August Break #7 ~ A matter of perspective



Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa is one of many highrise buildings that populate the city’s skyline. The 31-story structure, often referred to as the “beer can building” because of its shape, enjoys a prime location overlooking the Hillsborough River and the famous spires of the University of Tampa. I edited this image, taken with the ProCamera app on my iPhone, with a couple of phone-based post-processing apps as well as in Photoshop CS6. I wanted to experiment with both methods, especially with respect to perspective correction, and then compare the results.

Phone Apps: The Perspective Correct app combines top-to-bottom and right-to-left swiping techniques to straighten an image and adjust its perspective. Confirming those adjustments activates the 4:3 cropping frame. Pinching or stretching an image changes its size; composition is changed by dragging the image up, down, right, or left within the cropping frame. Clicking once on the crop icon previews the crop; a second click confirms the crop and saves the image to the camera roll. I used Snapseed to adjust brightness, contrast, and white balance.

Photoshop CS6: With Photoshop’s Perspective Crop Tool (nested with the regular Crop tool) active, click on the upper left corner of the image and drag to the bottom right. This activates a grid of closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines. Independently adjustable corner controls allow the user to match grid lines with (usually vertical) aspects of the image. Adjusting one corner point will likely require adjustments to other corner points but you should, eventually, be able to achieve a satisfactory alignment of image features with the tool’s grid lines. I applied levels, brightness/contrast, and vibrance adjustments to the image.


Perspective Exercise

The comparison: The original image is obviously skewed backwards, the result of my position at ground level with my camera aimed upward at the 454-foot-tall building. Both perspective correction methods improved the original image: notice in both edited images that the tower is more upright and (more) uniformly sized bottom-to-top than the original. However, at least in this attempt, the phone app tool cropped out the very top of the building while I was able to preserve that aspect in the Photoshop crop.

My own conclusions: Cell phone cameras are a great convenience. Improved resolution and a (nearly mind-boggling and ever-changing) selection of apps make them a reasonable go-to solution when a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera isn’t available. Most post-processing apps provide a combination of fun and surprisingly sophisticated corrections and effects and support near-immediate sharing on social networks (shoot a photo, apply a correction or two, post to one or more social sites). Camera apps are increasingly capable (e.g., ProCamera offers separately adjustable focus and exposure) but current programming prevents DSLR-like adjustments (i.e., balancing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO). I probably won’t fully embrace phone photography until these features are available.

It’s taken me a while to develop a workflow for phone images that makes sense for me. I’ve activated Photo Stream on my iPhone, iPad, and windows-based PC. That means images shot on either i-device are available on all three platforms. If I opt for phone-based apps, I generally work with them on my tablet rather than the phone because I prefer the larger footprint the iPad offers. However, since I’m usually not in a hurry to share my images, I generally download them from Photo Stream to date-based folders in Lightroom. For the time being, I am keeping phone photos separate from DSLR images though that may change as I become more comfortable with phone photography.

So…that’s it for me, at least for now, with respect to phone photography. Are you an enthusiast, a doubter, or somewhere between? I am curious about what apps you use, your workflow, and if/how phone photography has changed your approach to photography.

Posted for today’s August Break “skyline” prompt.


5 thoughts on “August Break #7 ~ A matter of perspective

  1. Hi Wanda,

    Thanks for taking a look at the Perspective Correct app! It was a lot of fun making it.

    Something that is not immediately obvious is how Photoshop has “squashed” the building. If you look at the rectangular windows on the original photo, near the bottom of the image, we can see they are not far from square. In the image modified with Photoshop the windows have become slits that are much wider than they are high.

    While the Photoshop version keeps more of the image I think it makes the building look “stubby” while the iPhone app seems to make the building appear tall and I imagine that is closer to reality. At least that is what we tried to achieve with the app!

    Thanks again for taking the time to discuss perspective. A lot of photographers are unaware of this issue. Misho published a great article about it recently on the Digital Photography School


  2. A timely and interesting post for me today: all my holiday photos are a bit skewed and I was being teased about it by the taller members of the family! I definitely need to investigate this way of editing as I do enjoy taking pictures with my phone and your before and after shots have convinced me that this is a very useful step to include

  3. Wanda – well it is good to know that there are ways to correct perspective distortion within the smartphone universe – since that is one of the “must-do” items within my own workflow – I LOVE the perspective crop tool 🙂

    Since I do not have a smartphone or any “I-device”, this entire world is completely foreign to me at the moment. I’m still doing it the “old-fashioned” way with my Canon G11 and Photoshop – although I did just update from CS6 to CC. But I like learning about what is out there in that world so I appreciate your comparison.

    • Brenda, as far as I’m concerned, you are the mistress of perspective correction–in fact, I referred to your post “A Problem of Perspective” before I started work on my own post. And, of course, a search for “perspective” on your blog yields rich results so I enjoyed a few extra minutes reviewing other posts as well.

  4. Wanda, does this mean I can hand you my phone and say please take a picture and it will come out as nice?? I have a lot of great shots of my thumb. What’s the fix for that??? LOL LOL — take care, Bill

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