Lonestardigital Banner

Digital Photography
Opinions, Observations,
Articles, Insights, and Tutorials

Crooked Pictures?

Here's how to straighten & crop good scenes
from bad compositions & tilted camera angles.

Software required: Adobe Photoshop

This picture, top heavy and tilted to the left, was taken while holding my D1X high above my head (shooting blind). I frequently shoot this way because it gives a different perspective than the standard "pedestrian" view. I get lots of bad shots mixed in with the good ones, but what the heck... they're digital, so it's easy to delete the really bad ones. More often than not, there's a clean picture floating around somewhere inside the borders.

Objective: Straighten the picture out and crop it to a balanced looking scene
while retaining enough size for a good print.

Rotate & Crop 2

First Stage: Straighten the picture out. There are a few ways to do this, here's my
favorite method. (Thanks to reader Craig Tiscareno for showing me this particular
technique.) Choose the "Measure Tool" from the main toolbar.

Rotate & Crop 3

Drag the Measure Tool cursor across the desired "level line". It will hold & leave a trail
as you drag for accurate positioning. (I've added notes to show the starting & ending
points to help you see the line I drew with the cursor.)

Rotate & Crop 4

Click on "Image / Rotate Canvas / Arbitrary..."

Rotate & Crop 5

The "Rotate Canvas" box will appear automatically showing the exact angle you've drawn.

Rotate & Crop 6

Click on the "OK" box, and the picture will shift to your level line (and the cursor line
disappears). The borders are now slanted, but the picture inside the borders is straight.

Rotate & Crop 7

The Second stage: Cropping time.

The crop tool is selected by clicking on the box at the top left of the main toolbar. The cropping style, width, and height options are now available. To keep it simple, I usually choose "constrained aspect ratio", which locks in the proportions as I drag the cursor over the area I want to crop. An entry of "3" Width and "2" Height yields the proportions for a standard 4" x 6" print.

Rotate & Crop 8

After you've selected the size of the area to crop, click on the "Crop" command. The area
outside the selection will be cropped away.

Rotate & Crop 9

Here's the crop: Presto! A straight picture with straight borders.

Rotate & Crop 10

Check the size: Be sure you have enough to work with. In this case, the crop turned out
virtually perfect for a 4" x6", 300 ppi print. (By the way, 300 ppi is "ideal" resolution for
a photo print.)

Rotate & Crop 11

Objective achieved: A well balanced scene of a couple of ranchers "talking shop" about their livestock. And the 4"x 6" print from the 1878 x 1252 pixel crop turned out perfect.