How to use the Lens Corrections Panel

How to use the Lens Corrections Panel

This post was updated on June 26th, 2020

Learning Adobe ® Lightroom – The Develop Module

In the last articles of this series, we explored Adobe ® Lightroom’s possibility to create Watermarks during the export of photos. Today we continue our exploration of the Develop Module and have a look at the Lens Corrections Panel.

What can the Lens Corrections Panel achieve?

Have you ever noticed a darkening around the edges of your image? Or have you seen color fringing toward the sides of your photo in the highlights? Maybe you noticed distortion of horizontal or vertical lines that do not run through the center of the frame? These are the things the Lens Corrections Panel can help you remove. Let us start by having a look at what these three different areas are and how or when they can occur. Later we dive into how to use the Lens Corrections Panel to remove them.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is a known error with wide-angle lenses. It is noticeable as purple or greenish edges that occur around the highlights of the photo. It can also become visible during the post-processing of an image if you are brightening the picture. In general, the higher the quality of the lens that you are using, the lower is the chance that you have to remove chromatic aberration in post-processing.

The reason for it to occur in the first place is that not all wavelengths of the light hit the focal plane in the same focal point. We distinguish between two forms of aberration.

Bokeh fringing or Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration occurs when the focal points of the different wavelengths are not located on the focal plane. The red lights focal point might be located behind the focal plane and the blue lights before it. It is visible as red, green and/or blue fringing around objects, even if it is centered. You can avoid its occurrence by using a smaller aperture.

Lateral Chromatic Aberration means that the different wavelengths are all hitting the focal plane. However, they do not meet up at one focal point.
If this happens, color fringing in purple or green will show in the highlights toward the edges of the image. You cannot avoid Lateral Chromatic Aberration by changing the aperture. However, Adobe ® Lightroom’s Lens Corrections Panel can help you out.

Distortion

We distinguish between barrel distortion and pincushion distortion.

Barrel distortion

Barrel distortion is characteristic of wide-angle lenses. For example, the fish-eye effect that you see for fish-eye lenses is pure barrel distortion. Horizontal and vertical lines that do not run through the center of the image seem to bend outward. This is shown in the following figure.

Barrel Distortion
Barrel distortion

Barrel distortion occurs because the field of view is wider than the sensor. In these cases, the image has to be squeezed to fit onto the sensor.

Pincushion distortion

Pincushion distortion is a characteristic of telephoto lenses. Straight lines, which do not run through the center of the photo, seem to bend inward.

Pincushion Distortion
Pincushion Distortion

Pincushion distortion happens because the field of view is narrower than the sensor. Therefore the magnification increases toward the edges of the photo, and with that, you get a pincushion effect.

In both cases, high-end lenses will include elements to eliminate distortion to a certain degree. If you are using a so-called super-zoom lens (for example, an 18-300mm lens), you might notice both types of distortion. You would see barrel distortion on the wide-angle side and pincushion distortion on the telephoto side of your super-zoom.

Vignetting

Vignetting means that the edges of your photo are darker than they should be. It occurs more with wider apertures and gradually vanishes when you are stopping down your aperture. However, in some cases, you want to have the shallow depth of field of a wide aperture. So stepping down won’t always solve the problem.

The reason for vignetting to occur in the first place is that elements block light from reaching the sensor. These blocks can occur within the lens barrel, due to using filter holders, or because peripheral light rays need more time to reach the sensor than those in the center. It could also happen if you are using a lens hood that is not made for your lens.

Again, high-end lenses include parts that help to avoid vignetting, as long as you are not using too thick filters or the wrong lens hood.

Using the Lens Corrections Panel

This Panel has two different tabs, Profile and Manual, which we are going to analyze in detail. Today we start with the Profile tab, next time we will continue our investigation with the Manual tab.

Lens Corrections Panel's Profile tab
Lens Corrections Panel’s Profile tab
The Manual tab of the Lens Corrections Profile
The Manual tab of the Lens Corrections Panel

Noting that changes that you make in this Panel affect RAW, JPEG, and TIFF files. So don’t skip it just because you are working on a JPEG.
Depending on your camera’s internal settings, however, you might experience some surprising results when you are using the automatic profile.

