Creativity, Aperture, and the Straighten Tool

by Ellen Anon

One of my goals when I photograph is to go beyond the obvious and I'm sure that's true for most of you as well. I'm always seeking ways to do something just a little different. I'll twist into all sorts of convoluted positions when taking a picture, and try new approaches and techniques. And as you might expect I experiment with all sorts of effects in my digital software.

Aperture helps me to be more creative in a variety of ways. Obviously the ability to generate a number of different versions of an image and compare them side by side is incredibly helpful. I find that I experiment with different crops regularly, and sometimes with monochromatic versions of the images. But the feature that has been unexpectedly beneficial is the Straighten tool.

When I first began using Aperture I was lukewarm about this tool. It took awhile before I discovered that the results were far more predictable if I used my cursor near the edge of the image rather than towards the center. Since I remain horizonally challenged (that is to say that despite all sorts of tricks such as matching the focusing sensors in my camera to the horizon or using a leveling device on camera or on my tripod, my horizons are often crooked), I became proficient at using the Straighten tool in the intended manner.

But one day I began experimenting with it to deliberately tilt my subject matter. And a number of times I discovered new compositions that I hadn't seen previously. For example rotating this shot of a cat yielded an endearing close up. I've used this approach with a variety of subject matter particularly flowers and animals, with great success. Sometimes just a slight rotation removes unavoidable background clutter. Other times it improves the compositional balance. While I'd like to claim that I carefully craft all my shots so that they are compositionally perfect, in reality that's just not possible at times ... particularly with unpredictable subject matter such as animals. The beauty of using the Straighten tool is that the rotation effect is immediate so you can judge how far to go based upon what you're seeing rather than a guess. Give it a try!




Roger Bourland
2007-05-30 08:09:39
Wonderful! Never thought of that idea. Thank you.
Bakari C
2007-05-30 11:58:10
Wow, Ellen, you discovered this too. I pointed this technique out briefly in one of the podcast tips I did. Often times when I work with the straightening tool, it gives me a crop that I never thought of. And the neat thing is, I can accept the crop and still create an original version before the crop was made.
2007-05-31 04:13:34
It's funny both of you started this. I accidently cropped a picture of a monkey last weekend, and the result was so much more interesting than the original. Thanks for your article.
Sam Brown
2007-05-31 10:28:36
Great idea! I often did some extreme straightening accidently, but it never crossed my mind to use this in a creative way.