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DAVID LASCHAPEL - GLOSSY PHOTOGRAPHER, PROVOCATIONAL CLIPMAKER AND MASTER OF SURREALISTIC GLAMOR
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HOW TO CORRECT LENS DISTORTION

Lens distortion is a common problem that photographers face daily. Distortions can be divided into two groups: perspective distortion (when lines parallel in reality become convergent) and optical distortion (distortion). Distortion often causes unnatural deformation of photographs, straight lines in the image become curved, except for lines in the same plane with the optical axis.

Distortion is different in the type of impact on the line, usually there is a cushion-like distortion (parallel lines in reality are concave) or barrel-shaped distortion (the lines are convex, like in a barrel). Distortion is much more noticeably closer to the edges of the frame than in the middle. Long focal length lenses give less distortion than wide-angle lenses. If you shoot landscapes or city views with a large focal length and you have straight vertical elements near the corners of the frame, distortion can significantly bend and distort these elements, making them very strange. Such an effect is not always included in the idea of ​​the photographer, and this needs to be fixed.

how to fix lens distortion

There are several ways to solve such problems.

When working in the field, there are some methods that you can use to eliminate distortion, but they may not be effective enough. Firstly, you can change your position and shoot with the same lens while away from the subject. Another way is to use a telephoto lens, which should give less distortion than a wide-angle lens. But, unfortunately, both methods will affect composition and cropping, which is not always acceptable. In the first case, more background or environmental elements will fall into the frame. In the second, when you switch to a telephoto lens, the connection between the foreground and the background will change. As a result, your photo may look completely different than originally intended.

The third way is to switch to a shift lens (tilt-shift), which has the ability to shift (Shift) and tilt (Tilt). These are, for example, PC-E lenses for Nikon users. PC-E lenses (sometimes referred to as perspective-control lenses) have improved optics that reduce distortion at the edges, they allow you to correct converging vertical lines. Lenses with the support of this technology make it possible to highlight the near or far perspective, and control the depth of field. The tilt and shift of the PC-E lens allows you to focus on the entire plane of the subject when the camera is at an angle to the subject.

However, such lenses are expensive and have several fixed focal lengths. Therefore, most photographers decide to correct the distortion of the resulting photos during post-processing using software.

Any modern photo editing software has at least one way to correct distortion. The difficulty is that its use does not always give excellent results. Consider an example – a photograph of a sunrise in Prague. Prague Castle is located in the upper left corner of the frame and, as you can see, its lines are clearly distorted.

There are several ways to solve this problem. The first thing that comes to mind is choosing the “Lens Corrections” option from the Filter drop-down menu in Photoshop. A similar feature is in Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. You change the vertical transformation and at the same time the appearance of the castle walls and the surrounding buildings is corrected. This method works well with slight or moderate distortion.

how to fix lens distortion

However, the above image shows that when processing, most of the foreground is cut off, as well as corners with morning golden light. Therefore, this is not the best way to solve the distortion problem, because you want to keep the foreground the same as in the original picture.

The second option is to use a Photoshop tool called Free Transform. If you move the lower left corner even more to the left and out of the image, the upper left corner will be straightened. This method will save more than the original image in the frame. However, unfortunately, this method also affected the appearance of the hill on the right side and slightly deformed it, stretched it.

how to fix lens distortion

These two “simple fixes” will not work correctly, and to fix the distortion, you will need to do a bit more work in Photoshop. Try the next few steps of post-processing the photo and look at the result.

The first step is to duplicate the layer that needs to be fixed, in our case this is the background.

The second step is to straighten this newly created layer using the free transformation technique. To do this, simply hold down the Ctrl key on Windows or Command on Mac, while clicking and dragging the bottom left corner.

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