Lens Distortion as a Tool

We typically use Lens Distortion functions as a way to remove distortion our lens has imposed on an image. But that its not the only purpose that such tools can serve. In some instances there is no perfect angle available for taking a shot in a constricted space, and while in some cases a drone might be able to reach that ideal spot, in others, it would need to be an x-ray drone, as there is a building in the way of what would otherwise be the perfect angle.

Over the years I have shot the civic tower in the hill town of Montepulciano in various ways, including with my camera at a rakish angle, in order to take shots of the tall tower from the restricted space in front of it. Wide angle lenses and composite panoramas also can offer improvements in this location. But a simple one-shot, standard lens fix is to apply lens distortion in the negative direction to make a more interesting image from the angle of the church steps on one side of the square.


Above is a shot from that location, processed, but without any perspective yet applied. To my eye, it begs the photographer to move out in front of the building, for a more centered shot, which would require a crane or a drone, as the view from ground level in the square is much more vertically compressed.

Below is the same image with a few simple adjustments applied right in Lightroom. Under the Lens Correction > Manual section, adjustments to both the Horizontal, Vertical, and Aspect sliders have been made, but first, the maximum adjustment (+100) has been made using the Distortion control. Further distortion was added in the Profile section. The result offers more verticality to the tower, creates a more centered feel, and a cascading effect that is architecturally pleasing. The curvature emphasizes both the upward nature of the shot, and the compressed nature of the space it was taken in. The resulting image won’t suit all tastes, but it certainly offers an alternative technique for dealing with a constrained location.


C. David Tobie


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