Design Oahu

Web design blog from the middle of the pacific.

No Tripod? No worries!

This is a quick tip for Photoshop users that want to level out the horizon in a photo, most likely you shot without a tripod. This will not help to improve your blurry picture from your shaky hands, but it will quickly get the horizon perfectly horizontal. I rarely shoot with a tripod, as I just take casual photos, which means that a lot of the time my pictures are tilted. Originally I used the Image->Rotate Canvas->Arbitrary and would just keep trying new rotations until I got it as close as possible. Then I figured out that I can just Transform (Ctrl+T) and eyeball it out, however I now make use of the Lens Correction Filter which will make the horizon perfectly level. I use the highest quality setting on my camera (5.1 Mega Pixels) which gives me a 2580 x 1932 image. Do not scale it down to the size you want just yet as you will need to crop the image to compensate for the blank corners when the image is rotated. After that you can scale down your image to the size you want. Here is our original image at the top of the hill at Waimea on the North Shore of Oahu.
Waimea Unedited
Now go to Filter->Distort->Lens Correction. I prefer to uncheck the default Grid that appears at the bottom so I can see the image more clearly. Select the Straighten Tool (A) on the left sidebar. You do not need to mess with any of the settings on the right. Now click right on your horizon reference point on one side and drag to the other side.
Lens Correction Setup
When you let go the image will be repositioned correctly with the correct amount of rotation.
Missing Corners
Now you see what I mentioned earlier about the corners missing after the rotation. Just click on the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and select the portion to keep.
Crop It
Select Image->Crop and you have your newly level image.
Finished Waimea

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  1. Comment by Hawaii SEO on March 21, 2007

    Hi Jeremy,
    This is how I do it…

    Under the Eyedropper is a thing called the Measure Tool.
    (The icon looks like a ruler)

    Click a point on one side of the horizon and drag the Measure Tool’s line (Which acts like a rubber band) across to the other side of the image and un-click on the horizon. You should have a straight line on the horizon.

    Without even trying… You have just measured exactly how lopsided your image is.

    Now go to Image -> Rotate Canvas -> Arbitrary…

    The Measure Tool has filled out the exact angle and direction you need to rotate the image to get the horizon perfectly level. Click OK & You’re done!

    It works like Magic!


  2. Comment by Jim Bell on December 28, 2007

    I find there is a problem with your system. When you have applied the straighten tool you end up with a lot of transparency areas showing.With a shot like the sea view you use I would increase the canvas around the image - select all - go to edit-free transform. Hold down the command key and click on the corner handle (in your example the top left) and drag up until the image horizon looks level. You can use the rulers tool (command R) and click on the ruler and drag a guide down to the highest point of the horizon. Doing it this way you loose less of the image. There is of course a slight distortion doing it this way but it would only be in the sky on your image. Regards Jim Bell

  3. Comment by H.Pol Sixe on January 19, 2008

    Roate is easy, no guessing required, just rotate the grid until it is parallel with a major horizontal or vertical, then change the angle to the negative of what is shown, ie if your parallel grid is show in 2.4 deg, change it to -2.4 deg, and vice versa. 10 seconds in time. I usually then do a lens correction to straighten out the verticals, remove the barrel effect and crop, etc.

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