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It's hip to be square.

This sort of shot is a staple of the Yacht or Architectural interior shoot.

Square on to the saloon, room or cabin. Horizontal elements line up with the top and bottom of the frame and vertical elements line up with the left and right edges of the photo.

They are notoriously difficult to execute.

Things that must be right to have this all work 'in camera'.

  1. The camera lens must be on the centre line of the cabin.

  2. The camera must be pointing straight down the centre of the cabin.

  3. There must be zero camera tilt forward or back.

  4. There must be zero camera roll left or right.

This is all easy enough given sufficient time, a sturdy tripod and a bubble level.

Unfortunately most of those things aren't practical when shooting Yacht listings.

Brokers don't have all day to stand around watching you move the camera a fraction of a hair in every direction. Moving a tripod a millimetre this way and that only adds to the time taken and they are, in more cases than not unable to fit into the layout of the boat in the exact position required. And bubble levels are of no use on a boat that is rocking, rolling or might not be in perfect trim.

So what I am invariably doing when trying to achieve these shots is get 'close enough' on the day and then 'fix it in post'.

I am shooting hand held, right hand for the camera and left hand for a flash and soft box. I'm trying to find the centre line of the cabin, counting floor boards or aligning light fixtures usually. Then my viewfinder eye is dancing around trying to make sure the verticals and horizontals are playing nice, then I press the shutter. Which adds its own variable into the mix. All while balancing on a boat that is always moving around somewhere between a little and a lot.

The point is that getting the shot in camera is verging on impossible.

So here's what happens in the edit.

This is the shot as captured in camera.

It's not awful, the ceiling panels look pretty horizontal but the bottom of the cabinetry to the right of the step looks to be falling off to the right. The whole shot has a feeling of being slightly rotated to the right but the verticals on the left also seem to be leaning slightly out at the top. This suggests the camera was pointing ever so slightly down and tipped a bit to the right.

First thing to do in Lightroom is to apply Profile Corrections to eliminate any barrel distortion inherent in the lens by ticking the box in the Lens Corrections panel. If Lightroom doesn't have your lens in its database you'll need to play around with the Distortion slider. This removes the bending of straight lines at the periphery of the frame (which is also one of the factors that makes alignment hard during the shoot. Verticals and Horizontals at the edges aren't even straight in most wide angle lenses.)

Next thing is correcting for the verticals and Horizontals.

We could play around with the Transform sliders, vertical to correct any camera pitch issues, Horizontal to correct the camera not being pointed straight down the cabin and Rotate for any left or right roll of the camera. These tend to fight each other and can turn into a real mess pretty quickly.

But notice the little Hash Tag looking button at the top left of the Transform panel?

Click that to access the guides.

By placing up to four straight lines over elements of the photo that you want to be verticals and horizontals, Lightroom will warp the pixels into submission.

Here I've used a ceiling panel line and the base of the step for the horizontal guides and the edges of the galley cabinetry for the verticals.

Lightroom gives you a little magnifier next to the cursor to aid in precise position selection for the guides. Place the first point, click and drag to add the second point. Repeat for the other guides and LR will update the distortion as you go.

Here is a before and after Gif...

The difference looks huge when seen like this, Right? But many people probably wouldn't have recognised there was even an issue with the original. And many photographers don't even see it in their own images. I have seen shots with these sorts of distortions not corrected slip into some of the highest end magazines in the Yachting industry.

As it is I didn't quite get this one as right as I would have liked. The pixel peepers amongst us will notice I was slightly right of centre when I shot this. (the centre line floor board and the two centre over head lights aren't in line. Arrgggg!


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