Tips For Better Interior Photography – Straightening and Aligning Lines

jestcafe.com---ORC-wk6-1If you want to take good interior photography, you need to master the art of getting straight lines.

What do I mean by straight lines?

Well, it is very simple: Main horizontal lines should actually be horizontal and main vertical lines should actually be vertical.  Also, main lines should be parallel to each other, meaning that vertical lines should be parallel to other important vertical lines in the photo – the same goes for horizontal lines. For example, the ceiling line should look horizontal in your photo AND parallel to other horizontal lines like your floor (see above), unless you are taking your photo sideways.

A photo of a room with crooked lines does NOT look good. Here is an example of a very bad photo: jestcafe.com---ORC-week-2-4Do you see how bent this photo is? The ceiling and floor lines are all over the place. Same goes for the vertical lines.

Look how much better this shot is:jestcafe.com-how-to-install-wallpaper39

How easy is to take straight lines? Well, not super easy, but I can give you some tricks to start trying. Here are the steps you need to follow:

1) Vertical lines

Vertical lines depend on the camera being tilted up or down. Here is an example of a camera looking up (the red lines are vertical and represent the lines where you want your lines to be) :

jestcafe.com-interior photography24 This means that your camera is tilted up, so the vertical lines are skewed to the middle of the upper part of the frame. To adjust the vertical lines, tilt the camera down.

Now, here is what happens if your camera is tilted down too much:
jestcafe.com-straight-lines21The vertical lines are skewed again.

Once you find the right position where your camera is not tilted up nor down, this is the result:jestcafe.com-straight-lines23Perfect vertical lines that are also parallel to each other.

2) Horizontal lines

Something similar happens with horizontal lines. As we mentioned before, vertical lines change depending on your camera looking up or down. Horizontal lines, on the other hand, change depending on your camera being tilted left or right.

Here you can see what happens when your camera is tilted to the left. The horizontal lines are skewed.
jestcafe.com-straight-lines-22This is what happens when your camera is tilted to the right:jestcafe.com-straight-lines22And here is what happens when your camera is centered – not looking to the right nor left -:jestcafe.com-straight-lines23You get beautiful straight and parallel horizontal lines.

3) Centered camera

Sometimes, even if you do what I mentioned above, you get this result:
jestcafe.com-how-to-photograph-straight-lines10You get one line straight, but the other lines are crooked. That was the MOST typical and difficult situation to solve when I was taking photos for the One Room Challenge! I would get one line straight, but the others didn’t follow. It took me a while to understand that this happened because my camera was not centered! Your camera has to be centered to the object you are trying to photograph to be able to get parallel lines, if it is not, some lines won’t be straight.

4) Fix it in post

Sometimes, even when you try your best, you can’t get straight lines when taking a photo, especially when shooting buildings or larger spaces.

See the photo below (the red lines are true vertical and horizontal lines and show where you want your lines to be):
jestcafe.com--sample-non-straight-linesThe photo lines in this picture are totally crooked and not parallel… what to do? Well, Photoshop, of course!

Here are the steps you need to follow in Photoshop to fix this mishap:

a) Go to Filter/Lens correction. If you can’t open lens correction, you will need to create a copy of your background layer, but that was not necessary for me (I have Photoshop CS3, version 10.0).
jestcafe.com-straight-lines31b) After you select Lens Correction, you should see this window (I highlighted in red the two tabs you will be using to get straight lines):jestcafe.com-straight-lines32c) I started with the Horizontal Perspective tab. By moving this tab, you can adjust horizontal lines until you get them straight.
jestcafe.com-straight-lines33 d) After getting the horizontal lines straight (and hopefully parallel to each other), you can start playing with the vertical lines:jestcafe.com-straight-lines34e) Once you get the lines to the position you want, you need to press OK, and you will get an image similar to this:jestcafe.com-straight-lines35As you can see, Photoshop uses your older image to patch up empty spaces.  To fix this, you need to:

f) Crop your image jestcafe.com-straight-lines36g) Select the portion of your image you want to keep, and crop it:jestcafe.com-straight-lines37Here is the final result:
jestcafe.com-straight-lines30The lines are much, much better, and here is the proof:jestcafe.com-straight-lines-2Now the lines in the photo are vertical and horizontal and the picture looks much better, don’t you think?

I hope this tutorial helps you. I wish I knew this information before I started taking interior photography because it would have made my life so much easier.

Let me know if there are any other tricks out there I should know!

 

Also, some posts about my first week participating in the One Room challenge, tips to take better Instagram photos, and an interview with photographer that takes photos of abandoned buildings.

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9 replies
  1. Elise Xavier says:

    Great advice. & great explanations, too! Very clear, especially thanks to the images.

    Photoshop and the whole “Vertical Perspective” lens correction is a very smart way to fix line issues, but I usually don’t like distorting my images, probably because I’m too lazy. Instead, I’ll usually (and this is a way of doing things that probably doesn’t look near as good as the way you have suggested anyway) crop shots a bit closer so the image doesn’t look *so* uneven. I’ll align the crop so that the whitespace is about even on both sides, hopefully leaving quite a bit of whitespace on the ends (if you don’t have crooked lines right at the end it’s harder to spot them as being crooked since they’re not exactly next to the cut off of the image), and then make sure that the most prominent line (usually the middle one) is flush parallel by rotating left or right while cropping.

    Gave it a shot and this is what your original picture looked like cropped the way I’m trying to describe: http://i.imgur.com/3POu28T.jpg

    Not too shabby for a quick fix I don’t think. Hope that description made sense, though!

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      WHAT???!?!?! Elise, this is amazing! that photo looks as good as what I did in photoshop. Darn, girl. That is a great tip, especially when you are editing photos in simpler apps on your phone.
      I do crop my photos sometimes to loose lines that are not straight, but never thought about the whitespace and rotating the photo to make the main line parallel. very helpful, thanks!
      And I agree about not getting discouraged… photoshop takes practice and any photo can look good with the right post work.

      Reply
      • Elise Xavier says:

        Yeah you’re right. I don’t take phone pictures and edit them anymore (my new phone takes garbage pictures) but for that this would be particularly useful. Glad you actually understood what I was trying to say, lol! Was a bit worried there when I typed it all up. And hope that makes your life a bit easier in the future!

        Reply
  2. Elise Xavier says:

    Also wanted to say, the more you photograph and play around with images in photoshop, the more you get better at these things and become more pleased with the end result! So beginners should not get discouraged. It’s not just a talent thing, it’s very much a practice thing as well!

    Reply
  3. Carina says:

    Great tips – very useful. I think these tips are wonderful to apply when trying to take formal (especially interior) shots. Or when trying to capture a framed artwork. Looks more professional! Thanks! Of course, though, sometimes I do enjoy less-than-perfectly-straight lines (eg: when pictures are taken on site) and lines converge imperfectly, giving me a sense of where the photographer was standing when the moment was captured.

    Enjoyed the tutorial. 🙂

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      Yes, my friend was telling the same the other day. There is beauty in imperfection! I agree. And, to tell you the truth, until I learned about all these tricks and importance of straight lines, I didn’t even pay attention to the lines in a photo, but now that I know about them, they are all I can think about… oh well…

      Reply

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