A photograph may depict reality accurately but it may not be pleasant to behold; reality has different facets, and the photo will reflect this accordingly depending on how it’s captured. Objects are spatially distributed, horizontally and vertically, and the farther away they are the smaller they appear, resulting in what is known as perspective distortion.
This is problematic, particularly in real estate photography where the subject may appear askew, giving a false impression that it indeed is. If, for instance, the doors of a building do not look rectangular or the building itself resembles a certain famous structure in Pisa due to perspective distortion, then persuading a potential client will be a harder sale.
Avoiding perspective distortion is difficult. One needs to go to great length (and sometimes height) to get perfect shots. Fixing the distortion by post-processing is a more pragmatic solution, which is also easier and cheaper.
What is perspective distortion?
When you photograph a tall building from the ground, the edges of the building appear to converge toward the top, making the structure appear trapezoidal. This is an example of perspective distortion. The deformation is due to the relative distance and angle at which the image is captured.
Example of a photo with perspective distortion
Perspective distortion is not caused by the camera lens but by the position of the photographer in relation to the subject. However, it is particularly pronounced in wide-angle lens shots, meaning a significant percentage of real estate photography. The extended field of view captures more of the surrounding environment, which can exaggerate the relative sizes and distances between objects—closer objects appear abnormally large while farther objects are abnormally small. This is commonly called extension distortion.
There is another perspective distortion called compression or telephoto distortion. This, as the name implies, can be seen in images captured with long-focus lenses. In this type of distortion, distant objects appear disproportionately large, giving the illusion that they are closer than they actually are. The distances are compressed, in other words.
Perspective distortions are sometimes created intentionally to produce artistic effects but they are generally undesirable. They make the images look warped and deformed. Distortion affects the visual perception of objects in the frame, making them appear unnatural and illusory.
How to use perspective correction to fix distortion?
Perspective distortion in real estate photography is a common sight—of exterior shots as well as interior ones. Thankfully, investing in specialized lenses is not the only solution. There are several post-processing software and methods to correct perspective distortion in real estate photographs.
Traditional photo editors like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom can be used to fix perspective distortion easily and quickly. And now thanks to artificial intelligence, amateurs and even those with no photo-editing skills at all can fix distortions and other issues within no time. Various AI photo editors exist—Luminar AI and Autoenhance.ai, for example.
To cast some light on this, let us see how we can effectively correct perspective distortion in real estate photographs using Adobe Lightroom. There are two ways to accomplish this—manual and automatic.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Open Lightroom and import the image that you want to correct perspective distortion. Then go to the Developer module.
- Locate the Lens Correction panel and select the Basic tab.
- Select the Enable Profile Corrections. This will automatically remove distortion as well as vignetting effects. This is however not a catch-all solution and may not work well for most except the basic issues. For a more nuanced correction, we could take some additional steps.
- From the profile corrections options underneath, select the one that does the job best. Select the Vertical option, for example, if you want to primarily fix extension distortion in the image. The Auto option applies automatic perspective corrections and is a good starting point but may not always give you the exact result you want.
If you are still not satisfied with the result, then you can further fine-tune the image using the manual correction method.
- Select the Manual tab and you will see various Transform sliders that allow you to apply perspective correction as you like.
- Use the sliders to apply corrections and make further adjustments as needed.
- Compare and review the changes by pressing the Y key to toggle between the original and the edited.
With these simple steps, you can fix distortions to a certain degree, but there is only so much you can do. While correcting the perspective distortion of your real estate photos, there are certain things you need to focus on particularly, which we consider below.
What to do in perspective correction?
Perspective distortions have several aspects that make the image warped and deformed. Knowing what these are and how to handle them will make editing easier and give the post-processed image a more refined and natural look.
So, while working on fixing the perspective distortion, the following needs to be kept in mind.
- Correct wonky lines and adjust skewed angles: Uneven contours and misaligned orientations make real estate photographs appear unnatural, distorting the perception of spaces and architectural elements and making them less visually appealing. Fixing these is crucial to present properties accurately and professionally. However, since our eyes also create angular distortion, removing all distortions may instead make the image look unnatural. So, “correcting” should enhance the natural appearance, not diminish it.
- Focus on key features: Perspective correction is not just about reducing certain anomalies; it’s also about enhancing essential characteristics. Strategically focus on key features to highlight the most appealing and distinctive aspects to draw attention and differentiate it from the market. Highlighting certain features and using appropriate colors can create an emotional appeal.
- Balance framing elements: Well-balanced framing elements create a sense of depth and dimension in the image, making it more visually appealing and harmonious. Position key features within the frame in such a way as to draw the viewer’s attention to the focal point. Ensure that the framing elements are symmetrical and proportionate to the overall components. Do not distort non-structural components like trees, yards, and cars—in any case, keep the touches graceful.
- Don’t forget the details: It is easy to overlook the smaller details but this can be a fatal blunder. It is often minute details that make a property stand out—and ignoring them can make it stand out awkwardly. Attend to these carefully. Assess small elements like door handles, hardware installed, and visible interior elements. Selectively enhance specific details by adjusting, for instance, sharpness, clarity, or contrast. And adjust exposure settings to reveal hidden details in shadows and prevent overexposure in bright areas.
Keeping the image natural while enhancing its aesthetic
It is easy to go overboard with editing, fixing distortions left and right, broken or not. This leads not only to unnaturalness and misrepresentation but also, potentially, to loss of credibility and even legal and ethical tangles.
It is thus important to consider the bigger picture and exercise restraint while making changes. The following tips should help keep your high-handed impulses in check while at the same time making your photos visually appealing—natural and captivating.
- Apply edits selectively and subtly.
- Enhance lighting and colors but retain natural shadows and highlights.
- Apply HDR effects in moderation.
- Replace the overexposed sky, if necessary, with a higher dynamic range sky image.
- Match color tones by blending and gradient masking.
- Crop the image rather than try to fix it if the distortion is severe.
- Avoid excessive smoothing or blurring to preserve details.
Perspective distortions in real estate photography are prevalent. They are problematic not only because they are aesthetic impairments but can be a cause of several issues—decreased sales, for example. Correcting them therefore is paramount. Happily, photo editing software and AI-enabled tools have simplified the correction process, allowing even amateurs to fix distortions—although it may be only partially effective.
For any photo worthy of representing a real estate property, however, professional photo editors are indispensable. Human experts with keen eyes and attention to detail are critical. They not only fix perspective distortions in real estate photos but enhance the appearance. There is no excuse to not get their assistance especially since you can tap into the global pool of talents with photo editing service providers by outsourcing real estate photo editing.