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How to Rotate, Flip, and Straighten an Image in Adobe Photoshop

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Tinkering with your images from time to time is all part-and-parcel of photography. Post-production editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, is a great choice to play around with to create better images.

Looking to turn an OK image into something better? Perhaps you just need to rotate, flip or straighten an image.

This is something you might want to do before playing around with adjustments such as exposure. Here’s how to do it.

Outdoor portrait of a female model resting against a graffiti painted wall

How to Rotate an Image in Photoshop

There are a few ways to rotate an image in Adobe Photoshop. You need to use the toolbar for both options. It’s worth knowing that batch processing is possible in Photoshop, but is a little too complicated for this post.

Image Rotation Option

Rotating an image is a very useful feature of Adobe Photoshop. Thankfully, it is a very simple action.

This is the image we are going to work with. It was taken with the idea of rotating the image to create some perspective control.

A couple lying in a swimming pool at an interesting angle

First, click on Image and then Image Rotation>90° Counter-Clockwise. This will rotate the image left, so the top right corner becomes the top left corner.

a screenshot showing how to rotate an image in Photoshop

This is the final image after rotating it left or counter-clockwise.

an image of a couple in a swimming pool after being rotated in Photoshop

Transform Option

The other option is to use the Transform tool. For this to work, first you need to open the layer. Go to the Layers panel in the bottom right corner and double click on the layer.

a screenshot showing how to rotate an image in Photoshop using the transform tool

A window will pop-up named New Layer. Click on OK. This lets you transform the image possible.

a screenshot showing how to rotate an image in Photoshop using the transform tool

Next, go to Edit in the top toolbar. Find Transform>Rotate 90° Counter-Clockwise. The image will turn itself.

a screenshot showing how to rotate an image in Photoshop using the transform tool

How to Flip an Image in Photoshop

Flipping an image is different from rotating it. Here, you are creating a mirrored version of the original image, either top-bottom or left-right, or vice versa.

Image Rotation Option

To flip your image, you need to use the top toolbar.

a still life of jewels and decorative masks

Click on Image, and go down to Image Rotation>Flip Canvas Horizontal.

a screenshot showing how to flip an image in Photoshop

The final image will look like this. The left side becomes the right side.

a still life of jewels and decorative masks after flipping the image in Photoshop

Transform Option

You can use the Transform option to flip an image too. Again, you need to double-click on the image’s layer in the bottom right corner.

a screenshot showing how to flip an image in Photoshop using the transform tool

This will open a pop-up window, where you need to click on OK.

a screenshot showing how to flip an image in Photoshop using the transform tool

Once open, you can work on it. Click on Edit, and then down to Transform>Flip Horizontal. 

a screenshot showing how to flip an image in Photoshop using the transform tool

This will flip the image from left to right.

a still life of jewels and decorative masks after flipping the image in Photoshop

Straightening an Image

Rotating or flipping an image is different from straightening an image. Rotating only gives you the option of turning an image at 90° steps. Flipping is different altogether.

By using a simple tool, you can rotate your image by any number of degrees. It is easier to do this in Adobe Lightroom (see our article on how to Flip, Rotate and Straighten in Lightroom) as it needs less editing.

Image Rotation Option

To straighten an image and rotate it by a few degrees, you’ll need to use the Transform tool.

This is the image we will be using, where I fell the scene could be straightened a little.

a black and white candid portarit of a girl walking down the street

To rotate the image by a few degrees,  go to Edit and then Image>Image Rotation>Arbitrary.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

This will open a pop-up window named ‘Rotate Canvas’. There are two options to choose from; Clockwise and Counter-Clockwise.

The angle box is the number of degrees that you want to rotate the image.

Any negative number will work in the opposite manner. For example – if you set the number to -10° while selecting clockwise, it will rotate 10° Counter-Clockwise.

The difficulty with this system is there is no preview. You can only see the changes after you click OK and the window closes. You might need to complete this step a few times to get the rotation you are looking for.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

Once you have rotated the image, you’ll notice some blank areas appear. This is due to you rotating the image, yet the canvas or ‘workable area’ stays in the same place.

You’ll need to crop these areas out. In Lightroom, the image rotates and crops at the same time, so no extra work is needed.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

To crop the image, you’ll need to open the layer. To do this, you need to double click on the image in the Layers panel. Click OK to dismiss the window.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

After the layer has been opened, you are free to play around with the editing part.

Start by selecting the Marquee Tool on the left-hand toolbar. Once selected, go to the Style box at the top and select Fixed Ratio. This gives you the option to keep the same ratio of the image.

Chances are, the ratio of your image is 2:3 which means if the width is 2000 pixels, the height is 3000 pixels. Change the Width and Height accordingly.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

Click and drag on the image to create a box with the marching ants. You want to keep as much of the image as possible while cutting out all of the blank space in the corners.

Unfortunately, you are going to lose parts of the image, but we want to keep as much of it as possible. Select as much of the image as possible.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

Once you have your area selected, you need to crop the image. Go to Image>Crop. That’s all there is to it.

a screenshot showing how to straighten an image in Photoshop

This is the final image. This goes to show that you can straighten an image in Photoshop, but it is easier and less destructive to do it in Adobe Lightroom.

a black and white candid portarit of a girl walking down the street

Looking for more great Photoshop tips? Check out our posts on How to Easily Create a Slideshow in Photoshop and How to Replace a Face in Photoshop next!

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