Photographing with wide-angle lenses is not always as easy as it may first seem. For one, you need to think a lot more about composition when you are capturing such a wide field of view, you need to be aware of any potential obstructions and distractions as well. But even once you have gone through the usual checklist and tripped the shutter there are a number of things that you need to take into consideration in post processing too.
The other day when I was processing images from my recent trip to Kenya and the Masai Mara I came across this RAW image:
I remember the sighting so well and I remember composing in a manner which eliminated some distracting elements to the left of frame and to include some space for the giraffe on the right to look into. Now you will be forgiven for wondering if we experienced gale force winds on the plains of the Mara when you look at the giraffe on the right of frame. See how he looks like he’s about to keel over?
Well that’s the result of the distortion that many wide-angle lenses have on the periphery of the frame.
No problem though, Lightroom has a panel titled “Lens Corrections” and all you need to do is check a box and the lens profile (a Canon 16 – 35mm f/2.8 USM in this case) will be loaded and the image distortion corrected. Here’s how Lightroom corrected this particular image:
There is a definite change in the distortion of the image and a noticeable difference in the vignette on the fringes of the frame but our Giraffe still looks a little bit lob-sided Moving from the “Profile” tab in the Lens Corrections menu to the “Manual” tab we are now presented with a number of options to manually correct distortion in the image.
Before we move any further I need to say that Lightroom does a damn good job of correcting the distortion 90% of the time – especially when the subject is in the middle of the frame (where any distortion is minimal), but there are extreme circumstances like this where you may need to dive a bit deeper.
Why is this necessary on this image – well we have possibly the most “vertically” orientated wildlife subject positioned right on the edge of our frame where distortion is at its greatest. A great learning example!
Using only the “Vertical Corrections” slider in the Manual tab and slowly pulling back some of the vertical distortion we can see how the image is stretched and altered until we reach a point where our subject reflects no vertical distortion. Lightroom will overlay a grid for you to help you determine this optimum point. Once we are happy with the vertical distortion/correction we simple check the ” Constrain Crop” option and bobs your uncle.
After a couple more adjustments to the RAW image I am left with my final image and the scene as I saw it on the day. The clouds may seem a bit more distorted than they were but would you have noticed this had you not seen the process above? Would it have been better to leave my subject, the lopsided Giraffe in that awkward position?
I don’t think so…
* * *