STRAIGHTEN UP! How to avoid and fix crooked photos

If you want one little tip that will immediately improve your photography (and thus, your scrapbook pages), this is it; straighten up your photos. This may seem like the most basic advice ever, but my guess is you will be surprised at how many crooked pictures you will find in your collection of photos once you have your eyes trained to look for straight lines. This is something that I (Katie) still struggle with so I have put in a lot of research time on this subject. Today I’m going to share with you 3 important ways you can avoid and/or fix crooked pictures.

Before I go any further, I want to show you a few examples and go over a few basic principles.

When a picture is crooked, it is uncomfortable for your eye to view it. Without even realizing it, you try to compensate for the tilt in the photo.

You might have to do a double-take to realize how this photo has changed from the first one in the series. The horizon line is straight now.

The horizon line is where the ground meets the sky. Even if there are mountains, uneven ground, or buildings in the way, this line still exists and your eye will search for it. When there is no natural horizon line, obvious horizontal lines will call attention to whether or not your photo is straight.

Nature often provides the lines for you – the centers of flowers, people’s eyes, the ground line, etc.

Your mind can easily fill in the line that should be there.

Now that you know what to look for to determine if your photo is straight or not, let’s talk about how to straighten things out.


Ideally, you should aim to shoot straight pictures as you press the shutter-release button. How do the pros do this? They gear up for success! There are tools that will make this task a little easier.

  • shoot with a tripod or with your camera resting on a level surface
  • use a camera level
  • use the viewfinder grid display on your camera and line up one of the grid lines with a line in your photograph.

  • practice, practice, practice!


Of course you aren’t always going to get a straight shot. There isn’t always time to set up tripods and use levels. And what can you do about all those old photos when you didn’t even think about shooting straight? And if you are trying to capture a moving toddler then forget about all of the above and just snap away! Never fear, that’s why we love our photo editing programs so much!

Let me show you how straightening things out in photo editing can dramatically improve a picture:

Please forgive the old pictures – this is me in 1989!

Much better!

What about even a tiny tweak? This is what separates a good photographer from a mediocre one. (Or in this case, a good editor from a mediocre one.)

Nice photo of a seagull on a beach in Oregon. But if you look closely, the horizon line is just a little tilted.

Easy to see this when you have a straight line to compare the horizon to.

After the adjustment everything that should be straight is all fixed.

Subtle, but powerful change.

Ok, so now you are asking HOW do you do this? It depends on what photo editing program you use. Most digital scrapbookers seem to use Adobe Photoshop Elements or one of the Photoshop programs, but there are also other programs that work just as well. The nice thing is that all photo editing programs have pretty straightforward instructions for straightening out photos since that is one of the most common photo edits. Click on the help menu in your program or go to the online website to find tutorials for straightening photos. Here are a few links to get you started:

Straightening Crooked Photos in Lightroom 2 by Scott Kelby

Straighten an image in Photoshop Elements 8

Straighten photos in Photoshop CS4


Just a little tidbit for you to apply to your physical photos on display. If you go to all the work to take or make a straight picture, be sure to keep your frames straight on your wall! I have 92 photo frames hanging along the walls of my stairway and in the landing area. This is a high traffic area where the frames could easily be bumped, but I have a secret weapon to keep them all straight. I put a little bit of this stuff on the back of each photo and press it onto the wall to hold it securely in place. Scotch Brand Adhesive Removable Putty (white). It doesn’t leave a mark on your walls after you remove it. I’ve used this trick for more than 15 years in 3 different houses and I’ve never had a problem with marking up the walls. My pictures are never crooked, even when I dust them.

My other secret weapon? I use a level when I hang all my photos to be sure I hang them straight in the first place!