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This is the original photograph I took with a Canon 6D and focal length 80mm (desaturated):

original

I wanted the building to use up more space, so I cropped it: cropped

Because of the tilt of the off-center crop, I corrected the perspective distortion using a software tool: cropped and perspective correction applied

Now it looked really unnatural, so I tried correcting the perspective distortion from the original not-cropped photo:

perspective correction applied

This looks better, but still unnatural.

Finally, I am wondering what is the correct or a good way to photograph a building like this?

I think the original photo is still the best, although I am not quiet happy with it, but all the corrected images seem to be unnatural, and the cropping obviously doesn't look good if it is off-center.

Is there an option to improve the photo in post processing?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

What I see there is that the software managed to do affine transformation (change the pitch of the camera), but forgot about lens distortion. Ofcourse, to do a full blown perpective recomputation you need a 3D model of the scene, as affine transformation only models the scene as a plane. So you get to choose, if you want the front wall straight or the back wall.

Here I did a quick pitch, a bit of roll, and also lens-de-distortion. I made the front wall parallel.

affine trans

If you want to avoid having to do it in post, you need a shift/tilt lens, or a very wide angle lens and place the building in the upper half, keeping the camera level.

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Thanks for the reply! Actually, it wasn't the software that managed to forget the lens distortion, but me who unticked the checkbox ;) By enabling the automatic lens distortion, it got much better, but only with manual settings it got perfectly straight. –  schluchc Dec 16 '13 at 17:59

If you are using perspective correction software in the "automatic" mode, as in it is using the lens profile for the correction - you may have to switch that mode off. Instead try manual correction if you are going to crop the image. The automatic correction might require an uncropped image. Alternatively you could turn the correction on prior to cropping.

To answer your section question, about a good way to photograph a building like this, I would advise reading up on this previous question/answer: Will a tilt-shift lens solve my 'leaning building' shots?

The "optimal" way would likely be to use a tilt-shift lens, in combination with manual perspective control in post processing. If your composition and vision allows for it, and you really want the building to square up, you could also modify your position to shoot directly at the building instead of from the side - but that is obviously changing the image significantly.

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Thanks for the reply! As you have pointed out, the problem was the lens distortion, actually automatic lens distortion correction was quiet good now (I applied it on the original-uncropped photo), but I initially didn't apply any lens distortion correction at all. Shooting directly at the building is something I will try as well, but was not the original intention. –  schluchc Dec 16 '13 at 18:06

It looks unnatural because your eyes don't have a shift function so you're used to seeing the top of a skyscraper

its the same reason that people consider ultra-wide angle images to contain "distortion" even when the lens/image is perfectly corrected, just because they are not used to the angle of view, or the way in which objects change shape according to their position in the frame.

The "correct" way to photograph the building would be from the window of a building of similar height, so you can hold the camera horizontally whilst still getting the top of the building in shot. That way the photo will correspond with how you eye sees the building.

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+1 I did not understand your center paragraph before I went to take ultrawide photos indoors a big old church and then work to undistort & perspective correct the photos. They still look odd. –  Esa Paulasto Feb 22 at 8:30

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