Straightening A Horizon by Kevin McNeal

Click On Video Above To See The Video Tutorial !!!!!

Until recently, trying to correct an uneven horizon in Photoshop was quite complex. This has all changed now with the new updates in Photoshop CS5. Now straightening a horizon is as easy as clicking a button. In this article I will discuss the many ways to correct a horizon in all different forms of Photoshop and Camera RAW.

The first way to straighten a horizon is in Adobe Camera RAW. If you shoot in RAW mode rather then JPEG’s you will have the option to correct the horizon immediately in the Camera Raw dialog box with the straighten tool found in the upper left. You can look for the straighten tool or press the keyboard shortcut A to access it. The Straighten tool can be found seven boxes to the left. Once you have selected the Straighten tool draw a line along something that should a straight in the image. Once you have drawn this line double-click within the image and the image will rotate and the horizon will have straightened out. At this point if you’re not happy with your straightening you can always re-edit the image by reusing the straighten tool until you’re happy with the edit. This method is the easiest and most straightforward way to straighten an image. For many people who cannot shoot in camera raw the straightening must be done in Photoshop itself. The following methods will describe how to achieve the same thing in Photoshop.

The first way to straighten a horizon in Photoshop is by using the Transform Tool. The Transform Tool can be accessed by the Edit Menu in the Applications Menu. But to get the Transform tool active you must first duplicate the background layer or the layer you intend to transform. To create a new layer above the background layer go to the top in the application menu under Layer and go to New>Layer Via Copy; or press the keyboard shortcut Command on a Mac or Control on Windows and the letter J. If you would like to name the layer either double click on the layer and rename it something like straighten so that it will make sense to you. The other option is to hold down the option key for Mac or Alt for Windows at the same time you duplicate a layer so that it goes directly to an open dialog box ready to label the layer. So the keyboard shortcut thus would be Command-Opt-J on a Mac or Ctrl-Alt-J on a Windows. This will place an exact duplicate layer above the background. Once this is done click on this layer to make it active. This is very important that this is the layer that is highlighted for the Transform tool to work. Now under Edit in the applications menu make your way down the list to Free Transform. The keyboard shortcut for this is Command T on a Mac or Ctrl T on Windows. This will get you to the Transform tool which places nine anchors around the image that allow the user to push, pull, distort, or warp the image to the liking of the user. In our case of straightening the horizon we want to pull on one of the corner anchors to level out the horizon. This procedure is often a trial and error to see which corner works best when leveling the horizon. Once you have the horizon straightened go ahead and click the check mark at the top in the options bar and this will go ahead and make the changes permanent. If you are not happy with your edits you can always go back and redo by Command Z on a Mac or Control Z on Windows. The Transform Tool can be tricky and take some time getting used to but it works for sure. Yes it is true that you are pushing pixels and thus are theoretically degrading the image to a slight degree but it is necessary to straighten the horizon. The other advantage of this is you do not have to crop the image to remove the extra edges if you were to rotate the image. If you use the Transform tool just to rotate the image so that horizon is now level then the boundary crop edges will be shown at a simple fix of cropping in will work.

The next option is for owners of Photoshop CS4 and before. This procedure is more complex but just as effective. This method involves using the ruler tool. Duplicate the layer as we did in the previous example. Now on the left side under the tools look for the ruler; The box for the ruler can be found six down underneath the crop tool. Click on this to get a fly out menu look for the ruler and click on it. Once you have selected the ruler find something in the image like a horizon and draw a line along it as in the example. But this time instead of using the transform tool, go to Image in the applications menu. From their go down to image rotation and click on the fly out menu and lastly click on arbitrary. This will bring up a dialog box called Rotate Canvas. Within this rotate canvas box a number will be highlighted. This highlighted number is the arbitrary mathematical number that needs to be rotated to straighten the horizon. So go ahead and press OK and watch the horizon rotate. This method will leave boundaries on the edges that need to be cropped. So draw a marquee within the outside edges and crop. Again this method involves pushing pixels but does straighten the horizon.

Lastly, this method is for users of Photoshop CS5. Photoshop CS5 has come out with a lot of good features for photographers. By far one of the most convenient is the new straighten tool. Rather then going to the complex procedures as described previously CS5 now provides a one click straighten button. To straighten the horizon, duplicate the layer as explained previously. Go down on the left side under tools to the ruler which should be six down under the crop tool again; click on the fly out menu and choose ruler. Again this time draw a line along something that you would like straight in the image. Horizons are always something I choose when using the ruler tool. Once you have drawn a line with a ruler tool go up to the options panel and look for the Straighten button. Just click on the button and the image straightens out and even crops for you.

That’s it–simple and quick! This new advancement in CS5 has really improved processing time as I am one of those photographers who can’t ever get the image straight in camera. I have provided a video tutorial as well to follow along with these directions. Hope you enjoyed this and if you have any questions please e-mail me.


~ by photocascadia on July 5, 2010.

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