Camera lenses, no matter how advanced, have some degree of variation and distortion. Adobe’s powerful Lightroom software has the means to correct these optical shortcomings, and it can even apply them as you import your photos. In today’s quick tip, we’ll show you how to apply lens correction.
Every few weeks, we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of the site. This tutorial was first published in December 2011.
About Lens Correction
Most commonly, you will experience lens distortion with zoom lenses. This is usually even more common in lenses with large zoom ranges, or wide angle zoom lenses. With these lenses, regardless of quality or price, a certain amount of distortion should be expected. Lens makers are forever working on tweaking optics to perfect the formula, but it’s impossible to find a lens with no distortion.
Two types of distortion you will see are barrel and pincushion. In a photo featuring barrel distortion, the photo has a “bulging” effect, particularly noticeable in the center. In contrast, pincushion distortion is a “sucking” effect that distorts images in an inward sense. Barrel distortion is like wrapping your image around a ball. If you look at it straight on, the center will be bulged out. Pincushion is like pressing your image into a bowl. If you look directly into the bowl, the center will look squeezed.
In addition, Lightroom can remove chromatic aberration. Chromatic aberration is something that I’ll bet you’ve witnessed in your photos. Particularly with backlit subjects, you may see blue or red edges on some objects in the photo.
In this photo, we see chromatic aberration, an effect often observed as the bright red or blue edges of objects. It frequently occurs in backlit situations, and Lightroom’s lens correction tools can help us correct this.
Finally, vignetting is an effect noticeable at the edges of a photo. Typically, you will see the edges of a photo are slightly darker than the rest of the frame. This can vary from hardly noticeable to quite obvious, and many photographers prefer to correct it. Read on to find out how to correct all of these lens issues.
Applying Profile Corrections
Lightroom has a large lens profile database. Adobe has built in the means to apply corrections for hundreds of different lenses. To access this, let’s enter the Develop module by pressing “D” on the keyboard, or by clicking “Develop” in the top right corner.
Now, let’s scroll down the settings on the right side and open the lens correction portion of the develop module. What I typically do is to use the Profile option, and then tick “Enable Profile Corrections”. Lightroom is usually smart enough to automatically detect the lens that I was using, and then apply the appropriate settings. However, you can also select from the dropdown list the lens you were using and apply settings in that manner.
Also, you can tweak these settings, or apply completely custom lens correction settings. Sometimes, lenses have more distortion on one end of the zoom range than another, so tweaking the distortion slider can be very helpful. In fact, older zooms could pincushion when zoomed in for telephoto shots, then barrel when used at the wider focal lengths. If you are already using a lens profile, use the sliders to adjust it to your liking.
At top is an uncorrected image, with the corrected image below it. Using manual corrections, I corrected this wide angle image by correcting the barrel distortion and tilt.
If you are using a lens that doesn’t have a profile correction built in, try out the manual option for applying the lens corrections. In my own experience, after spending time correcting distortion, I began to gain an eye for what distortion looked like, and can now apply it even to photos that were taken with a non-profile lens.
Finally, we can speed this process by automatically applying it to our photos when they are imported. This removes the need to apply it on a per image basis.
The easiest way to do this is to create a new preset with lens correction built in. After opening a photo and ticking “enable profile corrections”, we need to create a new preset.
On the left side of Lightroom in the presets panel, press the Plus button to create a new preset. Ensure that everything is unchecked except for the Lens Profile box. Give it a name and press OK to save it. We have now created a preset to apply lens correction to an image.
Press the plus button to create a new preset.
After pressing the plus button, this set of options appears. We want to uncheck everything except the lens correction options.
From now on, when we import images, we can apply this preset to all imported images in order to automatically apply lens corrections.
While importing images, on the right side of the import panel is an option to apply settings to images as we import them. Choose the preset you created in the previous step to apply lens correction to images as they are imported automatically.
No lens is perfect, but with Lightroom’s lens correction tools, we can make big strides toward correcting their shortcomings. Vignetting, chromatic aberration, and distortion are all easily fixable thanks to the lens correction feature of Lightroom.