Photography Tips: Lens distortion, what is it and what can you do about it?

Lens distortion, what is it and what can you do about it? Sometimes there is a little distortion in your photo. At first glance it is not always immediately noticeable, but something is not quite right. It is not up to you; it is because of your lens.

Most lenses have some lens errors. Lenses that work at large alternating focal lengths (zoom lenses) are especially affected by this, even expensive lenses. When you photograph clean lines, for example in architecture, the lines are suddenly no longer straight. These are the two most important lens deviations, which can be solved easily with software.

Barrel-shaped distortion

Called ‘Barrel distortion’ in English. The lines bend outward with this distortion, as if the photo were wrapped around a barrel. You see this a lot with wide-angle lenses (also with prime lenses, by the way, so lenses with a fixed focal length). The distortion makes subjects appear more rounded. This also happens when you stand very close to something or someone with a wide-angle or zoom lens. If you photograph a person, this often means that the body part closest to the camera becomes abnormally large. Hands, feet, noses can suddenly appear gigantic in such a photo. Sometimes that gives a funny effect, but not everyone will be happy with it.

Cushion-shaped deformation

In English ‘Pincushion distortion’. With this other form of deformation, it seems more like the corners are stretched and the center is somewhat compressed. It is as if someone is pushing the top and bottom of the frame down slightly in the middle. This distortion is most common with telephoto lenses when used fully zoomed in. People may appear slimmer because of this deformation, but lines are no longer straight. 

How do you solve it?

Often you only notice distortion when you view the photos on a computer. However, by training your eye you can learn when lens distortion will occur and when it will not. And sometimes you may want to leave it that way, because the effect is fun. But don’t worry if it is not, it can be solved. Lightroom and Photoshop have pre-programmed lens profiles. They (re) know the lens and thus know what the deviation is. 


Go to Develop, lens corrections and then profile options. The profiles are based on data that the camera and lens recognize. If all goes well, the used lens will be recognized automatically, otherwise you will have to select it manually. The profiles provide the correct compensation. You can of course adjust this to your own taste.

Also read: Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority?


It works the same in Photoshop. Choose Filter and then Lens Correction.
Set the following options:
– Correction
Select the problems you want to correct. Select Auto-scale image if the image is greatly enlarged or reduced after making the corrections compared to the original image.
– Lens profiles
Select a matching profile. By default, Photoshop only displays profiles that match the camera and lens used to create the image. Photoshop therefore also recognizes the lens and camera. (The camera model doesn’t necessarily have to match.) Photoshop also automatically selects a matching sub-profile for the selected lens based on focal length and f-stop. To change the automatic selection, right-click on the active lens profile and select another sub-profile.

Also read: Bad Weather? Still Nice Pictures With This Tutorial Lightroom


You can also make the settings entirely by hand, if you prefer to keep more control over the result.

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