The Lens Corrections panel in Lightroom Classic looks simple, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Most of the time you don’t have to pay much attention to it – just make sure you check the appropriate boxes then get on with developing your photos.
But sometimes things don’t work the way you expect them to, and that’s when it’s useful to understand it better.
What is the Lens Corrections panel for?
The Lens Corrections panel is for removing (or reducing) chromatic aberration, vignetting and optical distortion created by the camera lens from Raw files (not JPEGs, which may already have been corrected in-camera).
There are two tabs in the Lens Corrections panel – Profile and Manual.
The Profile tab is where Lightroom looks for and applies lens profiles.
The Manual tab is for adjusting the amount of distortion correction, vignetting reduction or chromatic aberration reduction yourself.
The Profile tab – remove Chromatic Aberrations
A chromatic aberration is a visible color fringe along the edge of an object in the photo. You’re most likely to get color fringes on photos made with older wide-angle or zoom lenses, at the edges of the frame, when the subject is backlit. They might be blue/yellow, red/cyan or purple/green in color. You normally have to zoom into 100% to see them.
If you look carefully, you can see some color fringing along the edge of the tree branches in the photo below (at 100% magnification).
Check the Remove Chromatic Aberration box to make them disappear.
The Profile tab – enable Profile Corrections
Profile Corrections correct vignetting, barrel distortion and pincushion distortion.
Vignetting is where the edges of the frame are darker than the center. It’s normal to get some vignetting at a lens’s widest aperture settings. It gradually disappears as you stop down.
I made the portrait below with a 50mm f1.8 lens set to f1.8. On the left is the uncorrected version, with full vignetting. On the right is the corrected version, with zero vignetting.
As you can see, in this case, the vignetted version looks better. You can override Lightroom Classic’s vignetting correction if that works better for you.
Barrel distortion is when the lens bends straight lines outwards, like the sides of a barrel. You get it with wide-angle lenses (both primes and zooms). The cheaper the lens, the more likely it is to give barrel distortion.
Here’s an example, made with an 18-135mm zoom lens at 18mm.
This is the corrected version, so you can see the difference.
Pincushion distortion is where straight lines curve inwards. You get it with some telephoto lenses and, unlike barrel distortion, you’re unlikely to notice it unless you go looking for it. It’s so unusual that I don’t have any examples to show you.
Depending on your camera / lens combination, you might see the message Built-in Lens Profile applied at the bottom of the Lens Corrections panel.
This means that Lightroom is using a lens profile that your camera embedded into the Raw file. It’s common with compact and mirrorless cameras.
If this applies to you then great – your camera has done the job for you. There’s no point in searching for lens profile in the Lens Corrections panel as it doesn’t exist.
If not, then check the Enable Profile Corrections box. Lightroom looks through the photo’s EXIF data and automatically applies the correct lens profile, if it exists.
Sometimes Lightroom might not detect the lens model. In that case you can go through the menus and select it manually.
If you can’t find a lens in the database, that usually means that it’s either an older lens that hasn’t been profiled by Adobe, or that the Raw file has a built-in profile (giving the Built-in Lens Profile applied message) instead.
Use the sliders underneath to adjust the amount of Distortion or Vignetting correcting using the sliders underneath. Both are set to 100 by default. Move a slider right to increase the amount of correction, or left to decrease it.
This is useful for photos like the portrait above, which is enhanced by the vignette.
There’s a full list of lenses included in the database on Adobe’s website.
How to set a default lens profile in the Lens Corrections panel
Lightroom uses the photo’s EXIF data to detect the lens used, but only applies a profile if it’s certain of the lens model.
If Lightroom doesn’t apply a profile, you can manually select one (as long as it exists).
To save selecting the profile each time, you can set it as the default profile for that lens. Here’s how you do it.
1. Open a photo with the desired camera / lens profile in the Develop module and check the Enable Profile Corrections box. Confirm that Lightroom doesn’t automatically assign it a lens profile.
2. Check the Enable Profile Corrections box and then select the desired profile from the menus. Adjust the the Distortion and Vignetting sliders, if needed.
3. Then go to the Setup menu and select Save New Lens Profile Defaults.
4. Next time you open a photo made with the same camera / lens combination, set the Setup menu to Default and Lightroom applies the profile you just set as the default. That includes the Distortion and Vignetting settings, if you changed them.
The Setup menu in the Lens Corrections panel
The Setup menu has three settings.
Default Lets you customize the settings for a specific lens.
Auto Lets Lightroom search for a matching profile.
Custom Means you manually selected a profile or that you’ve changed a setting (like the Vignetting slider).
The Manual tab
The Manual tab is for when there isn’t an existing profile for your lens, or you want to override or adjust the profile settings. In the latter case, it’s usually because checking the Remove Chromatic Aberrations box didn’t remove all traces of chromatic aberration.
Use the Distortion and Vignetting sliders to apply your own distortion corrections or adjustments.
To manually remove chromatic aberrations, click the eyedropper icon then click on the remaining color fringes in the photo. You can also adjust the sliders manually if needed.
Mastering Lightroom Classic: Book Two – The Develop Module
You can learn more about developing photos in Lightroom Classic with my ebook Mastering Lightroom Classic: Book Two – The Develop Module
Thanks for reading. You can get more great articles and tips about Lightroom Classic and photography in my popular Mastering Photography email newsletter. Join today and I’ll send you my ebook Introducing Lightroom Classic and 47 PhotoTips cards. Over 30,000 photographers subscribe. Enter your email now and join us.