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Removing Lens Distortion in Lightroom

One thing we all encounter (particularly with wider lenses) is distortion. All lenses do it, it’s just physics, but some lenses distort more than others and with others our shooting techniques can exacerbate it. One particularly pesky distortion is parallax error, which is easily seen in this image above. Tilting my 35mm lens upward accentuates the vertical lines to converge more toward the top of the frame. In certain situations, this is great. It can create leading lines and visual interest. In other cases, like architectural photography, it’s distracting.

Here I did a basic, vertical correction in the Lens Correction panel.
Here I did a basic, vertical correction in the Lens Correction panel.

Thankfully, Lightroom has a robust tool set to deal with it. The Lens Correction module offers several options. The Basic portion is the easiest way of dealing with the distortion whether it is help with leveling,

correcting vertical distortion, or both. The software will analyze the image and adjust it accordingly. It will fill in the empty areas (where distortion was removed from the original framing of the photo) with white and you can custom crop from there for your final image. It does a fairly good job of removing the parallax area, but if you want more control, you can have it by exploring the other panels of the module.

The manual tab can give you more specific control over your corrections.
The manual tab can give you more specific control over your corrections.

In the manual tab of the module you can control distortion (bowing in and out “fisheye” effect) vertical (parallax error), horizontal (perspective tilted left or right), rotate (tilt), scale & aspect ratio. Constraining the crop will fill the corrected image within the original frame, and you can manually correct any lens vignetting. Manual correction is great for precision, but it can get time consuming if you find you’re having to do it on every single image.

Checking the box to Enable Profile Corrections allows for custom profiling & correting of specific lenses.
Checking the box to Enable Profile Corrections allows for custom profiling & correcting of specific lenses.

If you’re having consistent issues due to a specific lens, say for instance a wide angle 16mm lens, under the profile tab you can “enable profile corrections”. It will detect your used lens from your metadata and automatically apply a standard correction for that lens’profile. It’s quick and easy, and you can customize it too. If you prefer to keep the vignetting but get rid of the distortion, you can set a custom correction and LR will apply it to every image that uses that lens when you enable profile corrections.

So next time you’re finding distortion in your photos, take a look at the Lens Correction module. Between the basic, custom, or profile tabs, you’re bound to find a tool to offer the right amount of correction for your image.

Lisa is a D.C. based wedding & boudoir photographer who loves to photowalk in cities she visits (like Portland, OR in this post). Check out her !

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