Image Distortion and How to Fix It

The very first thing that you will observe even after buying a premium lens is that the images might still be slightly distorted. No need to panic, there is nothing wrong with your lens, it is a general distortion phenomenon that occurs in almost all lenses. Read along to understand image distortion and how to fix it using Photoshop and Lightroom. 

Image Distortion

It is equally important to learn how the lens sees the world before moving onwards. The first thing to remember is that the lenses are made spherical which allows them to capture a wide scene. However, objects at the center and edges appear at a different distance from the lens. Now, when the light hits the lens, it projects the scene onto the viewfinder. But, the irregularity in the distance causes image distortion. Since this phenomenon is caused by the shape of the lens and the angle at which light hits it, it is also called radial distortion. Vignetting is also a defect that causes the edges of the image to get darker. It is also considered to be a form of lens distortion.

Types of Image Distortion

Image distortion can occur in various ways. Therefore, it is better to understand the effect of the distortion first. Let us understand the types of radial distortion. A wide-angle lens is more curved to capture a wider scene. For that reason, the lines appearing at the edges get curved in a barrel-like shape. Hence, it is called Barrel Distortion. An important thing to remember is that the lines at the center remain straight. On the other hand, the objects are more magnified at the center when using a telephoto lens. This causes Pincushion Distortion. In this type of image distortion, the image appears to be bending inward from the sides. Lastly, there is a Complex Distortion that combines the effects of both Barrel and Pincushion.
How to fix Image Distortion colorful buildings

How to fix it?

Although image distortion makes the images look less flattering and unpleasant, most lenses only have minimal distortion. Another key point to realize is that it is not always undesired. For instance, fish-eye lenses utilize this as a feature to capture extremely wide scenes. Before we talk about how to fix image distortion, you should also know how to avoid it. It is a tedious process but if you spend enough time, you will find the sweet spot for the angle and distance of the lens from the focused subject. On the positive side, it is easier to learn how to fix it in the post process.


Lightroom offers an automatic and manual method for fixing image distortion. However, the first step for both methods is to head to the Develop Module. The next step is to find the Lens Correction panel where you have to select a Profile. It automatically detects the lens and camera you used to fix the image distortion accordingly. However, if the profile is not automatically found, you will have to manually add the make or model of the camera. The automatic process will correct the image according to the profile and the presets that it has for the profile. Other than the distortion slider, you also get a Vignette slider to fix it as well. Furthermore, if you want to know how to fix image distortion with more control, you can use the manual method. You can use the slider to tweak the image as much as you like. Moving it towards the right will fix barrel distortion. On the other hand, if you move it towards the left will fix pincushion distortion. 


Similarly, Photoshop offers both manual and automatic methods for the correction of image distortion. The first step is also similar, you have to select Lens Correction which can be found in the Filter menu. 

If you want to fix it automatically, simply follow these steps.

Now let us talk about correcting the image distortion manually. In the dialog box of Lens Correction, click on Custom. Selecting Remove Distortion will allow you to use a slider to correct your image. If we move the slider towards the center of the image, it will correct the barrel distortion. On the other hand, moving it towards the edge will fix pincushion distortion. Horizontal Perspective and Vertical Perspective allow you to correct the image perspective by making horizontal and vertical lines parallel respectively. After perspective, we can use Angle to make further enhancements and Scale to remove the blank areas that may be created by the correction process. Also, you can use Vignette Amount and Vignette Midpoint to correct this defect as well. You can also do this in Adobe express.
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Now, it is evident that understanding image distortion and how to fix it is easy even for casual photographers. With enough experience, you will even be able to avoid it while you are composing the image. 

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Have a nice photoshoot! 

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