Photoshop Fix for Really Messed Up Wide-Angle Shots

How’s that one for a title? Well, that’s the best explanation of what happens sometimes when you shoot really wide, and in Photoshop, there’s a tool called Adaptive Wide Angle that was invented for these situations. However, there are three things you need to know about this filter: (1) you’re not going to use it very often, (2) you’re either going to have to crop pretty massively after using it or use Content-Aware Fill to fill in the gaps, and (3) it actually does a pretty darn good job when you do need it.


Step One:

Open the photo that has a serious lens issue you want to fix. I personally don’t use smart filters a bunch, because once I apply a filter, I’m usually pretty much done with it. But, in this case, it’s not a bad idea to first go under the Filter menu and choose Convert for Smart Filters, and then choose Adaptive Wide Angle from that same menu. The reason why this might come in handy is that, depending on the image, you may need to come back and tweak your existing filter settings (well, it’s been the case for me anyway), and by making it a smart filter, you can apply the filter, and then reopen it with all the Constraint lines still in place, so you can tweak them (this will all make more sense in just a minute).

Step Two:

When the Adaptive Wide Angle dialog opens (shown here), it reads the lens data embedded into the photo by your camera (see the bottom-left corner of the dialog), and it tries to apply an Auto correction. Sometimes it does a pretty good job, but more often than not, it doesn’t. Like in this case, you can see the stadium is still really bent, so we’ll have to manually tell Photoshop where the image is bent, and it’ll do the rest.

Step Three:

We start by using the Constraint tool (it’s the default tool and the first one in the toolbar in the top left). Basically, you click at the base of the object you want straightened (like the press box on the right side here, which is bowing outward), and then as you move your cursor to the right, along the top of the press box, the aqua line you’re dragging literally bends (it does this automatically, because it knows the lens you used and what kind of problems you’re dealing with). You get a zoomed-in close-up of where your cursor is currently located in the Detail preview on the right side of the dialog (as seen here), which is really handy for situations like this where you want the end of your line to be right along an edge. Note: If you mess up, you can delete a Constraint line by just pressing-and-holding the Option (PC: Alt) key, clicking once on it, and it’s gone.

Step Four:

Once you click your mouse near the end of the press box (like I did here), it straightens that press box. It also gives you a preview of the cropping work that you’ll need to do pretty shortly (either that, or Content-Aware Fill, but you can see how it’s having to warp the image around to pull this straightening trick off). Also, if part of the top of the press box still looks bent after adding the Constraint line, you can grab the end of the line near where the problem is and literally just drag it out longer. That will usually get rid of the problem, even if you have to drag it off the image area. If you do, you can move your image over in the preview window, so you can reach that end handle if you need to tweak it again, by switching to the Adaptive Wide Angle’s own Move tool (it’s the third tool down in the toolbar).

Step Five:

Let’s go to the press box on the left side and do the same thing—click-and-drag the Constraint tool out over the roof, and when you release the mouse button, it straightens it. So, that’s the basic plan: you take the Constraint tool and drag it over parts of your image that need to be straightened and it does its thing.


TIP: If Your Constraint Lines Don’t Bend

If Photoshop recognizes your lens and has a profile for it, then the lines will bend auto­matically. But, if it doesn’t, a warning dialog will appear telling you that no matching lens profile was found, and it’s then up to you to make the bend manually. Just click the Constraint tool on one end of what you want to fix, then click it again on the other end to complete your straight line. Then, click on the center point within the circle and bend the line, so it fits.

Step Six:

Also, while we’re here, when you lay down one of these Constraint lines, you’ll see a round circle with two round handles appear with it. That lets you fine-tune the angle of that line after you’ve laid it down. So, if it’s off a little (or a lot), you can grab one of those round handles and literally rotate the circle in a clockwise (or counter­­clockwise) motion to change the angle of the fix. As you do this, a little pop-up appears giving you a readout with the amount of rotation (in degrees, as seen here). Once you let go, it readjusts the fix based on how much you rotated.

Step Seven:

Go ahead and click OK to finish up our Adaptive Wide Angle fix. Now, remember, if you click OK and something doesn’t look quite right, and you converted this image for smart fil­ters before you opened the filter itself (see Step One), then you can go to the Layers panel and double-click directly on the words “Adaptive Wide Angle” (as shown here). This will reopen the Adaptive Wide Angle dialog with all your Constraint lines still in place, so you can tweak them, rather than starting over from scratch.

TIP: Straightening Rectangles

If you need to quickly fix something like a doorway or window (a rectangle), then use the Polygon Constraint tool (the second tool down in the toolbar), which works like the Polygonal Lasso tool—just trace around your rectangle and it straightens it.


TIP: Making a Curved Line Straight

Once you have a Constraint line in place, if you decide you should have Shift-clicked (to make the line straight) and didn’t or vice versa, just Right-click on the line and a pop-up menu will appear where you can choose the type of line you want to convert it to.

Step Eight:

So, after you click OK, you’ll see you still have a little work to do. First, the image is a little crooked, so go under the Filter menu and choose Camera Raw Filter. Click on the Lens Corrections icon (the fourth icon from the right) at the top of the Panel area, and then, in the Manual tab, drag the Rotate slider to the left to straighten it out, and click OK.

Step Nine:

Now, go to the Layers panel’s flyout menu and choose Flatten Layers (you have to flatten that Smart Filter layer now to do this last step). Get the Magic Wand tool (press Shift-W until you have it) from the Toolbox, and click in all those white gaps at the top, bottom, and sides to select them (press-and-hold the Shift key to add to the selection). Go under the Select menu, under Modify, and choose Expand. Enter 4 pixels and click OK to expand your selected area by 4 pixels. Now, go under the Edit menu, choose Fill, and from the Use pop-up menu, choose Content-Aware Fill. Click OK to fill in those areas, and then press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect. Below is a before/after.

Learn how to do more from The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers (2014 Release) here: