Correcting Wide-Angle Distortion


Today’s Question: You shared a photo and mentioned wide angle, but the lines on the sides were straight. How did you accomplish that?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Distorted lines in a wide-angle can be corrected quite effectively with a combination of profile-based lens corrections and transformations, which are available in Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop) and Lightroom Classic.

More Detail: Photoshop and Lightroom Classic both include powerful tools for correcting distortion in photos. For Photoshop users you can find these adjustments in Camera Raw (including the use of the Camera Raw Filter within Photoshop), with the profile-based lens corrections found in the Optics section and the transformation options found in the Geometry section. In Lightroom Classic these adjustments are found in the Lens Corrections and Transform sections, respectively, of the right panel in the Develop module.

The profile-based lens corrections enable you to use a profile for the behavior of the specific lens used to capture the photo. As long as a profile is available for the lens that was used, you can apply a correction based on that profile. This will compensate for barrel or pincushion distortion in the image, as well as vignetting, both of which are especially common with wide-angle lenses.

The transformation adjustments are even more powerful. In particular, I recommend using the Guided option for the Upright adjustments. With the Guided adjustment you can draw two to four lines within the image to identify lines that should be perfectly horizontal or perfectly vertical. The image will then be transformed to make those lines straight.

So, for example, let’s assume you’re correcting a photo of a building. You could start by drawing two lines for the horizontal areas, such as the roof line and a line toward the bottom of the building. You could then draw two additional lines for the sides of the building. The result would be an adjustment that compensates for the warped appearance of the building, so the lines are all straight again.

Note that there are also manual transformation options, such as sliders for both vertical and horizontal perspective correction, so you can continue fine-tuning based on the initial adjustments.