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Straightening Photos with the Straighten Tool

In Elements, there’s a simple way to straighten photos, but it’s knowing how to set the options for the tool that makes your job dramatically easier. Here’s how it’s done:

Step One:

Open the photo that needs straightening (the photo shown here looks like it’s sloping down to the left). Then, choose the Straighten tool from the Toolbox (or just press the P key).

Step Two:

Take the Straighten tool and drag it along an edge in the photo that you think should be perfectly horizontal, like a horizon line or the edge of a building.

Step Three:

When you release the mouse button, the image is straightened, but as you see here, the straightening created a problem of its own—the photo now has to be re-cropped because the edges are showing a white background (as the image was rotated until it was straight). That’s where the options (which I mentioned in the intro to this technique) come in. You see, the default setting does just what you see here—it rotates the image and leaves it up to you to crop away the mess. However, Elements can do the work for you (see the next step).

Step Four:

Once you click on the Straighten tool, go down to the Tool Options Bar and click on the Remove Background icon.

Step Five:

Also, there’s a feature in Elements that lets you get the best of both worlds. For example, what happens if you straighten the photo and crop away the edges, but a key part of your photo gets cropped away with it? You’d normally be outta luck. Instead, go back to the default Grow or Shrink Canvas icon that we started with. Then turn on the Autofill Edges checkbox to the right. This time, Elements will try to automatically patch those areas that would normally be left white. You’ll find it works best on skies and water, and areas with non-essential parts of the photo in them. It’s not a gimme and it won’t work every time, but it’s definitely worth a try.

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