How to fix Distortions in your photo?

Have you ever taken a photo in which buildings seemed to be leaning backwards, or other lines were not 100% straight? It can happen to the best of photographers. You want your photo print to match reality, so buildings and other lines in your photo should be straight. You might see it twenty times larger on a print (and of course you don’t want the Eiffel Tower to look like the Pisa tower). 😉

Fortunately, these lens errors are very easy to fix. In this article you will learn how to fix distortions easily in Lightroom.

Observing distortion

The first step in recognising distortion is checking whether the vertical and horizontal lines in your photo are straight. When the lines are skewed, you are dealing with distortion. An example of distortion is buildings that appear to be sloping backwards.

Below you can see 3 example grids. The first has straight, parallel lines. The second has sloping lines (inward), the third has outward lines.

grid showing distortion several ways How to fix Distortions in your photo?
In the grid above you can see several examples of distortion.

You can easily adjust distortions in Lightroom with using the lens profile tab. If this doesn’t work you can still manually straighten your photo.

Tip: Always take photos with a larger frame, when you straighten your photo in post-production you’ll lose a part of the image.

sloping building and bridge distortion
In this photo you can see that the high building on the left and the bridge seem to slope backwards

How to fix distortions in 5 clicks

Correcting distortions can be done in a few simple steps. Lightroom has a database of lens profiles, with which distortions are automatically corrected.

As you can see here:

how to fix distortions in 5 clicks
In this gif you can follow the step-by-step actions via Lightroom

Step-by-step guide to lens corrections

  1. Open Lightroom
  2. Click on Develop
  3. Go to Lens Corrections below in the right sidebar
  4. Click on ‘Enable Profle Corrections’
  5. Check if Lightroom automatically takes the right lens

Tip: Use the lens corrections before editing. This because the composition may change slightly after the distortion is corrected.

Attention: The ‘Lens Profile’ works best with RAW files, with JPEG Lightroom may not be able to recognize the reading profile. In that case you can still correct it semi manually.

Semi-manual correction of the distortion

If the lens profile does not work properly, you can also correct the photo semi-manually. You can find several options for this under the tab Transform, shown in the right sidebar. The option ‘Automatic’ seems to be the most obvious option, however, with some photos it may not work quite well, in that case there are a number of other options. The option ‘Level’, this option will try to straighten the horizontal lines but can leave parts of some photos crooked, the same goes for Vertical but for the vertical lines.

We also have the option ‘Full’, which will try to straighten all lines(horizontal and vertical). However, with this option it is possible that the photo gets blown out of proportion.

Last but not least, we have the ‘Guided option’, which allows you to draw lines yourself based on straight objects in your photo. 
The best thing is to set the vertical lines first, this way Lightroom straightens the photo. After that you can set the horizontal lines.

To correct the semi-manual distortion, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on the heading ‘Transform’ under Lens Corrections.
  2. There are then several boxes including auto, level and guided. Choose ‘Guided’.
  3. Now you can draw lines, choose vertical and horizontal lines from objects in the photo that are really straight and put the lines along them, Lightroom will do the rest automatically.
Need more info? Serge Ramelli made a great video about this!

Is the horizon straight?

Nothing is more annoying than a skewed horizon in your photo-print (unless it is done deliberately). With a skewed horizon it could look like your photo is crooked on the wall, taking away from the impact of your photo. Of course, we don’t want that. Make sure you always check that your horizon is completely straight before ordering it on a large size photo print. Is your horizon a bit skewed? Don’t worry! Straightening your horizon is easy with the following steps:

Step-by-step horizon straightening in Lightroom

  1. Open the photo in Lightroom
  2. Click on Crop-tool
  3. Go to the corner of the frame that just ended up in your photo and turn the photo straight. Keep the lines of the frame as a checkpoint.
  4. Continue with the rest of your post-processing or save the photo.
how to straighten the horizon distortion
Straighten any horizon in just a few simple steps!

If you’d like to learn more about optimising your image for print, get more tips here!