In this Adobe Lightroom tutorial we’ll show you how to fix lens distortion, wonky horizons and keystoning in seconds using the lens correction tools…
All lenses will naturally suffer from some kind of distortion. Barrelling – where the edges of the frame appear to recede – often occurs in wide-angle lenses, while pin-cushioning – where the edges of the frame appear to bend closer – afflict telephoto lenses.
This is known as optical distortion, as it’s a consequence of trying to either squeeze a wide view onto your sensor, or stretch to a distant view.
Then there’s perspective distortion. Objects that are closer appear larger in the frame, especially at wide angles, so distances are exaggerated. If you shoot while angling your camera up, this leads to keystoning, where straight lines start to converge.
Luckily, you can turn to Lightroom for assistance. Not only does it feature a long list of lens profiles designed to combat optical distortion at differing focal lengths, it also offers one-click fixes for perspective distortion, keystoning and wonky horizons. The feature works so well, you could easily let it loose on a batch of images to fix them all at once.
Take, for example, a wonky horizon. It could take a few moments to fix manually by re-cropping the frame, or longer if you have to do so over several images. Lightroom offers an easier way, a one-click leveller for wonky horizons that works brilliantly, almost all the time.
It does so by analysing images for lines that could represent a horizon. If an image doesn’t offer any reference points it won’t work, but then if there are no reference points, does it really need straightening? Here’s how it works…
01 Enable lens profile
Drag the start images into the Library module and hit Import. Highlight the first shot then go to the Develop module. In the Lens Corrections panel, click the Profile tab and check Enable Lens Profile Correction. If the lens isn’t detected, find it in the Lens Profile menu.
02 Fix the horizon
Click the Basic tab in the Lens Corrections panel then check ‘Remove Chromatic Aberration’ to get rid of any colour fringing. Next, move on to the Upright buttons below. Experiment with each. The ‘Level’ button does a good job here at fixing the tilted horizon.
03 Fix keystoning
Go to the next image in the filmstrip; the wide-angle view and camera angle has resulted in converging verticals. The ‘Auto’ or ‘Full’ buttons work well at fixing this perspective issue. Full is slightly more extreme; it levels out all the lines so that they’re dead straight.
04 Manual corrections
You may need to tweak perspective manually; here the sides of the building aren’t quite straight. Click the Manual tab in the Lens Correction panel. Drag the Scale slider left, then use the Horizontal, Vertical and Aspect sliders to tweak perspective, before cropping.
05 Fix the verticals
For the next image, go to the Lens Correction Basic tab and Enable Lens Profile, then click the Vertical button to fix verticals and the horizon. Go to the Manual Tab, uncheck ‘Constrain Crop, drag left on the Scale slider, then use the Crop tool to re-crop the shot.
06 Export the images
Once you’re happy, the final step is to export the images in a useful file format, such as JPEG. Select the images in the filmstrip at the bottom, then go to File>Export (or simply hit Ctrl+E). Choose a file format and destination for the saved files, then hit Export.
Different lenses each have their own particular distortion and vignetting issues. These particular quirks are recorded in Lightroom lens profiles, so that the right amount of correction can be applied.
Our image here was shot with a Canon-fit Tamron 10-24mm lens. Once the profile is enabled, Lightroom automatically fixes the barrel distortion that causes slight bowing at the edges of the frame, and the vignetting that darkens the corners.
Most common lenses are on the list, and updates are regular, but if your lens isn’t found then you can make custom profiles using Adobe’s Lens Profile Creator. This involves shooting series of charts that are then run through the program to create a profile.