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Photography Question 
Rosalind McClam
 

Photographing Buildings


I have been asked to photograph the front of a church for their directory. What size lens will I have to use in order for the building to not be leaning?


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10/2/2006 10:14:37 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Any lens has the capability to cause what's called "keystoning" or the leaning effect you mentioned, even a view camera which provides swings and tilts of the lens and film plane to prevent distortions. Without a view camera, like a 4x5, one thing toward successful architectural photography and preventing that leaning effect is to make sure your camera is set plumb, square and level to the building or the architectural element that you're shooting. There are levels that fit in the accessory shoe on your camera, cost about 30-35 bucks. Tripods also have levels built in for the legs, etc.
Take it light. ;>)
Mark


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10/2/2006 11:04:52 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Plum(b) forgot: A wide angle lens, something below 35 mm (in 35mm format) will cause you more distortion problems than one that's a more "normal" focal length like a 50 mm to 100mm range lens.
okie doke?
Mark


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10/2/2006 1:28:15 PM

 
Steve Parrott
LightAnon.com
  True, an extremely wide angle lens can create some weird distortion problems. If using a zoom, keep your focal length to around 50mm. Keeping the camera level is the MOST important thing you can do to prevent the "leaning building" problem. What usually works very well is to not worry about any extra elements in the photo as you are taking it, then crop later so you only have the church in your photo. In other words, by keeping the camera level, you may have lots of ground in your photo. Just crop it out later, and voila, you will have a pic of a non-leaning church!


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10/3/2006 8:05:34 AM

 
Julie MS Shackson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/17/2004
  If you have a recent copy of photoshop, there is a brilliant lens correction tool in the filters menu that sorts out perspective problems extremely effectively at the editing stage.


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10/3/2006 9:09:45 AM

 
Joseph Dlhopolsky   If there's a tall building across the street, ask if you can go up to the middle floor for the shot. Use the longest lens you can while still getting the entire structure. As Julie S mentioned, use the perspective tool in Photoshop.


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10/3/2006 9:18:46 AM

 
Gary Pope
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2006
  I have been asked several times how I keep my verticals vertical, without "Keystoning", which occurs whenever you are shooting a building and the camera is not level with the horizon. To correct this perspective do the following in Photoshop:

1. Start with a photograph where the horizon is level. This also means that the vertical centerline of the photo will be perfectly vertical.

2. In Photoshop, using the Crop tool, select the whole photo, check the "Perspective" box.

3. Move the top 2 corners of crop selection towards center until they are parallel with the verticals. In this example, there are vertical mullions on the left and panel ribs on the right to align with.

4. Crop. Note that significant portions of the photo are cropped out, so it helps to start with a photo wider that your intended final image. Notice that verticals are now vertical.

5. Experiment. In an extreme case the proportions are changed a bit on the squashed side. This can be corrected by changing the Image size, unchecking the "Constrain Proportions" box, and increasing the height until you are satisfied.

The photographic standard in the architectural profession is for the verticals to be vertical, as our drawngs and actual buildings are, not converging in perspective like the top shot. Although primarily for architectural work, this technique can be used for landscapes as well...tall trees, etc.


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10/3/2006 9:41:27 AM

 
W.    Julie rightly said:
"If you have a recent copy of photoshop, there is a brilliant lens correction tool in the filters menu that sorts out perspective problems extremely effectively at the editing stage."
And you can do that in Photoshop Elements (2) as well. In the menubar goto 'Image' > 'Transform' > 'Perspective', grab a handle and pull until you like what you see.


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10/3/2006 10:22:35 AM

 
Julie MS Shackson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/17/2004
  Well done Gary for giving a far more comprehensive explanation. Just a note: with the lens correction filter (go into distortion filter) if some of the edges are lost due to cropping after a barrel distortion (or vertical or horizontal) you can tick the edge extension box. Depending on how complex the image is (for example, if you have a plain backgound, it's easier) you can use cloning skills to cover up obvious flaws; you get a sort of sliding blur in the parts that should be cropped, but if it's simple (or you have advanced skills) you can cover this up to make it less obvious.


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10/3/2006 10:54:46 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Let's see.........."a brilliant lens correction tool", "cloning skills", "crop tool and perspective box", "constrained proportions box" ROFLOL !!! You guys really crack me (among others) up. You've got all these hoo hahs in your software to fix what can be done by taking a few seconds and setting up the camera properly. I think most of the answers here indicate you aren't really photographers but pixel pluckers. LOL !!! Sorry, I just don't see how all these proposed fixes are really photographic...you know, writing with light vs one's and zeros. Just a thought and not an invitation for a debate. That comes later. ;>)
Mark


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10/3/2006 11:43:08 AM

 
Gary Pope
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2006
  Gee, Mark- I am a retired architect who has done a great deal of architectural photography with perspective control lenses, and accompanied professionals with view cameras with all the swings and tilts. The vast majority of architectural photographs cannot be set up in a location (ie. far enough away) to avoid keystoning. So your options are view cameras or software.


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10/3/2006 12:46:47 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hi Gary. I've photographed interiors and exteriors for a long time too. I've never been in a situation where I couldn't avoid keystoning by properly setting up the camera, avoiding wide angle lenses, and taking a moment to find the proper angle of view. Sure, I use a view camera, but hardly always. Using a Hassie SWC with a 38mm CFT biogon works fine too. Just needs to be leveled and plumbed. Kinda like a building.

So, Gary, I have to ask you: did you retire because of CAD? I'm not opposed to technology, as I'm sure neither are you. I do at times, oppose technology when people use it as an expensive, time-consuming crutch as opposed to more simpler solutions, like fixing it in the camera.

