Tips: Correcting Lens Distortion

Lens distortion is something that has always bothered me in my own photography work, yet early on in my development it was something I always simply put up with due to the fact I didn’t realize how quick and easy it was to correct. Lens distortion isn’t always blatantly obvious (depending on the photograph) and you might get away with not correcting it, however it can be a subtle way to improve upon a final image where you have straight lines that don’t quite look straight.

There are different types of distortion: pincushion distortion, barrel distortion, complex distortion, and perspective distortion, for example.

lens distortion illustration

Due to my interest being mainly in natural landscape photography and using wide-angle lenses, I usually have to deal with barrel/complex distortion It is barrel distortion that affects most of my natural landscape photographs straight out of the camera when using a 17-40mm or 24-70mm lens at their widest zooms. Of course, wide angle lenses are very susceptible to perspective distortion also, particularly when photographing buildings and structures with long straight lines, but I will leave that for another article. Telephoto lenses are more prone to pincushion distortion.

Before & After

Here is a simple image of a sunset at Mandurah, Western Australia, that demonstrates barrel distortion. To the left is the before photo, and to the right is the corrected photo after following the instructions below (you can drag the line to the left and right to see the difference). You may also notice the vignette has also been removed by the software.

Ahh, I love a straight horizon line!

wide-angle lens barrel distortion before
wide-angle lens barrel distortion after

Simple guides on how to correct lens distortion

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)

adobe camera raw lens correction

My personal workflow involves opening up my photographs in ACR and making RAW adjustments in the software before transferring my photos across to Photoshop for more complex adjustments and edits. In ACR there is a tab aptly named ‘Lens Corrections’ where you can check the ‘Enable Lens Profile Corrections’ option and then select which lens you have used (depending on the camera/lens combination the software may automatically select the lens for you). Voilà. The distortion is corrected! You can then fine-tune the correction, however I’m usually pretty happy with the default settings.

While you’re at it you might as well go ahead and click on the ‘Color’ tab besides the lens profile tab and check ‘Remove Chromatic Aberration’ which is another issue that affects wide angle lenses that is very simple to correct.


lightroom lens correction

The Lightroom workflow is similar to the ACR workflow. You will find a tab named ‘Lens Corrections’ in the Develop section of the software where you can check the ‘Enable Profile Corrections’ option and once again, voilà, the distortion is corrected!

Once again, while you’re at it you might as well go ahead and click on the ‘Color’ tab besides the lens profile tab and check ‘Remove Chromatic Aberration’ which is another issue that affects wide angle lenses that is very simple to correct.

SKRWT (iPhone app) [link]

skrwt - iPhone app

I enjoy posting my photos to Instagram, however I had the same issue with barrel distortion in my iPhone photographs and images sent directly to my iPhone from my Sony a7R via wifi. In the past I would hesitate to post any photos to Instagram where the lines in buildings or horizons weren’t straight. That was until I downloaded the SKRWT app, which allows you to correct lens distortion (and also perspective distortion) in a very user-friendly interface. You can visit their website via the link above for a in-depth tutorial on how to use the app and what sort of features are included.

The app is US$1.99 at the time of me writing this.

If you have any questions or suggestions, or if you know of a different way to correct distortion, let us know in the comments section below.

A Byron Bay Sunset

It has been a while, I know! I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the Earth. I’ve still be working hard on my photography.

Earlier this month my girlfriend, Allanah, and I were fortunate enough to spend a little over a week visiting various locations around South-East Queensland. For the first 4 days we were based on the Gold Coast staying in the amazing Q1 Resort and Spa, and for the remainder of the trip a good photographer friend of mine, Simon Beedle, was kind enough to let us crash on his sofa in his apartment at Dicky Beach on the Sunshine Coast.

We kept busy during our quick trip to the East Coast and managed to visit a heap of locations around the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. One of the first evenings of the trip we shot down to Byron Bay and managed to capture some nice light from The Pass at sunset which you can see in the photo below.

The Pass, Byron Bay, NSW, Australian Landscape Photography

I will be posting more regularly here from now on, hopefully including some tutorials, hints and tips style blogs, and also sharing more of my new photographs with you all.

Eastern Guardian

Byron Bay Lighthouse, Byron Bay, NSW

I’ve recently returned from a trip to the Gold Coast to catch up with a good friend of mine, Darren Tierney. We were lucky enough to head south and spend a day at Byron Bay in New South Wales under perfect weather conditions.

Watching the clouds build a couple of hours before sun set, we suspected it was going to be a ripper. After shooting Wategos Beach for a short while, we headed up to the lighthouse to watch the sun set. We weren’t wrong with our suspicion, as the light cloud cover lit up a nice pink hue.

I am very happy with the result after attempting to shoot this location many times and coming away with nothing spectacular. Persistence pays off!

Sugarloaf Rock

After a bit of a hiatus from blogging and photographing, I have just returned from an epic, although short, trip to the South-West of Western Australia with something to share.

Sugarloaf Rock is one of my favourite spots to photograph around Dunsborough, and a few days ago I had the opportunity to photograph it at sunrise. It was windy as anything, but I was determined to get the shot. After scrambling around in the dark to find a composition, I found this angle and set up my gear. I fired off just a few frames and packed up my gear. This was one of those times when I was confident I had something special.

I also shot some photos of the surrounding areas – Meelup Beach, Wyadup Beach, Cape Naturaliste, Canal Rocks. These photographs will be uploaded to the galleries shortly.

Fiery Sunset at Cottesloe Beach

Sunset, Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Western Australia

Photo Details: Canon 5D Mk II + 17-40mm F4 L USM @ 35mm, 1 Second, f/14, ISO125

A few nights ago I witnessed one of the best sunsets I’ve seen for a long time.

Simon Beedle and I noticed some nice cloud in the sky a bit earlier in the afternoon so we headed towards Cottesloe Beach – taking an extremely long scenic route along the coast. We arrived at Cottesloe shortly before sunset. Initially we were unsure whether or not the sky was going to light up. There was some fairly thick cloud cover where the sky met the ocean. But, as the sun got closer to the horizon, the lower cloud burnt off and the sky turned a fiery red colour. Smoke from a nearby fire also caught the suns last light and helped us out a bit.

The light was gone as quick as it appeared, so I only got to fire off a couple of shots. It was extremely cold and windy so I tried to keep the exposure as short as possible, while still capturing a bit of motion in the water. I also had to underexpose the scene a bit to make sure I didn’t blow out the red channel.

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