Our article on What is Lens Distortion? goes through the various types of lens distortion and gives you an in-depth explanation on why it appears in photography. Sometimes, you might even be looking for lens distortion. If you’re photographing with a fisheye lens, for example, distortion is what you want.
But what about those moments when lens distortion is not what you’re after but it happens anyway?
In this article we’ll show you how to correct lens distortion so that you can take full advantage of your lenses and improve your photography.
Correcting Lens Distortion in Lightroom
Lens Corrections Tool (Optical Distortion)
Within Lightroom, there is a whole area dedicated to optical distortion correction. This area is called Lens Corrections, found on the right-hand part of the develop module towards the bottom.
This will allow you to correct distortion from your lenses, either automatically or manually. The great thing about this tool is that it uses lens profiles. These are presets that will change your image according to the lens that you use.
The lens manufacturers have created these profiles with necessary lens error information. You can access them very easily and correct the errors automatically at the click of a button.
But, not all lenses have profiles. Some of the newer or specialised lenses might not have profiles created for them. This means that you will have to use the lens correction tool manually.
How To Use The Lens Correction Tool
First, open an image and head on to the develop module.
Scroll down the right-hand panel to find the Lens Corrections panel. Profile should already be selected. If it isn’t, click on it.
Find the second checkbox Enable Profile Corrections and check it. This starts the automatic process, where Lightroom will access the photographs’ metadata and learn which lens you used.
If you have checked the box, and Lightroom didn’t manage to find your lens, it will let you know at the bottom of the panel.
This means you will either have to find the make, model and profile yourself or that there is no profile for your lens.
Select Make to look at all of the lens and camera manufacturers. Here, I used a Canon lens.
Select Model for the lens you used. For this image, I used a Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens.
Click on Profile to see all of the profiles that lens could have. Here there is only one.
The image will compensate for the distortion, and it might be unnoticeable at first.
If you want to see the unedited version or turn off the distortion correction, click the small tab next to the panel title Lens Corrections.
If you wish to tweak the image a little further, you have the sliders Distortion and Vignetting.
Raising the distortion will pull the centre towards you, and lowering it will push the centre away.
The vignetting is the exposure around the edges of the frame. I find these two useful to play around with, just to see their effect, even if I do not use them.
If you would like more control, click on the manual tab. If there is no profile, make or model of your lens, you will have to click here.
This is where you can really correct the distortion using a slider. We recommend using the Constrain Crop, otherwise, you will see areas of no data appear around the edges of the frame.
At the bottom of the panel, you have the vignetting slider and the mid tones of the vignetting.
Transform Tool (Perspective Distortion)
This transform tool is a great way to quickly and efficiently correct perspective distortion. This tool uses a guided line tool that you can apply to straight lines in your image. You can find this panel under the Lens Corrections panel.
The tool will assess these lines, and correct accordingly, usually pulling the top of the photograph towards you and the bottom away. This will create some blank areas with no data. You will have to crop these for the final result.
Distortion can have a huge impact on your images. Wide-angle and telephoto lenses have the biggest impact on the distortion your image will suffer from.
Learning about this distortion and what creates it will help you photograph better. If you compensate for these aberrations in the image taking, there is less work needed in the post-processing stage.
My tips to you would be to photograph a little wider than what you are used to. This way, if you need to crop into the image, you do not lose any photographic content. Also, try to shoot a little higher than eye level.
This will help with the perspective distortion, and it could make a huge difference in your photography.