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Author Topic: Perspective distortion O.K. in a fine-art photograph?  (Read 1627 times)
Mike L.
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« on: February 06, 2012, 02:26:57 PM »
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I hope I'm not too presumptuous in deeming this a fine-art image. A viewer of this photograph commented that the lighthouse was "leaning to the right." Well, yes, it is actually leaning slightly both to the right and to the left, i.e. there is a small amount of perspective distortion, which is of particular concern whenever a rectilinear object (such as a building) is portrayed. In order to compose the image to my satisfaction, I was forced to be rather close to the structure, and since the camera was aimed above the horizon, there was a very substantial amount of perspective distortion of the building. I fully corrected this in Photoshop, and perhaps because I had become used to viewing the image with the original heavy distortion while editing it, the completely undistorted version somehow didn't look right, so I left just a bit of distortion in place, which, at the time anyway, seemed to look more natural. Perhaps I should have set it aside for a day before correcting the distortion.

I would be interested in hearing the views of others as to whether or not the slight residual perspective distortion detracts from the image's presence as a fine art photograph.

Mike
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sailronin
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2012, 03:01:36 PM »
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Ansel Adams has a photograph of a church where he explains that he adjusted the camera back to change the perspective to enhance the feeling of height. Sort of "reverse correction" for effect.  I guess that makes it OK  ;-)
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2012, 03:28:34 PM »
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This one is difficult. It contains simultaneously vertical and horizontal perspective distortion. There are certain subjects that are not well suited for super-wide angle shots (i.e., standing too close to them), and this seems to be the one. Perhaps you should show us two more versions, the original and the "perfectly" corrected version as well (both vertically and horizontally)? Not sure it would solve the problem, as "perfectly" corrected ones often look, well, unnatural.
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luxborealis
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2012, 04:02:43 PM »
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When correcting for such a close view, there is no easy way to avoid the distortion that occurs to the top portion of the lighthouse. When you correct for the linear perspective distortion, the top portion becomes overly large. The only way I know of correcting this is through careful use of copying the top portion (without distortion correction), pasting it as a new layer in Photoshop then blending the two layers - a tricky feat using a combination of Erase brush, Clone Stamp/Healing and perhaps some Transform.

Another alternative is to only partially correct the vertical and horizontal distortion so that the top portion doesn't look so bulbous.

Lastly, you could do some of each: partially correct the whole -> copy and paste the top portion into a new layer -> finish correcting the base layer -> blend the pasted layer with the base layer.
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Mike L.
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2012, 03:38:04 PM »
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The points and suggestions brought up here are all good ones. In the end, I've decided to just leave it as is. The tools available in Photoshop (in my hands, at least) only partially compensate for not capturing the image more suitably to begin with, and pushed too far just seem to get me into more trouble. I'm not bothered by the horizontal distortion, as it seems more readily accepted by the viewer.

Mike
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brandtb
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2012, 07:54:48 AM »
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A couple of thoughts...

Is it "art"/"fine art"? Well that is such a subjective question rarely ever answered satisfactorily (to me) in  
the photography world.  I once saw this on a photographers website...his quote was..."it is a fine  
art photograph because it sings". Sings? Well that's not terribly helpful is it...and just what  
exactly does that mean? In my years living in New York City, I've been fortunate to be aquainted  
with a number of people in the upper levels of the fine art world (Gagosian etc.) - both gallerists,  
curators, and artists...my wife as well is an artist who studied painting at Bennington College. The  
standard maxim is..."it IS art...if you intended to make art".  I've always found this useful.

As an architect and architectural renderer in previous careers...I always made choices about  
"showing or rendering -  or not showing or rendering", converging parallel lines e.g. for reasons.  
We don't automatically say all images of architectural entities must have only parallel lines or  
vectors. Sometimes converging parallels add dynamism...say looking up a skyscraper from the street  
level...creating what we call a worm's eye view e.g..  Maybe one might want that dynamic  
effect...maybe not (note I'm not talking about barrel dist.).  Understanding that you said you were unable change positioning to take your  image - what you wound up with is something that has a perhaps (?) unrealized dynamism.  First the cloud layer is reading as lines converging to vanishing point at the horizon, the bldg. verticals  
are converging to a point upward, and the bldg. horizontals are converging to point on the right.  
These are creating (to me at least) dynamism in your image. Sometimes this can be "helpful" in an  
image of static architectural forms. The point I would make here - is that it one might consider all  
that is happening before jumping to "lens correct" everything.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2012, 09:17:45 AM by brandtb » Logged

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Mike L.
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2012, 11:15:38 PM »
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Brandt, thanks for your insightful comments.

Mike
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ivan muller
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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2012, 04:52:55 AM »
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Hi Mike,

Interesting discussion, and although I have never really considered my self an artist, sounds a bit pompous, I do think of myself as a photographer. The term 'fine art' photography also makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, as if I need to convince people of the fact....but that's just me... Smiley I rather think of myself as someone who sees things in a certain way and through photography try to capture what I see....so I am 'just' a photographer...

Regarding the verticals, If I was at the scene I doubt if I would have photographed it any differently except for the cropping, I try to stick to my format and compose carefully, and the verticals. My favourite and most used lens is a 50mm shift on med format and I probably would have had to stand back to be able to get in what you have here which might have lessened the size of the tower a bit.  The 50mm is such a 'normal' lens that I seldom have the distortion and perspective problems that the really wide lenses have and give. I almost always set the camera on a level horizon before anything else. So the bulbous top part wouldn't have bothered me much, and if it did I would have tilted the camera slightly, like you have here...but  I really think the straight vertical would have been fine...

But for me personally this would have been a B&W image. The white of the building against the darker sky just cries out for B&W....The nice thing about digital is that one can try all the different permutations and see what works best....
« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 04:57:44 AM by ivan muller » Logged

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