How To Understand Lens Distortion In Photography & How To Fix It? 2021

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After lastly saving up sufficient money, you head out and purchase that new lens you’ve been eyeing. You then clearly shoot with it obsessively for days. However, whenever you have a look at the pictures on your pc, your enthusiasm dims. Straight traces aren’t straight, and there’s even some vignetting on the sides.

Lens distortion is a lot part of images as taxes are part of on a regular basis life. Annoying, however one thing that it’s a must to settle for if you wish to take photos. Each lens suffers from lens distortion. Excessive-end lenses can have much less distortion than low-cost lenses. However, due to the physics of sunshine, no lens can produce an ideal, distortion-free picture.

The excellent news is that, should you perceive lens distortion, you can also make it much less distracting. On this information, you’ll be taught what lens distortion is and how one can repair it in most photograph modifying packages.

Close-up photo of lenses
Picture by Sharegrid

How Lenses Work And Why Distortion Occurs

One of the simplest ways to know lens distortion is to first grasp the gist of how lenses actually work. The glass lens (or most often, a sequence of glass lenses inside a single digicam lens) works by bending the sunshine. This motion initiatives a picture onto the camera sensor or a chunk of movie.

To seize a large subject of view, that cup must have a extra excessive curve to venture onto the digicam sensor. Glass from wide-angle lenses have way more spherical glass than a telephoto lens.

The curved form permits the lens to seize a large view of the scene. However the curve additionally means the objects on the fringe of the picture are a special distance from the lens than these on the heart. That distinction means the objects on the fringe of the body aren’t enlarged as a lot because the objects within the heart. Amplify a line on the edges and never within the heart, and that line seems to curve on the edges.

The kind of distortion brought on by that excessive curve of a wide-angle lens known as barrel distortion. With this distortion, straight traces will stay straight in direction of the middle however curve out on the edges of the picture. This provides traces a round, barrel-like form.

Telephoto lenses have the alternative downside, known as pincushion distortion. The magnification of the lens is best on the heart, so the sides of the photograph can seem to bend in, reasonably than out.

Each barrel distortion and pincushion distortion is because of the curved form of the lens. Researchers are experimenting with methods to make flat lenses to eliminate that distortion. Flat, distortion-free lenses could also be doable sooner or later. However the know-how has an extended approach to go earlier than we’ll see a flat interchangeable lens for a mirrorless or DSLR.

On most lenses, distortion is minimal. However the extra excessive the focal size, the extra excessive the distortion images. A fisheye lens is a specialty lens that’s so extensive, the barrel distortion makes the picture look virtually round. The longer the focal length, the higher the percentages you’ll see pincushion distortion.

Camera lenses are constructed from a couple of glass piece. This helps combat a few of these distorted results. It additionally improves different forms of distortion like chromatic aberration. That’s why a $900 35mm lens will (more often than not) have much less distortion than a $200 lens.

before and after lens distortion correction

Different Kinds of Lens Distortion

Barrel distortion, pincushion distortion and perspective distortion are a few of the most blatant lens issues.

However the best way lenses work can create different issues too. Vignetting is when the sides of the picture are darker than the centre. This impact is commonly refined till you are taking a photograph of one thing light-coloured. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to take away this in post-processing with lens correction tools.

Chromatic aberration is a sort of optical distortion that’s most blatant within the excessive distinction areas of the photograph. It’s typically undetectable till viewing a picture at 100%. Chromatic aberration is coloured fringing alongside the sides, typically purple or inexperienced. Adobe Lightroom has an choice which is able to take away a few of that aberration.

The physics of sunshine and lens development will create different phenomena too. When capturing with the aperture stopped down, factors of sunshine will typically starburst. This flare occurs when mild hits the lens and creates colored circles, streaks, or an absence of distinction. This may typically be corrected with a lens hood, and even used to your benefit as an artistic effect.

Close-up photo of lenses
Picture by Hunter Moranville

How you can Keep away from or Repair Lens Distortion

Understanding lens distortion will help keep away from distortion wrecking your pictures.

First, all the time remember the fact that the objects in the center of the picture have the least quantity of distortion. It’s true that centering each topic to minimize distortion will create boring, repetitive pictures. However, you could wish to center some pictures to maintain distortion at bay.

Second, think about optical distortion when selecting your focal size. Usually, getting that extensive view or exaggerated distances is vital. But when minimizing barrel distortion is extra vital, select a typical focal size like 50mm.

Lens firms have but to create that excellent distortion-free lens. However, most distortions can be easily removed in post-processing. Through the use of knowledge in regards to the lens itself, saved within the photograph’s metadata, photograph editors can reverse the distortion. In Adobe Lightroom, the choice is an easy checkbox below the Lens Corrections panel that claims “Allow Profile Corrections.”

Adobe Camera RAW has an identical choice earlier than opening a RAW photograph inside Photoshop. Inside Photoshop, lens correction choices can be found by going to Filters > Lens Corrections.

Many different photograph modifying packages have related modifying choices.

before and after lens distortion correction

Widespread Lens Distortion Questions

Why Do Vast-Angle Lenses Distort?

Vast-angle lenses typically present a few of the most blatant distortion, known as barrel distortion. However, it’s a typical false impression that wide-angle lenses have the least quantity of distortion. Telephoto lenses endure a special sort of distortion known as pincushion distortion. Vast-angle lenses also can trigger perspective distortion. This may exaggerate the sizes of objects and is brought on by the focal size and never the lens itself.

What Causes Barrel Distortion?

Barrel distortion is created by the curved form of the lens. As a result of the lens is curved, the center of the photograph is magnified barely greater than the sides. That makes straight traces seem to curve across the fringe of the picture. The broader the lens, the extra excessive the optical distortion. That is because of the bodily form of the glass required to seize that extensive angle.

What Is Lens Distortion Correction?

A lens will all the time create identical sort of lens distortions. Utilizing software programs can typically reverse that impact. Lens correction in Lightroom and Photoshop applies an algorithm primarily based on the precise lens mannequin. It corrects the optical distortions created by the optics of that lens. Notice, nevertheless, that that is totally different from perspective distortion.

How Do You Use Lens Corrections in Photoshop?

Adobe Lightroom has an easy checkmark to use lens corrections. Photoshop is a little more obscure. On a RAW file, you’ll be able to apply computerized lens corrections utilizing Adobe Digital camera RAW. This program converts a RAW file for Photoshop, utilizing the lens correction tab. Inside Photoshop itself, go to Filter > Lens Correction.

Close-up photo of a lens
Picture by Artharva Dharmadhikari


Digital camera distortion is an unavoidable part of taking photos. Excessive-end lenses could make lens distortion indiscernible, however, the best way a lens works makes a zero distortion lens not possible (a minimum of for now).

By understanding lens distortion and dealing with images modifying packages, you’ll be able to scale back the look of lens distortion. All viewers will see after they have a look at the {photograph} is the artwork, not the imperfections.

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