Tip for users of micro-four-thirds and mirrorless cameras

For micro-four-thirds, and mirrorless cameras the lens profile is often included in the RAW file. If this happens to be the case for your camera, you will see a little info button at the bottom of the Profile tab. Click on it to see which corrections are included in the RAW-file’s lens profile. If all types are included, you will also notice that Make, Model, and Profile in the Lens Profile section will change to Built In.

The Profile tab of the Lens Corrections Panel

If you want to try Adobe ® Lightrooms automatic corrections, then the Profile tab is your choice. Notice, however, the Amount section at the bottom of this tab. It allows you to make adjustments to the Distortion and Vignetting removal that Adobe ® Lightroom applies to your image. This section is only active if you check the Enable Profile Corrections checkbox.

If neither your camera nor your lens is supported, you might be able to choose a similar lens from the Model selection and achieve satisfying results. Otherwise, you will have to move to the Manual tab to make the adjustments yourself.

So let’s have a look at the effects of these settings.

Chromatic Aberration

In the figure below, you can see a green color fringe on the line separating the mountain top from the sky. (Click on the photo to open it larger.)

Green color fringe on the left and right side of the mountain
Green color fringe on the right and left side where the mountain and the sky meet

If I now enable the Remove Chromatic Aberration checkbox, you will notice that the color fringe is somewhat less pronounced.

The Lens Corrections Profile tab with the Remove Chromatic Aberration marked
The Lens Corrections Profile tab with the Remove Chromatic Aberration marked
Chromatic Aberration removed

If there was any chromatic aberration left after enabling its removal, you could do some fine-tuning in the Manual tab. We will look into this in the next article of this series.

Enable Profile Correction

If Adobe ® Lightroom recognizes your camera and lens, enabling this box will show immediate results in your photo. Not only will vignettes be reduced or removed entirely, but you will also see distortion that will get deleted or at least minimized. The second thing you might notice is that the information for your Lens Profile will get filled out.

Profile Corrections Enabled in the Lens Corrections Panel
Profile Corrections Enabled in the Lens Corrections Panel

Let’s use the photo from above, where we removed the Chromatic Aberration already as a starting point. As you can see right away it still has some vignetting, especially in the upper corners. It also still has some barrel distortion, though I find that hard to spot before I enable the profile.

Photo with only Chromatic Abberation removed, but the Profile is still disabled
Photo with only Chromatic Abberation removed, but the Profile is still disabled
The result of enabling the Lens Profile in the Lens Corrections Panel
The same image after enabling the Lens Profile

As you will notice when you compare the two photos above, the vignetting has been significantly reduced and the image looks flattened.

Lens Profiles

Notice, however, that the list of Lens Profile Makes can be significantly longer for RAW files than for JPEG and TIFF files. For example, the list of Makes for a RAW file shot with my old Pentax K-20D looks like this:

Lens Makes in the Lens Corrections Panel for RAW photos
Lens Makes in the Lens Corrections Panel for RAW photos

Whereas the list for the JPEG version of the same file looks like this:

Lens Makes in the Lens Corrections Panel for JPEG images
Lens Makes in the Lens Corrections Panel for JPEG images

Worth noticing is that for JPEG and TIFF files, I get a warning “Unable to locate a matching profile automatically”. At least the JPEG and the RAW files that I tested this with are shot simultaneously in camera. I have no explanation for this behavior. You could argue that the lens and camera model was not saved into the JPEG file. However, I had a look into the EXIF data, and it includes the Camera and Lens model in both cases.

When you compare the screenprints above, you will also see that many brands are missing from the JPEG list. So in these cases, you might have to rely on working in the Manual tab. That is unless you can identify a lens that works similar to yours.

If you or Adobe ® Lightroom can identify your Lens Profile, you will see the Amount section activated.

Amount Section

Even the best profile can fail to a degree and not remove every bit of Vignetting or Distortion, or indeed go a little overboard. This is where the Amount section of the Profile tab comes to your aid. Notice that both sliders are in the center of the scale at a position of 100 by default.

Lens Correction Panel with the Amount Section enabled
Lens Correction Panel with the Amount Section enabled

Of course, these sliders are also helpful if you cannot find your exact lens model in the Lens Profile section. You can instead choose a similar profile, adjust it to your needs, and then save your settings. We will have a look at customizing existing profiles in just a minute.

