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Architectural photography is vulnerable to some extreme flaws and distortions, many of which go unnoticed by amateurs. Here’s what to watch out for and how to fix it. 

Architectural Photography 101: Distortions to watch out for

Architectural photography is one of the most exciting subjects to shoot in photography if you love geometry, forms, and architecture. But it’s often problematic.

Scrolling through Unsplash recently for some images to use for my site, I noticed a lot of photographs that had the same kind of distortion. Shooting architecture implies shooting lines and it’s the lines in your photograph that need to be an accurate representation of reality, or at least as accurate as possible. These lines and buildings, unfortunately, are often distorted because of either the lens or where you are standing.

It’s not always possible to correct every distortion if it’s extreme, but it’s good to at least know what to be aware of so that you fix it. Being aware of this tiny yet significant distortion will go a long ways towards taking your images to the next level.

Vertical Distortion Examples

The most common distortion I see with architecture is something called vertical distortion. So many amateur photographers do this and yet, it’s pretty easy to correct by simply doing a little editing in Lightroom or Photoshop and then just being aware of this problem.

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Example 1: The Before

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This nice picture of Trump Tower is suffering from a serious case of vertical distortion. As you can see, the buildings and everything in the photograph is leaning backward. This is a super obvious example and yet, it went unnoticed.

The after

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After some minor editing in Lightroom, I evened out the horizon of the image and corrected most of the tilt of the building. Unfortunately, this required a crop at the end to straighten everything up. It’s definitely not perfect but it’s a lot straighter.

Solve the problem in Lightroom

It’s quite easy to fix the problem in Lightroom. Just go into the Lens Correction tab under your Develop settings and play with the manual settings until you can find something that works while playing with the sliders.

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Example # 2 closer subjects

The Before

This example is much more subtle and the subject is much closer to the lens. The lines of the column are tilting back ever so slightly. This is much easier to fix in Lightroom and it requires a much less dramatic edit.

This example below is actually reverse. I took the original photograph below it and distorted it in Lightroom to show what a subtle distortion looks like. The original photograph below is actually really good. But, this photograph is slightly tilted backward.

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The After

Here below, you can see that the column and the lines are vertical, directly facing the viewer with no slant backwards or curvature along the lines. Pretty solid overall.

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Example 3: The before

This gorgeous photograph is nice except there’s a subtle distortion with the bridge. Can you see how the bridge ever so slightly leans backwards? It’s a subtle yet obvious distortion.

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Using Lightroom, you can easily tweak the Lens Correction sliders and tilt the photograph to be more level. It’s so subtle but significant.

The after

It’s not a massive change, but the bridge is a little more level.

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It’s the small things that add up in photography so being aware of these issues is the first step towards taking your images to the next level.

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