, I can bulge or pinch the image. And in this case just pinching it in just a little bit. Right about there looks to be a good setting. I'll go ahead and click OK.
And now we have a greatly improved result. I'll go ahead and turn off the background copy. And then turn the background copy back on, and you can see a rather significant difference between the two. Now, keep in mind I do recommend adding a little bit of extra space. And you can see the building on the left, for example, has largely disappeared after applying these corrections. And that's part of the reason that we leave that extra space when capturing a subject where we know we're going to need to apply some corrections after the fact. In this case though, I think I still need to crop.
I have a little bit of a sliver of that building, and I would like to tighten things up just a little bit on the bottom. So I'll go ahead and choose my Crop tool. And then I will fine tune, the cropping. I'll bring that edge inward just a little bit, and bring the right edge in just to match, trying to get the exact same degree of cropping on both sides. I think I would like to bring that bottom edge up just a little bit. And that looks to be a pretty good result. I'll go ahead and apply that crop. And it looks like we now have a much improved result. A better image based on these corrections allowing us to correct the perspective. So that the lines that should be straight appear straight in the photo.