Perspective Distortion in Real Estate Photography

Perspective Distortion in Real Estate Photography

As potential home buyers spend 60% of their time on reviewing professional photos with appealing online presence and as a desperate real estate photographer you shouldn’t want to lower the price on your property with presenting unprofessional photos with leaning pillars and tilted roofs etc.

According to our observations real-estate listings that use photographs taken by the higher-end SLR cameras favored by photographers and photography enthusiasts, tend to do better than those that use photos from cheaper point-and-shoot cameras.

So with respect to my observations and conversation with many photographers and authors worked on real estate and architectural photography I have come up with a conclusion on what a perspective distortion is and how it can be rectified.

In relation to my real estate photography blog I am presenting with you yet another drastic experience photographers confronted with photographing real estate properties and architectural buildings is none other than a ‘lens distortion’.

Have you ever wondered how the architectural photography you see in magazine and coffee table books avoids the architectural perspective distortion commonly seen as FOBS (Falling-Over Building Syndrome) that plagues most amateur real estate photographs, including the majority of those taken for listing real estate for sale?

Lens distortion is an important factor to be aware of in the photography world. It can make or break your images as artists, depending on the look and feel you are trying to achieve. Here I’ll discuss what distortion is, why it’s good or bad, and how to correct it in post processing if needed.
What is lens distortion?

In a nutshell, it’s when a lens produces curved lines where straight lines should be. It comes up all the time because real estate photographers use wide angle lenses which are famous for two types of distortion:

Barrel distortion & Pincushion distortion.

Lens Distortion

Barrel distortion is where straight lines bend outward from the center of the image.

Wide-angle prime lenses such as a 20mm lens or zoom lenses like my Nikon 24-70mm shot at its wide end typically produce images with barrel distortion because they have a wide field of view. You will most often notice distortion in architectural images where the lines of the buildings bow outward, away from the center of the image. In portraits, it can make subjects look pudgy or large-headed in comparison to the rest of their body.

Pincushion distortion is where straight lines bend or “pinch” inward from the center of the image.

Usually pincushion distortion happens at the telephoto end (ie. 200mm) of a zoom lens such as a 70-200mm lens. It can actually be great for portraits because it can make people look thinner than they are! You will most likely notice pincushion distortion in images with straight lines. The further the lines are away from the center of the image, the more noticeable the distortion will be.

So how do you come up with apparent images by fixing lens distortion?

Most of the time you will realize you have distortion problems until you pull up the images in post processing. You will then find that distortion appears in many images containing windows and door frames. If you train your eye to spot the distortion in-camera, as you shoot, you will save yourself some time fixing it later. Sometimes by simply scooting back or changing the plane of your camera in relation to your subject you can alleviate some distortion. Move higher, lower, to the side, or change your focal length until you have the look you are going for.

Most of the times lens distortion can be corrected to a great extant with keeping this simple things in mind while shooting:

1. Using a special “tilt and shift” lens, which is designed for architectural purposes? However, these lenses are very expensive, and only really make sense if you specialize in this field.
2. Try to avoid shooting buildings or other objects that have clean, straight lines, where the barrel distortion will be obvious. At least try to avoid shooting them with an extreme wide angle lens. Back up if you need to get more of the subject into the image.
3. Keep any straight lines in the image as close to the center of the lens as possible. There will be less distortion toward the middle than there is on the edge.
4. As you shoot an object, take several photos of the same object, using a variety of zoom lens magnification levels. The distortion will likely be less obvious at one zoom level versus another.
5. Though it is typically against better judgement, the compression of a JPG image will sometimes correct the distortion. You may want to consider switching from RAW to see if this helps in your situation.
6. Using good composition and lighting by putting the subject off-center a little, it will add interest to your image. Make sure the subject has good light and that the background isn’t distracting.
7. Lastly, Get closer, have a well-defined and clear subject, include less “stuff”, take wide angle people photos properly, and make conscious decisions about using your wide, or selecting another lens.

If there’s no way to avoid it, and you don’t like the look of distortion in your images, here’s how to fix it in post processing via Lightroom and Photoshop tools.

Under the Develop module, and Lens Corrections tab, check “Enable Profile Corrections” then experiment with choosing either auto, level, vertical, or full. Usually ‘vertical’ make things work.

If you want to fine tune your corrections you can click on the Manual tab under Lens Corrections where you can experiment with the different sliders to get your desired results. Also note, sometimes when making a lot of corrections you will need to re-crop the image because the changes will pull the sides of the image inward. This is also a good reason to shoot in raw…so you have more pixels to work with if you need to crop after fixing distortion.

Using Photoshop CS versions, Under Filter>>Lens Corrections you should see some of the same options as Lightroom where you can auto correct or go under >>Custom to fine tune the images with vertical and horizontal perspective until the image looks upright.

Fixing lens distortion isn’t as difficult as it sounds and you can easily rectify it with correct post processing techniques implemented with right knowledge of tools. When you cannot avoid it, go with your reliable post processing agency or partner to enhance the curvature lines giving a whole new dynamic look in your photograph.

You can always connect with me if you like to discuss on your upcoming real estate photoshoot projects. I am always here to assist you in providing with genuine and pure recommendations to transform your property sites with an outstanding outlook.

I would be happy to include you and your valuable suggestions in my forum and like to be enlightened with your presence too.

Please wait for my next survey report.

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