If photographers are perfectionists, then crooked horizons are their worst enemies. Landscape images that look perfect may be off-kilter by a hair, and when the difference is noticeable to the artist behind the lens, that’s all that matters. If you’ve ever been in that situation, here’s a quick and dirty solution from nature photographer Steve Perry:
The trick is to warp the image slightly, rather than cropping any of it out. Note that this trick only works on landscapes, not cityscapes—the latter would be noticeably distorted because of buildings, people, etc.
The first step is boot up Photoshop and straighten the horizon using the crop tool. After selecting Crop, click Straighten—at the top—and tilt the image until the horizon is straight. Photoshop will automatically crop the corners of the image. To avoid this, simply expand the crop box, which will add some white bits at the edges.
The only way to fill those white voids is to duplicate the image and click Transform—or hit command T—then right-click on it to warp it. Drag the corners out until they fill the image box entirely, like this:
This does warp the image slightly, but, as mentioned above, with landscape photos it’s imperceptible.
Lastly, you can grab the ruler tool from above and pull it in line with your horizon to double-check that the horizon is truly level. You’ll won’t notice the warping, but you will notice the straight horizon.
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