And, btw, in this particular case, I think Rosalind's question was pretty straight forward. Stand in front of a church and take the picture. Somehow, I'd think she'd have sufficient maneuvering room to do that without photoshop. Perhaps not. Dunno for sure.
M.


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10/3/2006 1:57:30 PM

 
Gary Pope
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2006
  Mark. I have never seen architectural interior shots that were NOT done with wide angle lenses. In 35mm format, a 28mm is normal, 35mm is long and 24mm is wide. I agree about level and plumb.

I retired because I got tired of clients and fee negotiations and reviewing agencies, not because of CAD, which I absolutely love. An architect can do two or three times the documentation, and changes are relatively easy. I now do all my own work in CAD for my own business.

I enjoyed your gallery, by the way.


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10/3/2006 3:13:45 PM

 
anonymous A.    45-50mm is normal and 28mm is wide angle in the 35mm format. As to Rosalind being able avoid the church leaning by just keeping the camra parallel with the plain of the building, that depends on a. how far she can move back from it; b. how tall it is; c. how wide it is. In reality, to get a steeple and all the building in without crossing the road is an unlikely situation, and to keep the camera parallel with the building and include base and steeple, you would need to have the lens level with the mid-height of the church (how tall are you, Rosalind?).
My advice...use the lens that lets you fit the whole building in. If you have to put up with some keystoning, fix it in the computer (Paintshoppro also has simple, effective perspective correction tools). If the building is too long or high (or both) or the lenses you have, take a series of photos, overlapping by about 30% and stitch them together in PSP or PS to make a single image.


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10/3/2006 3:40:57 PM

 
Gary Pope
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2006
  David. Of course you are right about the "normal"..."wide" description for 35mm lenses. I was referring to lenses as used in interior, or exterior, architectural work, and I should have put parens around them for clarity.


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10/3/2006 3:52:33 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Thanks Gary. Believe me, I know the feelings generated by clients negotiating fees with a myriad of outfits (sometimes even over a single gig) and reviewing (advertising) agencies.

As to directly solving Rosalind's question here, maybe we oughtta wait and get some specifics from her before we kind of speculate into coo-koo land. :>)
Mark


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10/3/2006 5:02:30 PM

 
Paul    Another in-camera fix is possible;
If you have an extreme wide angle lens available (perhaps loan), position yourself across and centered to the church with the camera level to the horizon. If the church takes up only one half to one third of the frame, try tilting the camera upward and downward while watching the vertical edges. you will see that some degree of perspective control is possible. Just crop all the unnecessary out of the picture.
I have done this with lighthouses to very good effect.
Paul


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10/3/2006 5:28:46 PM

 
Lynn R. Powers   Hi Rosalind,

You didn't specify how much room that you have in front of the church. If there is a large open space and you have a telephoto or zoom lens just walkaway from the building. A lens of about 135mm (35mm equiv) should do the trick. If you must handhold, shoot as straighton as possible. Of course with a zoom lens adjust to what looks best.

Lynn Powers


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10/4/2006 8:23:58 PM

 
Gary Pope
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2006
  There is a lot of good advice here, Rosilind. If I can summarize, IF you can get far enough away (rare in urban situations), then keep the camera level and plumb, to avoid keystoning. IF you must tilt the camera upwards to include parts of the building, then you can deal with perspective control with software.

As an architect, I like close-in shots with more radical perspective, as they show more of the sides of the building, and give a feeling of being part of the architecture.


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10/4/2006 11:23:57 PM

 
Jagadeesh Andrew Owens   Where the hell'd Rosalind go? LOL!!!

Mark - I have to disagree with you here... in this case, Photoshop isn't a crutch, it's a necessity, unless you have a long spanning successful career that has afforded you all those nifty cameras and tilts and spins! ;>)

I shot the cathedral in downtown Birmingham, and there was no store across the street, block, or whatever for me to borrow their middle floor. The cathedral had spires reaching upwards of 25, maybe 30 stories and there was absolutely no way for me to correct the keystoning in camera, with my equipment.

I'm all for in camera and setting up the shot correctly and not saying "Oh, I'll fix it later in PS", but sometimes there are absolute times when you can't correct any other way (be you constrained by space, finances, equipment).

Equate it to when you analog guys tilt the plane on which your paper lies on your developer thing.....


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10/5/2006 10:21:13 AM

 
Rosalind McClam   Rosalind is here. Amazed at what I have started! There is little room to move back in because there are power lines in front of the church. If I move back I will get the power lines in the shot. I have photo shop 7.0 but I am not real good with the adjustments.


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10/5/2006 12:37:03 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well, for the power lines, I'm sure you'll all be relieved to know I thoroughly and heartily endorse photo shop to use to remove them. (Well, sort of heartily because I've had to go through plenty of gyrations in my time to get them out of a shot before I shoot it. So Rosalind, ask Sipho, he can probably tell you how to remove them in Photoshop.

Speaking of Sipho and photographing cathedrals, I shot a job for the Archdiocese of Newark. One of the churches/cathedrals had kind of a Gargoyle in front. I set a 1/2 gallon bottle of Listerine mouthwash in front of it and shot it. Called [yep....you got it...."Gargoyle with Listerine".

See ya guys. I gotta go to work.
Mark


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10/5/2006 12:44:35 PM

 
Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  heres where a tilt shift lens works wonders! seriously, if you have PSCS2, you can correct the lens distortion in it. so you can shoot with just about anything other than a fish eye!


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10/6/2006 6:28:54 AM

 
Jagadeesh Andrew Owens   LOL @ Mark! What was your inspiration for putting the listerine in the shot with the gargoyle??


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10/6/2006 8:48:23 AM

 
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