How to Straighten a Crooked Image in Photoshop (Step By Step)

A crooked horizon can easily ruin an otherwise beautiful photo. Luckily, Photoshop CC has a few quick and easy ways to fix your skewed files — and in this article, I’m sharing my favorite.

So whether you’re shooting landscapes, architecture, street scenes, or even portraits, read on to learn about my simple, step-by-step process for straightening a crooked image in Photoshop!

How to Straighten a Crooked Image in Photoshop: The Basics

Fixing a crooked horizon in Photoshop may seem difficult, but it’s actually quite easy. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Identify a reference line

If you want to get the best results when straightening your image, before doing the Photoshop magic, just open your photo and then analyze it carefully.

Try to find a part of the image with a clear horizontal or vertical line. In other words, identify a domain that should be perfectly horizontal or vertical; that way you can use it as a reference when straightening the shot.

Here are some common horizontal reference lines:

  • The horizon line along a lake or ocean
  • The horizon line along a grassy plain or desert
  • The top of a building
  • The top or bottom of a building window
  • Rows of bricks along a building
  • The line of a road or sidewalk

And here are some common vertical reference lines:

  • A telephone pole
  • The side of a building
  • The edge of a window
  • A street sign

Note that you do not need everything of these reference lines to appear in your image. For easy straightening, you only need one!

For this example image, I could use either the edge of the field or a tree:

how to straighten a crooked image in photoshop

Step 2: select the crop tool

The easiest way to straighten a photo is to use the Crop tool, which you can find in the toolbar. By default, the toolbar is on the left side of the interface:

the crop tool in photoshop

If you don’t see the Crop tool, you’re probably in the wrong workspace. Select Window>Workspacethen choose either Essential Where Photography.

workspace verification

Step 3: Select the Straighten tool

Now that you’ve activated the Crop tool, check out the tools menu at the top of the interface. You should see a set of culture-specific options, such as Report, Remove cropped pixelsand a bit practical To sort out icon (it looks like a ruler).

straightening icon

Click the Straighten icon, then:

Step 4: Drag the tool over your reference line

The Straighten tool is designed to be easy to use: you draw it on a line supposed be straight, then Photoshop will do the smoothing for you.

So find the reference line that I encouraged you to determine in step 1, then drag the Straighten tool!

how to straighten a crooked image in photoshop by dragging the straighten tool

(Pro tip: The farther you drag the straighten tool, the easier it is to align it with the reference line. In other words, farther is better!)

Finally, release the Straighten tool. Watch as Photoshop automatically straightens your image, then take a look. If the image still looks crooked, you can always drag the Straighten tool a second time, or you can click and drag along the corner of the image.

On the other hand, if the image Is look straight, then you’re done! Tap the checkmark at the top of the screen and save your photo!

When should you straighten a crooked image?

In general, twisted images look bad. If you notice a clear, crooked skyline or a crooked building, it’s a good idea to straighten it out, because while casual viewers won’t always notice the problem, they will. feel that something is wrong.

However, there are times when you can use the twist for artistic effect. Flower photographers sometimes tilt the camera to highlight the long stems. Street and architectural photographers sometimes tilt the camera to add a sense of immediacy to the scene or to fill the frame with the subject.

a twisted image of a clock tower

In the end, if you notice a crooked horizon but aren’t sure you want to fix it, that’s okay! Maybe try to straighten it, then compare the before and after. See what you think. There is nothing wrong with experimenting!

One more thing :

If your image has several bright vertical horizontal lines and you’re shooting at an angle, you might end up with a seemingly crooked scene. simply because the lines converge in the distancelike that:

an image with converging horizontal lines

This is due to perspective distortion, not a tilted camera, and so you can either:

  1. Use Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter to transform the image and remove converging horizontals.
  2. Embrace the converging lines and leave the image unstraightened.

Of course, you can also straighten the image using the method I shared above, but you’ll need to pick a horizontal line to target (because they converge, you can’t straighten them all!). You can also try using a vertical reference line; no, the horizontal lines won’t look perfectly straight, but the overall effect will be more natural.

The problem with straightening photos in Photoshop

As I pointed out above, doing smoothing work in Photoshop isn’t difficult or time-consuming. However, this poses a problem:

Each time you straighten an image, you to lose pixels (and you risk losing key compositional elements in the process).

Why? Because Photoshop crops the straightened image to eliminate white space along its edges.

This is unavoidable when straightening your files, and that’s why it’s always better to get the right image in the camera. (Buying a small shoe level or using the level on your tripod can make a big difference!)

Another recommendation:

If you think your next shot will need to be straightened – because you’re having trouble straightening the camera or because you’re shooting from an awkward position – leave some extra space around the composition. This way, when you go to straighten the photo in Photoshop, you won’t cut out any essential elements.

How to Straighten a Crooked Image in Photoshop: Final Words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know how to straighten your images – and you know when you should (or shouldn’t!) apply a smoothing solution.

So go practice. Find images that need straightening, then try out the method I shared! It is guaranteed to improve your shots.

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