The Lightroom Transform Panel is all about correcting distortion in your digital images, including lens distortion, perspective distortion, and alignment induced by the photographer. This short article guides you through the different modes of correction available to you.
Lightroom Transform Panel
The Transform Panel sits towards the bottom of the Develop Module. Transform and enables you to correct vertical and horizontal misalignments. These misalignments in digital images can be due to a number of factors including lens distortion, perspective distortion, and incorrect alignment of the camera to the subject when taking of the shot.
Lens distortion occurs due to the curvature of the glass elements in your lens. It can happen in any lens and can take the form of barreling or pincushioning. Take a look at our detailed article on lens distortion for more information.
Perspective distortion is a warping of an image and tends to be exaggerated depending on the angle of the shot, where objects close to the lens appear larger than they really are, and conversely, objects further away appear much smaller.
Here is a great little image from wikipedia that demonstrates the effect of perspective distortion at different camera angles.
Finally, incorrect alignment is where the photographer gets the horizontals and/or verticals misaligned when they take the shot.
The good news is, Lightroom has the ability to correct all of these misalignment problems either automatically, or manually if you want more control.
Automatic & Semi-Automatic Corrections
The six buttons at the top of the Transform panel form the auto corrections section. Albeit, by default, all adjustments are set to Off which is the first button. So we have 5 buttons to play with.
From personal experience, I have only ever felt the need to use the first two buttons; Auto and Guided. The others, for my eye at least, can give some undesirable results. But, covering each one in turn:-
Analyses your image for vertical and horizontal edges, and corrects your image accordingly. You can see the effect in the before/after example below. Lightroom has corrected the vertical alignment of the castle, as well as adjusting the horizontal alignment of the castle and the castle wall. Of course, in doing so, Lightroom has adjusted all of the pixels in the image accordingly.
In Guided mode, you tell Lightroom where the horizontal and vertical lines are in your image. You do this by adding guidelines. Basically, when you press the Guided button, Lightroom presents you with a guide-line and a magnification window. You click on each end of the line to create a guide-line, and you can add as many guide-lines as you need, and press Done.
Lightroom then works out the rest. In the example below, I placed three guide-lines. Two on the verticals of the castle, and one on the castle wall.
As its name suggests, the Level mode only looks for horizontal lines in your image and adjusts accordingly. Here is the before/after example:
The Level adjustment does its job and has fixed the horizontal alignment.
Here is the Vertical mode adjustment, which corrects with a bias towards vertical lines that Lightroom finds in your image.
Hopefully this mode will now be self explanatory, and corrects verticals and horizontals.
As alluded to above, I have never personally found a utility for anything other than Guided or Auto Mode. The other modes I find a little aggressive in terms of the editing and cropping. Undoubtedly, however, there will be people out there that use them all the time!
The manual corrections sliders are located underneath the auto mode buttons. They give you manual control over any transform adjustments made. You can either apply one of the automatic modes and then fine tune it with the sliders, or if you want full control yourself, then go ahead and correct an image from scratch.
If you found this Lightroom Article on the Transform panel useful, here are some that may interest you:
Lens Corrections is about correcting unwanted distortion, aberrations and vignettes from your digital images.
The Details Panel in Lightroom allows you to sharpen and de-noise your digital images
The Color Grading panel is a great tool to perform targeted hue adjustments to Highlights, Shadows and Midtones.
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Specialising in landscape and wildlife photography, David is a semi-professional photographer based in Scotland, with an established fine art and stock photography portfolio; which includes published photography with the New York Post, Huffington Post, as well as various travel and tourism companies worldwide.