Advanced Techniques

Minimizing barrel distortion

Written by Gail Bjork

Simple steps to help minimize the curved effects of barrel distortion when taking photos containing straight lines near the edge of the frame.

Barrel distortion may occur when taking photos at the widest angle of a lens. The wider the angle, the greater the lens distortion.

The position of the camera lens causes images to look outwardly curved or skewed when straight edges are near the side of the frame. Lines that you’d expect to appear perpendicular are not.

While not all barrel distortion looks bad and may even be desirable at times, you can minimize its effect by moving back and zooming with you lens in instead of standing close and shooting at wide angle.

Use a focal length of about 50mm (35mm equivalent). You can actually watch the LCD for distortion as you zoom or change your physical distance from the set-up. If things appear distorted, move back from the subject and zoom in.

Barrel distortion is often corrected internally by a digital camera when shooting JPEG.  You can also correct some barrel distortion when editing.

Barrel distortion

Image shot at widest angle produces barrel distortion

No barell distortion

Same shot taken by stepping back and zooming in

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.