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Keeping Things in Perspective

When you’re taking images of pictures on walls for archival or restoration purposes, be sure to take several shots from different angles so you have a better chance of combining them into a great final image. This is especially important if the image is in a bubble frame, but should also be the rule for flat framed pictures.

The adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry” is a good one to keep in mind. Of course, you may not have the luxury of taking the images yourself. Let’s say, just for arguments sake, that after years of begging and pleading, you finally get the image of your great-great grandparents from the cousin who’s been promising to send it, forever, and the image is less than perfect. The image is in bubble glass, the lighting made for a lovely color-cast and there’s only one shot, from straight on, which made for some fairly wicked distortion. The odds of ever getting shots from other angles is slim-to-none, since this one was years in coming, so what do you do now?

The color cast problem can be dealt with in the usual way, but what about the distortion?  First, take a minute to see what direction the distortion is going in. Look at the example above, see how it sort of fans out and back at the top and out to the sides?  I guess that would be the obvious direction, since it’s bubble glass, but flat glass can be distorted like this, too, depending on a number of factors, such as where you’re standing in relation to the picture and the lens on your camera.

So, now that you have that distortion direction in mind, duplicate your original layer (you have to keep your ‘before’ reference copy, after all, you know!) by one of three methods: right click on the layer itself and choose Duplicate, go to the Image menu and choose Duplicate or use keyboard shortcut Ctrl (PC) or Cmd (Mac) + J, and then transform (Ctrl or Cmd + T) Now right click the image and choose Distort. Since the distortion of the image fanned out at the top, bring the top handles of the Distort Transform slightly out to the sides. This may seem counter-intuitive, but what it’s actually doing is bringing the image back towards the viewer where it was distorting back away from the viewer due to the bubble of the glass. Also bring the bottom handles in, slightly, towards the center to line everything up a little better.

Next, since the glass bubbles out, we’re going to bring it back in, some. While still in Transform mode, right click on the image, again, and select Warp. Bring the center of each side in a bit to make what was convex more concave.

If your people are looking a bit on the skinny side after all that, right click again while still in Transform, and select Free Transform. Pull the side handles out a bit until the image looks right.

Lens Correction Filter

I can hear many of you, now, asking why I just don’t go to Filter > Lens Correction to fix the distortion?  The answer is…you can!  Especially if you’re not a control freak like someone we know who may be writing this article…If you do, just keep the same bits in mind, that is, geometric distortion (concave) and vertical perspective (bringing the top handles of the distortion transform out and the bottom handles in).

So whether you correct lens distortion on your own by eye, or you let Photoshop’s Lens Correction feature help you out, it’s easier than you think to bring an image back into perspective!

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

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