Do you know that Lightroom 3 can now easily fix geometric distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting issues in your images without having to open Photoshop? In this article, I will show you how to fix lens issues in your photographs, in addition to adding a lens profile to Lightroom 3 if your lens is not supported by Lightroom’s Camera RAW.
1) What is Lens Correction in Lightroom 3?
Lens Correction, also known as “Distortion Correction”, is a brand new feature that was introduced in Lightroom 3 to allow photographers to fix such lens problems as distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting “non-destructively”, without leaving Lightroom. This is a great addition to Lightroom, since all of the above had to be manually performed in Photoshop using a Lens Correction filter, which was a rather tedious task (especially for a large number of images). The beauty of the lens correction feature in Lightroom 3, is that just like any other setting, lens correction settings can be copied from one image to another, or applied to hundreds of images at once without having to open each image individually. Take a look at the following image that was taken with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens:
Move your mouse over and out of the image to see what it looks like before and after Lens Correction is applied to the image. The curves around the edges are straightened and the building looks more natural. This is not an extreme case with distortion, but you get the idea. The corner darkness (vignetting) is also taken care of.
If you are using some of the cheaper or older lenses that have heavy chromatic aberration (CA) issues, you can easily fix them by applying Lens Correction on the image and you can even manually adjust it in extreme cases of CA. For images like above with vignetting problems, in addition to the already available “Effects” window within the Develop module, you can now deal with it through Lens Corrections, where you can also manually specify the amount of vignetting for each image.
2) How to apply Lens Correction to an image
Applying Lens Correction to an image within Lightroom is very simple – just go to the Develop module or press “D” on your keyboard, then move the right window down until you get to “Lens Corrections”, and check “Enable Profile Corrections” as shown below:
Here is how the Lens Correction feature works. It reads the image EXIF Data, finds the model and the type of lens that was used to capture the image, then looks for the lens profile in its database. If a match is found, it automatically retrieves distortion, CA and vignetting settings from the database, then automatically corrects the image using those settings. If a match is not found, which means that Adobe has not released a lens profile for it yet, you will see the below screen:
Pay attention to the text on the bottom of the above image that says “Unable to locate a matching profile automatically” – the text is displayed only if your lens was not found in the profile database. If you see a similar message, you have three options:
- Wait until Lightroom releases a profile for your lens
- Create a lens profile yourself as shown in the “How to add a missing Lens Profile using Lens Profile Creator” section below
- Use “Manual” settings, where you can fix distortion, vignetting and CA issues by manually specifying the amount (see below)
3) Applying Manual Lens Corrections
If Lightroom 3 does not have a profile for your lens yet, you can still fix distortion, vignetting and CA issues by using the “Manual” tab within Lens Corrections. Simply click the text that says “Manual” and the screen will change to the below:
You can either move the sliders or type a negative or a positive sign in the right hand side where numbers are displayed. Obviously, different lenses have different levels of distortion/vignetting/CA, so you will have to spend some time to tweak these settings to get an optimal result.
Once you are satisfied with your settings, you can apply them to multiple images at once by copy-pasting the settings. Within the Library module (“G” key shortcut), simply right-click the photograph you worked on, then go to “Develop Settings”->”Copy Settings…” and a new window will come up like this:
As shown in the screenshot, uncheck everything but “Lens Corrections”, then click “Copy” to copy the settings into the Lightroom buffer. Then select other images that you want to apply the same settings to as a group, then right click on one of the images in the group and go to “Develop Settings”->”Paste Settings”. Once you do that, all of the modified settings will apply to the rest of the images that you selected.
4) How to add a missing Lens Profile using Lens Profile Creator
Correcting chromatic aberration and vignetting issues in your images by manually adjusting the sliders in Lightroom works fine for most cases, because you can easily see CA and vignetting in images. Distortion, however, is not as easy to fix, because an image would have to contain straight lines from corner to corner in order for you to correctly fix them. If you shoot with fisheye or ultra-wide angle lenses that suffer from severe distortion, you might be able to visually fix most images, but the results might not be consistent from image to image.
If you want to have consistent results, the best thing to do is to either wait for Adobe to release your lens profile, or to create it yourself. The latter would obviously be much quicker than waiting for Adobe, but as you will see from the steps below, it would take a significant amount of time and effort on your side.
Here are the steps to this process:
- Download and unzip the Lens Profile Creator
- Go to the Calibration Charts folder, select a calibration chart to fit your printer and paper, print it out and then mount it on a planar surface in a room with plenty of ambient light.
- Take pictures of multiple checkerboard images (a minimum of three images are required, but nine are recommended) for each camera/lens settings that you are interested in obtaining the lens profiles for.
- Convert your RAW images to DNG format and make sure that full EXIF data is preserved.
- Process the raw DNG images (or the JPEG/TIFF images if you prefer creating lens profiles for the non-raw workflow) through the Lens Profile Creator to create the custom lens profile.
- Save the lens profiles that you have created into the specific lens profiles folder(s) that Photoshop CS5, Camera Raw and Lightroom would be looking for them for lens corrections.
So, in order for you to be able to create an image, you need to print out a test chart, photograph it and then feed the images to Lens Profile Creator to create a profile. Bear in mind that if you shoot with multiple camera bodies with different sensors, you will have to create profiles for each camera/lens combination. For example, if you own Nikon D700 and Nikon D300s cameras and you have a Nikon 24mm f/1.4 lens, you will have to mount the lens on both cameras and create two separate profiles. The reason why you have to do this, is because different cameras/sensors handle lenses differently and in the case of FX vs DX, issues such as distortion and vignetting will appear less obvious on DX when compared to FX, because the corners are cut off.
If you use multiple lenses or different cameras, I would recommend to create lens profiles for all of your lenses and cameras at once. The process is time-consuming, but pretty straightforward and you should not have any problems with creating the profiles.
Once the profiles are generated (LCP file extension), save the files into the “C:UsersAll UsersAdobeCameraRawLensProfiles1.0” folder if you are using Vista or Windows 7 (for other operating systems, refer to Adobe Lens Profile Creator documentation inside the documentation folder) and relaunch Lightroom 3. Once you do that, your images should be automatically recognized when you click “Enable Profile Corrections” within Lens Corrections in Lightroom.
By the way, there are other third party software tools such as DxO Optics Pro and PTLens that contain hundreds of camera/lens combinations and can do much more than what Lightroom 3 Lens Correction can. If you are a professional photographer and you need to batch-process more than one image at a time, I would still recommend to use DxO Optics Pro or similar products until Adobe releases enough camera/lens profiles.