Adobe Photoshop CC: Smart objects and perspective cropping

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Along with crappy skies (see Major disadvantage of living in San Diego: Sunshine), another pet peeve of mine is sloping buildings. If the sloping is so obvious that you know the picture was taken with a fisheye lens or the building is hundreds of feet tall, then the sloping is okay. It’s sloping as in Picture 1 that bugs me:

Picture 1Sloping building

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sloping is called “perspective” since your perspective of the building is that it’s sloping. Obviously, it’s not but it sure looks like it.

There are three slopes going on in Picture 1 which I show you in Picture 2 using red lines.

Picture 2Picture slopes

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those slopes are really annoying to me so I try to correct the perspective to give me nice squares and straight lines. I would prefer to do it quickly, too, and therein lies the problem. I never could find a quick way that would do a great job, until late yesterday.

Previously I would use the Perspective crop tool shown in Picture 3.

Picture 3Perspective crop tool

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If one tries to do too much at one time with the Perspective Crop Tool, it can get really nasty. For example, I tried to correct all three perspective problems at one time in the above picture and got Picture 4:

Picture 4Perspective cropped

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Picture 4 is not bad but something about the perspective still bugs me. I see myself flying around like Peter Pan looking down on those people. Maybe the top of the picture is coming towards me. I don’t know, but it bugs me.

I have discovered that the best way to use the Perspective Crop Tool is:

(1) Reduce the picture to the size you’re going to use. The Perspective Crop Tool seems to work better on smaller pictures.

(2) Instead of doing one perspective crop, do three perspective crops, one on the horizontal line, one on the left line, and one on the right line.

When I sized the picture to 600 pixels tall and did three perspective crops, I got Picture 5.

Picture 5Perspective cropped

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I don’t know if you can tell the difference on a blog picture, but in Picture 5 the perspective seems to be that I’m looking straight at the “Baja Betty’s” on the building instead of down on the people as in Picture 4.

Yesterday, though, I found a great way to let Photoshop do everything, do it well, and do it very quickly. It involves working with Smart Objects.

I had always wondered why so many menu items were grayed out and inaccessible. It’s because they only work on Smart Objects. So the first thing to do when you get your JPG into Photoshop is to convert it to a Smart Object. With your Layers panel open, right click on your background layer and then click on Convert to Smart Object, as shown in Picture 6.

Picture 6Smart Object

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

With your file converted to a Smart Object, many more menu commands are now available. Two such commands are the Free Transform and the Transform commands. When you click on Free Transform, you get a bounding box around your picture with a big X through your picture, shown in Picture 7.

Picture 7Free Transform bounding box

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Click on any handle (the little white squares on the bounding box) and drag, and you can transform the picture any way you please.

You can also modify how the bounding box is transformed by holding modifier keys down as you click and drag the handles. Modifier keys include Shift, Ctrl, Alt and combinations of those three keys, such as Ctrl Shift Alt simultaneously. Try it and have some fun distorting your images.

If you click on EditTransform, you’ll have many more menu options, one of which is Perspective.

Picture 8 is what I see after clicking on Edit ► Transform ► Perspective and then holding Ctrl Shift Alt down simultaneously while clicking and dragging the bounding box handles:

Picture 8Boudning box

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

After accepting the changes, I’m left with Picture 9, which I’m happy with.

Picture 9Final perspective crop

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The main difference between the Perspective crop on a standard picture and a Perspective crop on a Smart Object is that the Smart Object takes far less time and, I think, Photoshop does a much better job of filling in cropped areas with its Content Aware function.

This tutorial was created using Photoshop CC but I discovered that this also works in Photoshop CS6.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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16 thoughts on “Adobe Photoshop CC: Smart objects and perspective cropping

    1. Ann Sowards

      Thanks for taking the time to read a couple of my posts. I really hope they were worth your while…I take it you’re into Dachshund/dog mental processes? Sad.
      This was a really interesting article. It was interesting to me as an artist who has never gone to Tech World to create any art, except dog pictures culled from my camera roll. I see possibilities. I’ll follow your excellent blog to learn more!


  1. Pit

    Hi Russel,
    Great tip – if one does have the programme. 😉 What I use for that purpose is ACDSee. It’s really easy to use, as you can, like you did with “transform” & “smart objects”, simply pull the handles, but it has a (major) disadvantage: by doing this, the original picture is distorted. That means, everything seems wider than it was, making e.g. people look very short but broad. To correct that, you then have to “elongate” the picture. Both processes mean that you loose some of the content as that gets pulled out of the frame of the original. I have not yet found a way to get around that. So, to anticipate that, I usually take a wide-angle picture of the object with plenty of room around the main motif.
    Well, for my purposes and my “limited purse” ACDSee is fine.
    Best regards from southern Texas,
    P.S.: I’m just working over the pictures my wife and I took on our recent trip to England and Scotland and will – hopefully – soon be able to show some of them on my blog(s). Quite a few need that “perspective correction”. Meanwhile, there have been a few new ones from 2011 on my “Bilderbuch-Blog” []


    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I have heard good things about ACDSee. My goal since May 2012 has been to forego all the other programs and spend my time becoming an expert at Photoshop since it’s the defacto worldwide standard. I’m an expert with Corel’s PaintShop Pro and Photo-Paint, but they are not the standard. The standard is on my mind.

      Your problem with perspective (short, fat people) are common in all perspective work. But that’s also why I don’t have too many pictures with people in them……………lol



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