Incense

by Bart Arondson

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I'm having a hard time getting my lens to perfectly align parallel to the subject. This is very important when photographing subjects such as buildings or interiors. Do I just need to practice seeing the geometry of my subject better or are there some easy tips to ease the alignment?

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When the lens is parallel to the subject, the subject will be edge-on. Perhaps you're trying to get the sensor parallel to the subject? (Framing this question in terms of the sensor, rather than the lens, will help you better understand what's going on, too, because not all lenses are perpendicular to their sensors.) –  whuber Dec 19 '11 at 19:00
    
I don't think it's helpful to the situation described, but there is a similar question here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/14822/… –  MikeW Dec 19 '11 at 20:13
    
Buy or borrow a 7D ;-) It has a built in electronic level. –  Robin Mar 18 '13 at 23:32

3 Answers 3

Have someone hold a small mirror flat against the wall/building in line with the camera and adjust until you can see the camera reflected in the mirror. If you need to be centred on the wall as well, measure the centre of the wall and place the mirror there.

Apart from that, I can only suggest zooming until the edges of the wall/building and/or floor/ceiling are near the edges of your viewfinder image and align the camera so that the perspective is equal on both sides, top and bottom.

Another possibility with interiors especially is to align the shot with natural lines parallel or perpendicular to the walls, like the lines of wooden floors, tiles, furniture. You might crouch down, or aim the camera down to align it, then stand and recompose but maintaing that alignment.

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+1 for the mirror idea –  Sean Dec 19 '11 at 20:53
4  
A gridded viewfinder can help a lot too. All of the DSLRs that I've used in the past few years have a grid display option either in the viewfinder or as a live view overlay (or both). (One used to have to buy an optional focusing screen to get one with a grid etched onto it.) The switchable grid is not very fine (it's usually a rule-of-thirds or a 4x4 grid), but it will help you see convergence better. –  user2719 Dec 19 '11 at 22:02
    
Seeing the camera in the mirror doesn't guarantee the sensor is aligned to the object. It might put you in the middle, but you can still tilt up/down/left/right and rotate the camera, while still seeing it reflected in the mirror. –  drfrogsplat Mar 19 '13 at 1:05
    
I had in mind a small mirror, and looking back down at the barrel of the lens. But you are right - I wasn't very clear about that. –  MikeW Mar 19 '13 at 1:45

MikeW is right about the mirror, but it's not enough to see the camera reflected in the mirror. To be perfectly parallel, the centre of the lens must be in the centre of the screen. Use focus points or grid lines or whatever your camera has to indicate the screen centre.

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I too have found it hard to get the sensor perfectly parallel. But if you use Lightroom 4, you dont' have to. In the "camera correction" portion of "develop" you can adjust a slider and it will correct both vertical and horizontal misalignment.

Its not as good as perfect alignment, or using a proper tilt/shift lens, but it was good enough for the photos I took when I sold my house.

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