How to correct perspective distortion in Lightroom


I usually travel with multiple lenses for the different situations I encounter. One of my favorite lenses to use is my 17-35mm wide-angle lens.

My wide angle lens allows me to capture as much as possible of the scene and works especially well for landscape and architectural shots.

Two Worlds in Chiang Mai - Thailand

Wide angle shot in Chiang Mai. I was able to capture both sides of the tree.

 

However, one issue with shooting wide is the distortion that naturally occurs from the lens and the perspective we shoot from. This distortion is especially visible when shooting city skylines, or interiors. The buildings seem like they’re going to topple.

Sometimes it works well, exaggerating the scale of the landscape or size of the building.

The distortion makes the Notre-Dame cathedral more imposing.

The distortion makes the Notre-Dame cathedral more imposing.

But other times, it’s just distracting and needs to be fixed.

Luckily, Adobe made it very easy to correct distortion in Lightroom 5, by adding a new panel in the Develop Module. There are two ways to fix it: Automatic and Manual.

1. Automatic correction:

 

Open up your photo in Lightroom and head to the Develop Module (shortcut “D”).

On the right sidebar, scroll down to the Lens Corrections panel and make sure you’re on the Basic tab.

how to correct distortion using Auto in Lightroom 5

Auto Option to correct distortion in Lightroom

To help Lightroom do a better job correcting your image, tick the “Enable Profile Corrections” box. This will enable Lightroom to read your image’s metadata and recognize which lens you used. Most lens profiles are included unless you are using a very old one (or a very new one). This option will already correct some of the barrel distortion and heavy vignetting that appears on wide-angle lenses.

Next, try some of the different options below (Off / Auto / Level / Vertical / Full). In my case, I find that Auto usually does a great job in correcting the distortion and leveling my images so that the horizon is straight. The Level option just straightens your images, and the Vertical option only corrects the distortion due to perspective (without leveling your horizon). The last (Full) option tries to do everything at once but I’ve never had luck with it (it can deliver very strange results).
I’d stick to the Auto option. If it doesn’t work, time to try the manual correction.

2. Manual correction:

 

In the same Lens Corrections panel, instead of the Basic tab, click on the Manual tab.

You will be presented with different sliders that allow you to control and fine tune your lens corrections the way you want.

How to manually correct distortion in Lightroom

Manually correcting distortion in Lightroom 5

The first three options are what I use the most.

Distortion corrects the barrel distortion, this is when the center of your image feels “inflated” (or deflated) compared to the edges of the frame.

Vertical and Horizontal control the distortion due to perspective. You’ll have to tweak them slowly to find the right spot.

Don’t forget to check the “Constrain Crop” box below the sliders. Since Lightroom will stretch your image in different ways, you might end up with empty white portion of images; this option will crop these white parts.

Here’s an example of how the correction works. I used the Auto option in the image below. (Click on the image to see the animated gif)

Distortion Correction example in Lightroom 5

A couple of extra tips:

  • It’s best if you try to shoot a little wider (or take a few steps back) than you want, because you’ll eventually have to crop part of the final image after correction. Check the image above to see how parts of the image are missing.
  • If possible, shoot from a higher angle and parallel to your subject to minimize distortion. On the other hand, if you want to exaggerate the distortion, shoot from a lower perspective.


  • kiran

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