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Have you ever heard the expression ‘the devil is in the details?’ In photography, the devil is Chromatic Aberration (CA).

Chromatic Aberration usually manifests itself in the form of purple/red/blue/cyan/green fringes. They appear alongside high contrast edges.

In this article, you will learn how to deal with Chromatic Aberration. First, by minimising it in camera. Then, by correcting it with Adobe Lightroom.

 Diptych showing incidence of Chromatic Aberration in a sunset seascape

Top: The dawn on a beach in the Kerkyra Island (Greece). Bottom: 100% crop on the dock reveal quite a bit of chromatic aberration along the high contrasted edges.

What Causes Chromatic Aberration?

In laymen terms, chromatic aberration means finding colours where they shouldn’t be.

White light does not exist. And white is not a colour. It’s how we perceive a combination of colours. These are in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Every colour behaves in its own particular way when passing through a material. A prism “disperses” them, and they form a familiar rainbow.

The refractive index causes the dispersion. This is the index of the material white light is passing through.

Refraction is stronger for the light of short wavelengths (blue). It’s less intense for light of long wavelengths (red).

And finally, different kinds of glasses cause refraction or dispersion of various intensities.

Image of white light passing through a prism to show how ow diffusion leads to chromatic aberration

Dispersion of white light passing through a prism. Image Credit: Wikipedia.

The Different Types of Chromatic Aberration

There are two types of Chromatic Aberration : Longitudinal and Transverse chromatic aberration.

Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration diagram in Wikipedia

Optical scheme illustrating longitudinal (or axial) chromatic aberration, LoCA (left), and how it looks like in photographs (right).

What Is Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration?

Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration, LoCA, is also known as axial

It appears when the lens cannot focus all the different colours on its focal plane (the sensor).

One or more colours are then focused either in front or behind the focal plane.

What Does Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration Look Like?

LoCA appears in high contrast areas and it can be visible at the edges or at the centre of the frame.

It presents itself as a blurred purple or green fringe. It’s either in front or behind the object in focus.

The image below shows a fair amount of chromatic aberration. It’s along all the contrasted edges, regardless of their position in the frame.

Diptych show incidences of chromatic Aberration on a garrett window

This image presents a fair amount of chromatic aberration.

LoCA is easy to identify. It changes colours when you focus in front or behind the object.

And it disappears at a narrow aperture.

Take a look at the image below. The blurred purple colour in the image taken at f/1.4 is in front of the window edge.

It’s not only alongside it.

This makes it difficult to correct in post-processing.

Photo grod showing how adjustments affect Chormatic Aberration on a photo of a garret window

LoCA changes from purple to green by changing the focus (left) and disappears when stepping down the lens (right)

Transverse Chromatic Aberration

Optical scheme illustrating transverse chromatic aberration, TCA (left), and how it looks like in photographs (right).

Optical scheme illustrating transverse (or lateral) chromatic aberration, TCA (left), and how it looks like in photographs (right).

What Is Transverse Chromatic Aberration?

Transverse Chromatic Aberration, TCA, is also known as lateral. It happens when the colours are on the focal plane, but not all in the same point.

It is more present toward the edges of the frame and is not shown in the central part of the frame.

What Does Transverse Chromatic Aberration Look Like?

Transverse Chromatic Aberration appears as sharp color fringing. It’s alongside high contrast edges of a dark or bright area.

The color fringes are complementary colours along opposite edges. Left side green, right side red, and so on.

Stepping down your lens does not correct TCA.

A crop of a seascape image showing quite strong chromatic illustration along the poles of the dock.

This 100% crop of the opening image in this post exhibits a quite strong TCA along the poles of the dock.

How To Reduce Chromatic Aberration on Your Camera

The lens industry puts great effort into minimising chromatic aberration in their lenses. They do this with low dispersion optical glass and optical elements.

Apochromatic lenses, for example, correct chromatic aberration.

But a certain amount of both LoCA and TCA is unavoidable.

High-quality lenses exhibit much less chromatic aberration than:

  • cheap lenses;
  • fast lenses when used wide open;
  • old legacy lenses;
  • cheap teleconverters and wide angle converters.

