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How To Rotate A Photo In Lightroom

Whether you’re using a tripod or holding the camera when you take a photo, it may not be perfectly rotated the way you want right out of the camera.

But this is extremely easy to fix in Lightroom and there are multiple ways to rotate a photo in Lightroom depending on what you need to accomplish.

Leveling Using The Horizon or Vertical Lines

Often the main reason you want to rotate a photo in Lightroom is to ensure that either the horizon or vertical lines in a photo are correct.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend much time trying to get these lines perfect. You can simply tell Lightroom which lines you want leveled and it will do all the work for you.

Here’s how it works.

Auto Leveling

If you’re feeling lucky, you can try the auto leveling button in Lightroom.

Just click on the Crop Overlay (Keyboard Shortcut “R”) and then click on the “Auto” button in the Crop Overlay functions.

This button looks for a defined horizon or vertical lines in the image and will level the image based on those lines.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. To be honest, I prefer to go right to the next option because it gives you more control and you can be sure that the right part of the image is being used.

Straighten Tool

The Straighten Tool is easily my most used method of fixing horizons in landscape images.

It’s especially useful when the horizon line itself is not easy to see across the entire photo. You can look at the image and identify two spots that should be even with each other and use them as reference points to straighten the entire image.

It’s also useful when you have vertical lines in an image.

First you need to click on the icon indicated below to activate the Straighten Tool.

Once you click on it, the ruler icon will follow the pointer indicating that the tool is active.

Then all you need to do is

  1. Find the horizon or vertical line in your image that you want to use at a reference point,
  2. Click on one end of that line
  3. Click on the other end of that line.

Once you’ve told Lightroom which two points are supposed to be level, it will automatically straighten the image for you.

Flip A Photo Vertically or Horizontally

Sometimes you just want an image flipped to be a mirror image of itself.

This one is easy…

Just go to the menu at the top and select “Photo” and then click Flip Horizontal or Flip Vertical.

Rotate With The Click and Drag Handles

Often certain images just look better if they are rotated a little bit (or a lot if you are gong for that dutch angle look).

In a situation where you want to rotate the image but aren’t quite sure how much, then the click and drag handles are pretty useful.

They are activated automatically once you click on the crop overlay. All you need to do is move your pointer somewhere off the edge of the photo.

Then you can click and drag the image clockwise or counterclockwise as much or as little as you need.

Lightroom also will make the crop overlay show much smaller sections which makes it easier to see how objects in the photo are aligned.

Rotate A Photo To Specific Angles

The Angle function in the Crop Overlay tool works very similarly to the Click and Drag Handles. In fact it does the exact same thing, just from a different interface.

One of the benefits of this is when you have a certain look that you like and want to repeat it with some consistency. For example, you know that you like portraits tilted at -6.16 like in the illustration below.

You can also use this to make sure that a series of images all taken the same way (perhaps on a tripod) are all adjusted the same. But an easier way would just be to sync your images and batch edit them.

Pete LaGregor

Pete LaGregor

Pete is a photographer in New Jersey and specializes in portraits and commercial photography, but loves shooting landscapes and video for fun. You can check out his work on his website.
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