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Photoshop Reference Guide

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Fix Lens Distortion

Last updated Mar 14, 2003.

Although most filters under the Filter > Distort menu fall under the destructive category, the new Lens Correction filter actually helps your images. Let's take a look here to see how we can fix some common problems in digital photos.

  1. Open a photo in Photoshop CS2 that is affected by distortion in some way. If you don't have a photo, you can always download the photo I'm using here. As you look at this example, notice the distortion that can be seen between the walkways between the boats. They should be horizontal across the photo. Instead, they appear to be bowed outward, indicating that this photo needs a little help.
    Figure 1

    Figure 1 A photo with some obvious distortion problems.

  2. To fix this photo, we'll use the Lens Correction filter on it. Choose Filter > Distort > Lens Correction and the following dialog will open. Notice how Photoshop includes a grid over the photo to help you see areas that should be horizontal or vertical but are not.
    Figure 2

    Figure 2 The Lens Correction Filter dialog

  3. Adjust the Remove Distortion setting to remove the curvature caused by the camera lens and correct the photo’s perspective.
    Figure 3

    Figure 3 Observe the arrow and note how the walkways between the boats now appear horizontal.

  4. Just below the Remove Distortion setting, you'll see the Chromatic Aberration section. These settings can be used to fix false color defects in images as well as any colored fringes that may appear from the use of a certain lens. It’s one of those defects that you'll just know when you see it.
    Figure 4

    Figure 4 You’ll use the Chromatic Aberration settings to fix color defects.

  5. Below the Chromatic Aberration section is the Vignette section, which is used to adjust those dark areas around a photo caused, for example, by wide-angle lenses or certain filters, such as polarizing filters. Sometimes a vignette is an effect that we want, but more often it’s an effect that we want to avoid. This photo suffers from a vignette around the edges, which is easily removed by moving the Amount setting to the right to lighten those dark edges.
    Figure 5a

    Figure 5a Before

    Figure 5b

    Figure 5b After

  6. Below Vignette is the Transform area. Here, you can fix vertical or horizontal perspective problems. You'd find these types of issues on photos of tall buildings, for example, but not so much here.
    Figure 6

    Figure 6 Transform tall buildings with a single slider using either the Vertical or Horizontal Perspective tools.

  7. The last areas to check out are the Edge and Scale settings at the bottom of the Lens Correction dialog. In this example, the filter must bring the photo’s outside edges in toward the center to fix the photo. In doing so, the filter removes some pixel information—as you can see in this image—and replaces it with Transparency (hence the Transparency setting for Edge).
    Figure 7

    Figure 7 Another photo with obvious distortion problems. This time, we’ll fix the problem using the Edge and Scale settings.

  8. To fix this problem, simply adjust the Scale setting. You'll start to see that the photo is scaled slightly to get rid of those transparent pixels that were left behind by the first adjustment.
    Figure 8

    Figure 8 Ah, now that’s better. The Scale setting has done its job.

As you can see, the Lens Correction filter really comes in handy if you're shooting photos with a wide angle lens. Imagine how many photos you'd wind up tossing away because of distortion without it. Now, you can easily fix them. Next week, I'm going to show you a really cool trick to use this filter in a different way and add the vignetting effect to a photo. Until then—happy Photoshopping!