The Distortion slider

If activation of the Lens Profile cannot remove all the distortion in your image, fine-tune the adjustment with this slider. Moving it to the left adds barrel distortion; moving it to the right adds pincushion distortion. So, if your automatic adjustment left you with some barrel distortion, you have to move the slider to the right to remove it. Move it to the left, if you have pincushion distortion left.

The Vignetting slider

As you probably have guessed already, the Vignetting slider helps to fine-tune your Lens Profile’s Vignette removal. Moving the slider to the left darkens the corners of the image, moving it to the right brightens them.

However, this is not the best way to add your own vignette to a photo. I would recommend using the Effects panel for that purpose instead. We will look into this in a later article.

Creating a customized Lens Profile

Do you find yourself tweaking the Distortion or Vignetting slider for one of your lenses all the time, when you are using Adobe ® Lightroom’s lens profile? To solve this, you could save your settings. You do this with the help of the Setup options below the Enable Lens Profile in the top section of the Lens Corrections Panel.

Setup section in the Profile tab
Setup section in the Profile tab

Of course, you could use the same approach if your lens is not supported, but there is a similar, supported lens in the Lens Profile selection.

Why caution is necessary

However, the following approach should be used with caution, as you will find that you cannot give your customized profile a new name. The only options that you have are to save your adjustment as the new default setting for the lens that you have chosen. So, if you are adjusting a profile for a lens that you do own, saving this as the default can be a good choice.

If you need to create your own profile for a lens (A) that is not supported by using a similar lens’ (B) profile this gets a little more brain consuming. In this case, you change the profile that Adobe ® Lightroom delivers for lens B, store your settings as the default settings and use that whenever you are using lens A. What if you then buy lens B? You would have to use the auto settings for this lens from the profile, which are now the only settings referring to the original profile of this lens. You are in dire straights now, if you need to make some permanent adjustments to lens B, as overwriting the default profile, would erase your settings for lens A.

How can you avoid this confusion when you are saving default lens profiles to use with other lenses?
There is actually a free tool from Adobe, to create lens profiles. These profiles can then be imported into Adobe ® Lightroom, and save you a lot of headaches, that is if you have a good knowledge of optics.
Or, in case you are using a relatively new lens, you might just wait for the next update of Adobe ® Lightroom, as these very often include new lens profiles.

Saving a new default lens profile

Let’s first make some changes to the default profile for my Pentax 12-24mm lens. I am adjusting the Vignetting slider so that it differs from the standard settings.

Lens Corrections Panel with a manually adjusted vignetting removal
Lens Corrections Panel with a manually adjusted vignetting removal

For the example photo that we have used before the result would look like this:

Lens Profile enabled with extra Vignetting removal and Chromatic Aberration removal enabled
Lens Profile enabled with extra Vignetting removal and Chromatic Aberration removal enabled

Notice, how, in the Setup section above, the selection has changed from Default to Custom.

If you now click on the up/down arrows next to Custom a little menu opens.

Menu of the Setup Section
Menu of the Setup Section

Here you can choose to save your adjustments as the new default values for your lens. This effectively overwrites the previous default settings.

Other menu entries

You might have noticed the Reset Defaults entry on the menu as well. This should restore the original lens profile that came with Adobe ® Lightroom. When you select Enable Profile Corrections for another image taken with the same lens later, you should then see that the original Adobe ® Lightroom lens profile is applied again.

The Auto menu entry will apply some automatic settings to your lens profile. In my tests, these have been the same as the standard default settings. So in case you accidentally stored a new default profile, using auto settings and then storing these changes again as a new default profile can do the trick. Maybe, the developers of Adobe ® Lightroom have some special features, to come for this menu entry in the future? We will all have to wait and see.

I hope this article has helped you a little on the way of using the Lens Corrections Panel’s saved profile settings. Next time we will have a look into the Manual tab of this panel.


All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

I am in no way affiliated with any of the products used in this post-processing process. I do not receive any kind of compensation for this article, it was neither offered or asked for.

THIS BLOG ARTICLE “How to use the Lens Corrections Panel.” IS NOT AUTHORIZED, ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY ADOBE SYSTEMS INCORPORATED, PUBLISHER OF ADOBE ® LIGHTROOM

All photos taken by Wiebke Schröder/Lille Ulven Photography.

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