Nothing quite gives a photo an amateur look like a crooked horizon does, but luckily, you can straighten your image in Photoshop with the Crop Tool relatively fast.
In this guide, you’ll learn two different ways of straightening your photos. The first method is to straighten your image with the Crop Tool if you’re editing a JPEG, PNG, TIFF, or any other file format. The second option uses Camera Raw, which is best if you’re editing RAW images in Photoshop. Later in this tutorial, you’ll also learn a helpful trick to straighten your images without cropping.
So let’s get started!
How To Straighten A Photo In Photoshop Using The Crop Tool
This option is the most common one when you need to crop or straighten an image. Not only is this option quick to do, but you can use this option any time during your project.
Step 1: Select The Crop Tool (C)
Select the Crop Tool (C) in the Toolbar to start this process.
Step 2: Uncheck Both Options In The Options Bar
With the Crop Tool selected, review the Options Bar at the top of the screen.
There are two options that can be checked:
- Delete Cropped Pixels – Having this option checked on will permanently delete the pixels you end up cropping. This means if you want to bring back part of your image later in your project, you won’t be able to.
- Content-Aware – This option will use Photoshop’s AI to “fill in the gaps” in your cropped area. So, if it looks like you will lose a chunk of the image after you crop it, check this box to let Photoshop cover you.
For this section of the guide, uncheck both of these options.
Note: I recommend you avoid the Delete Cropped Pixels option, as it’s more of a hindrance than anything else. You only need to check this option if RAM is an issue for your computer or if you want to delete the pixels for a specific edit intentionally.
Step 3: Use The Straighten Tool
In the Options Bar, click the Straighten button to select the Straighten Tool.
Drag the Straighten Tool across the area of your photo that you want to use as your horizon line. This will re-orientate your image to how you need it.
You will now see a transparent version of your image behind the canvas. The corners of the image will indicate how straight your image will look once you confirm your changes.
Step 4: Press Enter To Confirm
Once you’re satisfied with your changes (as subtle as they may be), press Enter to confirm.
You now have a straightened version of your original image.
How To Straighten A Photo In Photoshop Using Camera Raw
The RAW file format allows you to edit images non-destructively before entering the Photoshop workspace. This preserves the highest quality of the original image while allowing you to make adjustments and edits.
One of the edits you can make in this format is straightening the image. If you’re working with RAW photos, here’s how you can easily straighten them.
Step 1: Open Your Raw File In Photoshop
The most important thing to remember when using this option is that you can’t open a PNG or JPEG using the Camera Raw filter. You have to open an actual RAW file directly inside Photoshop.
To open your RAW file inside Photoshop, go to File > Open.
You will be prompted to locate your file on your hard drive. Once you do, click Open to open the file in the Camera Raw interface.
If you don’t open your RAW file directly in Photoshop, you won’t have access to the crop tool in the sidebar. Without the Crop Tool, you won’t be able to make the necessary changes. The crop tool is greyed out when you don’t open the file correctly.
Step 2: Click The Crop Tool (C)
With your image open in the Camera Raw interface, click the Crop Tool (C) in the Toolbar on the right side of the screen.
This will open up the Crop Menu.
Step 3: Use The Angle Slider Or The Straighten Tool
Now you’re ready to straighten your image.
There are two ways to straighten your image in Camera Raw. You can use the Angle Slider, or you can use the Straighten Tool. Both methods work fine, and choosing is up to your personal taste and what works for the project.
If you want to use the Angle Slider, you’ll find it in the Crop Menu. Slowly move the slider left or right to tilt the entire image in that direction.
As you adjust the slider, you’ll see a transparent version of your image behind your canvas. Line up the transparent picture until you feel like it’s as straight as you need it.
If you have a clear horizon line, you can opt to use the Straighten Tool, which you can find to the right of the Angle slider. Click the button to select it.
With the Straighten Tool selected, drag your mouse across the horizon line in your image. By horizon line, I mean the area where the foreground and the sky meet.
If the image is indoors, you must make your best guess and judge the final result by how it looks.
Also, remember that there is no rule set in stone when it comes to the Straighten Tool. You can drag the tool across any area of your photo if you want to be more artistic with the final result.
Step 4: Press Enter To Confirm
Once you’ve used one of the two ways to straighten your image, press Enter to confirm the change.
Your photo is now officially straightened. You should see either a subtle change that only you may notice or a radical difference that transforms the balance of the entire image.
How To Straighten A Photo Without Cropping It In Photoshop
What if you need to straighten a photo without affecting the original size?
Photoshop makes this more straightforward than you would assume. You just need to check one box to make this possible.
First, select the Crop Tool (C) from the Toolbar.
Next, select the Straighten Tool in the Toolbar and use it like you usually would.
After using the Straighten Tool, you may notice a checkerboard pattern behind your image, especially when ensuring the crop box keeps all the image’s edges within the frame to prevent any cropping.
The goal is to replace that checkerboard pattern with nearby pixels so that the image appears complete.
To do this, check the box next to Content-Aware in the Options Bar. Doing this will let Photoshop know that you want AI to fill in the rest of the image.
Click the Checkmark icon in the Options Bar or press Enter to confirm.
Your image is now straight with the same aspect ratio and the corners of the picture filled in.
You may still see a little bit of the checkerboard pattern behind the image. You may see this on one or more of the edges of the picture.
This makes it appear as though Photoshop missed some of the pixels on the edge of your image.
Don’t worry. This is just a glitch in Photoshop. If you zoom into the edge of the image, you’ll see no missing pixels in the final image.
You don’t have to worry about how the image will look when you export it. There will be no missing pixels after you export the image.
Note: Checking the Content-Aware box works best when dealing with an image with a simple texture or pattern.
If your image has a complex subject, pattern, or background near the edge of the frame, Photoshop won’t know how to deal with it. You’ll end up with random pixels at the edge of your image that don’t look correct in the picture.
So before checking the Content-Aware box, ensure your photo’s edge is simple.