Wide-Angle Photo Distortion

“Keep Calm and Carry Buckets, Britain’s Parliament is Leaking,” by Jenny Gross. The Wall Street Journal, 11/12/2015.

Quick, quick, do something!

Quick, quick, do something!

This posting is not about London’s Parliament building repairs, nor is it a criticism of Jenny Gross, the WSJ author who wrote the entertaining article. It is about the accompanying photo that I could not pass up.

The tiny, wide angle lenses common on phones and tablets gives you this effect. The tower is not leaning and Big Ben is not in danger of dropping its gears on the roof of Parliament—it just looks that way in the photo. The effect is most noticeable when there is a tall element close to an edge.  I have used Photoshop Elements to fix many of my own tablet photos that have come out like this, although not as extreme. The problem is there is no easy way to determine what is the “correct” correction. The correction is all by eye. You want some tilting that would match what your own eye would see, but not nearly as much as this. The upward vanishing point needs to be much higher.  Although there is no rule (that I know of) you can follow with certainty, almost any correction will improve photos like this.  Sometimes you want wide-angle distortion, but it should supplement what you want to show, not  distract.  The typical problem is that buildings look like they are falling backward (as does the rest of Parliament).

I suspect this photo was also computer-processed with a high dynamic range (HDR) program to emphasize the clouds.  A camera alone would not normally capture a sky this dramatic.

The editors at the WSJ are not stupid. I suspect they included this over-the-top photo to catch the reader’s attention. Worked on me.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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