When you take a photograph, it’s not always easy to get that horizon line straight. Any small variance in your posture can tip it off to one side, and it isn’t easy to eyeball it in camera. Instead, you can straighten the image later, when you get it into your editing software.
Depending on which post-production program you prefer to use, we’ve got a full guide here on how to get it done. Find the one that you like best, and get going!
Straighten Your Image in Photoshop
Straightening an image in Photoshop is pretty easy, because the software itself takes a lot of the pressure out of the operation. You don’t have to worry about getting the line right: there’s an easy method which means you are almost guaranteed to do so.
Start by using the ruler tool. This is found in the toolbar to your left-hand side of the screen. If you can’t find it, it’s in the same menu as your eyedropper. Hold-click on the eyedropper until the options pop up, and then select ‘Ruler’.
Now, using the ruler, draw a straight line across the screen. It’s easiest to use your horizon line, or any other line that you want to appear straight, and just draw across the top of it. Click once to start the line, then hold and drag to where you want it to finish.
If you aren’t satisfied that your line is in the right place, you don’t have to redraw it completely. Click on the line or either of the end points and you can move it around to where you want it.
Now, at the top of your screen, you will see an option that says, ‘Straighten Layer’. Click on this. It will rotate your image within the canvas so that it ends up with the line that you drew straight across the screen.
You will probably end up with some blank areas on your canvas, and with some of the parts of your image now disappearing off the edge of your canvas. You can use the move tool to drag your layer around to where you want it, and then the crop tool to take off those blank areas. You will lose some of your image in the process – this is why it is important to try to get the horizon line as straight as possible before you start.
There are other options for rotating your layer manually, using the ‘Move’ tool – an image of a mouse pointer with a movement symbol beside it. When you move your mouse to the corners of your image, your mouse cursor will change to a curved line that has arrows on either end. Click and drag now to rotate your image by hand.
This may be less accurate than using the straighten tool, but gives you more control if you don’t have a clear horizon line.
Straightening in Photoshop Elements
First up, make sure that you’re in Full Photo Edit mode. Now you will see ‘Straighten’ in the tools menu – or you can just press ‘P’ for an easy shortcut. Now you will see a number of Canvas Options coming up on the options bar, as follows:
- Grow or Shrink Canvas to Fit – this will rotate the image and then either grow or shrink the canvas to accommodate the new total image area. You will most likely have to do some cropping later.
- Crop to Remove Background – this option will cut off the parts of the background which move outside of your canvas area. This skips the cropping step needed above, but means you have less control over the trimming.
- Crop to Original Size – this option moves your image within the existing background canvas without trimming it off or growing it, so your actual image may end up a little smaller.
Make sure that you also use ‘Select All Layers’ if your image has multiple layers that you need to move at the same time.
Now, finally, draw a straight line across your image where you want the horizon to sit. Your image will be straightened according to your preferences.
Straighten Your Image in Lightroom
The technique for straightening an image in Lightroom is also very simple. One option is to go into your Develop screen and then scroll down on the right-hand panel to Lens Corrections. Under the Manual tab, you will find the option to rotate your image. You can manually adjust it to where you want it, and then crop off the excess using the same panel.
The other option is to use the ‘Crop Overlay’ which is available in the right-hand panel, right at the top. You will see an image of a box with a grid over the top of it – click on this and some more tools will appear.
One of these looks like a ruler. Hover your mouse over it, and it will be labelled ‘Straighten Tool’. Select this option, then click and drag your mouse over your horizon line. Lightroom will calculate how much rotation is needed to get your image straight to that line, and will move it for you. You can then change the angle later using the slider if you change your mind.
Make sure that you hit enter, or click on the ‘Crop Overlay’ symbol again, in order to leave this editing mode and get back to all of your usual tools.
Remember that no matter what method you make, you have to either lose part of your image or cope with areas at the corners which do not contain any information. This means it is important to try to get it right in-camera as much as possible, or to stand back a little and take a wider photo so that you can afford to lose the edges of your frame.
What other burning questions do you have about editing your photographs with Photoshop, Lightroom, or Photoshop Elements? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them! Better yet, learn everything you need to know about photography and editing inside the Summerana Academy!