Correct Lens Distortion in Photoshop

While you may not need to correct lens distortion on every photograph you take, it is definitely a powerful tool when you need it. The following tutorial will show you use the Lens Correction filter in Photoshop.

This is the unedited image in which we will be correcting the lens distortion. It was shot with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS, at 24mm.

1 – Start by opening your image in Photoshop. Go to File->Open… , browse for your photo, and click OK.

2 – Go to Filter->Distort->Lens Correction to open up the Lens Correction window. Make sure you have Preview and Show Grid selected so that you can see the changes as we make them.

3 – The first thing you will want to do is straighten your photograph. If the horizon line isn’t straight, then we won’t be able to properly correct the lens distortion. With the Straighten Tool (A) selected, click and drag a line to straighten the horizon. If there is a horizon line in your photograph, this should be easy. Otherwise, find another element in the photograph which is relatively straight (sidewalk, brick wall, posts). I generally find that drawing a horizontal axis yields better results than drawing a vertical axis, but use your best judgment. In our example, we used the base of the windows to draw a horizontal axis (see the green line two images below). Our photograph rotated o.26 degrees after being straightened.

4 – In order to fix the lens distortion, we have 4 settings to choose from:

  • Lens Default – If your image has EXIF data, then this option may become available to you. If so, it picks a default value for you, which you should be able to refine. Even if this option doesn’t show up, you can create your own Lens Profiles. (How To Create Lens Profiles)
  • Previous Correction – This will choose the same settings as the previous image your corrected. This can be useful if you want to correct multiple images taken under the same circumstances (lens, distance from subject)
  • Custom – This will allow you to manually adjust the settings. We will be taking this route for the tutorial.
  • Load Settings (Under Manage Settings) – This will allow you to load settings you have previously saved.

5 – To fix the distortion, you can either use the Distortion Tool (D) or use the sliders on the right hand side. We prefer to use the sliders as we find it easier to adjust smaller values. If your image bows outwards, then you will need to move the slider to the right. If your image bows inwards, you will need to move the slider to the left. As you can see, our image is bowing outwards, so we will adjust the Remove Distortion slider until the horizontal features of the photograph appear to be straight. Match up the grid lines with the features in the image to determine if you have chosen a good value. For our example, we have chosen a value of +12, but this will most likely differ from your settings.

Click to View Full Resolution


6 – Your image may look straight after step #5. If this is the case, skip to step #7. If your image has Vertical or Horizontal Perspective that needs to be fixed, then keep reading. Since our image was taken from the base of the building (low angle), there is definitely a vertical perspective that needs to be fixed. We will adjust the Vertical Perspective slider in order to straighten the vertical lines in the image. Again, match up the grid lines with the features in the image to determine if you have chosen a good value. We ended up choosing a value of -35. If you wish, under Manage Settings, select Save Settings… to re-use the same values at a later date.Once you are happy with the overall look of the image, click OK.

Click to View Full Resolution


7 – Due to the corrections, you will notice that our image is no longer rectangular. At this point, you can use either the marquee tool or the crop tool. With the Rectangular Marquee Tool selected, draw your new crop while staying inside the image area. If you prefer an image with a 4×6 ratio, set your Style to Fixed Ratio while setting the Width to 6 and the Height to 4. With your selection active, go to Image->Crop to finalize the framing of the photograph.

That’s it! While our image may not be perfectly straight in all areas of the photo, I think we can agree it is a huge improvement from the original in terms of having less distortion.  Carry on with your regular editing at this point.

Alternatively, you could use this filter to add some lens distortion to an image to give it a little personality.

I hope you have found this tutorial helpful. Please find the images before and after lens correction below:



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