Straightening Crooked Photos
If you’ve got a crooked photo, Lightroom’s got three great ways to straighten it. One of them is pretty precise, and with the other two you’re pretty much just “eyeing it,” but with some photos that’s the best you can do.
Step One. The photo shown here has a crooked horizon line, which is pretty much instant death for a landscape shot. To straighten the photo, start by clicking on the Crop Overlay button, found in the toolbox, right under the histogram in the Develop module’s right side Panels area (as shown here). This brings up the Crop Overlay grid around your photo, and while this grid might be helpful when you’re cropping to recompose your image, it’s really distracting when you’re trying to straighten one, so I press Command-Shift-H (PC: Ctrl-Shift-H) to hide that grid.
Step Two. As I mentioned above, there are three different ways to straighten your photo and we’ll start with my favorite, which uses the Straighten tool. I think it’s the fastest and most accurate way to straighten photos. Click on the Straighten tool, found in the Crop & Straighten section (it looks like a level), then click-and-drag it left to right along the horizon line, as shown here. See why I like straightening like this? However, there is one catch: you have to have something in the photo that’s supposed to be straight—like a horizon, or a wall, or a window frame, etc.
Step Three. When you drag that tool, it shrinks and rotates the cropping border to the exact angle you’d need to straighten the photo (without leaving any white gaps in the corners). The exact angle of your correction is displayed in the Crop & Straighten section (you can see the Angle slider in the previous step). Now all you have to do is double-click anywhere inside that cropping border to lock in your straightening. If you decide you don’t like your first attempt at straightening, just click the Reset button at the bottom of the Crop & Straighten section, and it resets the photo to its unstraightened and uncropped state. So, to try again, grab the Straighten tool and start dragging. Here’s the photo after being straightened.
Step Four. To try the two other methods, we need to undo what we just did, so click the Reset button at the bottom of the right side Panels area, then click on the Crop Overlay button again (if you locked in your crop after the last step). The first of the two methods is to just drag the Angle slider (shown circled here in red)—dragging it to the right rotates the image clockwise; dragging left, counterclockwise. As soon as you start to drag, a rotation grid appears to help you line things up seen here). Unfortunately, the slider moves in pretty large increments, making it hard to get just the right amount of rotation, but you can make smaller, more precise rotations by clicking-and-dragging left or right directly over the Angle amount field (on the far right of the slider). The second method is to just move your cursor outside the Crop Overlay border (onto the gray background), and your cursor changes into a two-sided arrow. Now, just click-and-drag up/down to rotate your image until it looks straight.