Here are some tricks to reduce chromatic aberration in-camera:

  • avoid high contrast scenes;
  • accurate focus to reduce the LoCA blur, making it look smaller;
  • stepping down your lens by 1 stop or 2, i.e., by using smaller apertures, to remove LoCA;
  • placing your subject in the middle of the frame to make it TCA free and crop later to regain a better composition;
  • exposing for the highlights and avoiding blowing them up;
  • avoiding to use the shortest and longest focal length on zoom lenses;
  • varying the distance between you and the subject.

How to Correct Chromatic Aberrations in Adobe Lightroom

TCA is usually easier to correct in post-processing than LoCA. In general, Adobe Lightroom lets you remove (or reduce) both with a few clicks.

In Adobe Lightroom, you can find both an automatic and a manual correction for CA. It’s under the Lens Corrections panel of the Develop Module.

Screenshot of Chromatic Aberration Removal in Lightroom develop module

Automatic CA correction (left) and defringe settings for manual CA correction.

Chromatic Aberration Automatic Correction

Nothing could be easier. Tick the box Remove Chromatic Aberration in the Lens Corrections->Profile panel. Now let Lightroom do its magic.

Diptych comparing photos of a clocktower with chromatic Aberration

Comparison between original image with visible TCA (top) and the autocorrected image (bottom).

Chromatic Aberration Manual Correction

Sometimes, CA automatic correction does not remove all the Chromatic Aberration in your image. In these cases you can go to the Lens Corrections ->Manual panel.

Use the eye-drop in the Defringe section to sample the Chromatic Aberration along the affected edges.

While viewing the image at 100% sample different points along the edges showing CA. Like this, you’ll get the best global result.

Repeat the procedure for both the purple/red and blue/green colours.

There’s also a manual way to correct CA. This consists of manipulating the amount and colour hue sliders. You can find these in the defringe section of the Manual panel.

Those sliders control the width, in pixels, of the colour fringe to correct and its colour hue. They are available for both purple and green color fringing.

You can also manipulate the sliders to further reduce, or completely remove, CA. In case the automatic and/or eye drop methods did not correct it.

Screenshot of Manually Correcting Chromatic Aberration in a photo of a clocktower

The same image of before, but this time I corrected the AC.

When you use the manual method to correct your photo for the AC, do not focus only on the edges you are sampling. Check the rest of the image as well.

Finally, don’t push the correction too far. This could damage affect some other parts of your image.

Screenshot of Manually Correcting Chromatic Aberration in a photo of a church

Cranking up the hue for the purple color all the way had some negative impacts on the church in the centre of the frame, where some areas have been greyed out.

How to Test Your Lenses for CA

Right click on the image below to download the chart I use to test my gear against CA. Print it or display it full screen on your monitor set to its max brightness.

Chromatic Aberration Test Grid

The custom chart I use to test my lenses for chromatic aberration. Right click on it to download it.

Now you can start testing your lenses against Chromatic Aberration and how you can minimise it in camera. Take a shot of it and then preview it.

Below is the result I obtained with my Sony Rx100 Mk2, and the chart displayed on my computer.

Chromatic Aberration grid test- Sample

Testing the Sony RX100 Mk2 at 28mm equivalent and f/1.8 against CA. Chromatic Aberration has been maximised in camera and in post-processing to make it more visible.

The Sony RX100 Mk2 has TCA (corrected by the software). And by LoCA (corrected with the eye-drop method).

I have worked to maximise the amount of Chromatic Aberration in the image. But the complete removal of CA in Lightroom was still two clicks away (see image below).

Chromatic Aberration Sample

Chromatic aberration corrected version of the previous image.

Conclusion

If Chromatic Aberration shows up in your photos, don’t panic! From reading this article, you now know several tips and tricks to get rid of CA.

You can minimise Chromatic Aberration on your camera. And you can correct it in post-production. Your photos will turn out the way you want them to.

If you’re new to using Lightroom to organize and post-process your photos you can learn more with our beginners’ guide.

And check out our 15 Keyboard Shortcuts to speed up your Lightroom workflow.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

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Thanks again for reading our articles!

Andrea Minoia

Andrea Minoia is an enthusiast photographer based in Brussels, Belgium. He is mainly active in portraiture and table top photography, but he does enjoy to get busy with astrophotography and infrared photography. You can follow his work on his regularly updated photo stream on 500px and follow him on google+.You can also get in touch with him via his personal website .

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