What is Chromatic Aberration (and How to Fix it)

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  By Michael Moodie
What is Chromatic Aberration (and How to Fix it) www.sleeklens.com

During post-production is when photographers get time to examine their images closely to see if there are any flaws. Sometimes, if you’re having a good day or a good session, you find that no mistakes were made and you did a completely amazing job and all that is left  to do is some color correction.

Today we will be discussing something that has plagued the work of a lot of photographers, both beginners, an expert. At first, I was actually unsure as to what this issue was called. After a few weeks of research and learning about how this issue even became a thing, I began to think about solutions and how it can be avoided in the future–we’re talking about chromatic aberration in photography.

We will be diving into what exactly chromatic aberrations are and how exactly can we fix or avoid it from happening. These tips and informative words should also help you to become a better shooter and more than likely save you a lot of time during post-production to fix the same issue over and over but let’s begin.

What is Chromatic Aberration?

The basic definition of what Chromatic Aberration might sound a bit complex by nature, but I was more than happy to break it down too much simpler terms that could be understood by even beginners.

Light consists of a different wavelength that is practically on the same plane. This plane in photography can be seen as the image sensor inside your DSLR or mirrorless camera. When chromatic aberrations occur, your lens is unable to focus on these different color wavelengths. This then results in almost a halo effect that can be seen around the edges of a subject in your images. It almost looks like the image is being slightly split into two and a bit out of focus. This can sometimes be annoying as it has the potential to ruin amazing shots if not properly avoided.

Luckily for us, visible chromatic aberration can be avoided if the proper steps are taken to do so. Here are some ways as to how you can avoid Chromatic Aberration.

How to Avoid Chromatic Aberrations

Shoot In Raw

If you’re not already shooting in RAW format then you need to begin doing so. When I was a beginner I never really understood as to what the fascination about shooting in RAW format was. As I became a professional and learned a lot more about the benefits of shooting in this format, I made it a habit and I haven’t intentionally shot in JPEG since. Chromatic Aberration can be easily removed or rather corrected in post-production once your image is shot in RAW format. The freedom to performa lens correction in this format is very pleasing helps to tune your image to your desire.

Avoid High Contrast Areas

Chromatic Aberration and high contrast areas are almost partners in this regard. For some reason, it flares up a lot more than usual in situations where your subject is lit from behind or you have a white background. I know for a fact you can’t always avoid it when it comes to a white background because studio sessions often consist of using a white background but try to recompose your shot and zoom in on the edges to see if this works.

Check Your Lens Focal Length

Generally, you’ll experience visible chromatic aberrations more with long glass lenses rather than a thin lens. Even though we often find chromatic aberration happening with a zoom lens, I’ve seen instances where it also appears in prime lenses as well. By the very nature of the thinner lens design, prime lenses don’t experience as much chromatic aberration, so it is not as common in as it is in your zoom lens or telephoto lenses. Try to use more wide angle prime lenses when shooting for chromatic aberration minimization in your images, or better yet, invest in an achromatic lens. An achromatic lens is an optical glass system that is designed to minimize spherical aberration and other light refraction issues.

Center Your Subject

I’ve found that when your subject is the central focal point in your lens it result in minimum to no chromatic aberration at all. The result is usually a very sharp edge to edge image without any blurs, refraction, dispersion, or image defects. So try to recompose your shots as much as possible and get your subject in the center.

In photography, there are many things that will have the potential to ruin your shots that are often not in your control but we are forced to correct them. Lens chromatic aberration is one of those things that will occur from time to time, but if properly avoided it won’t pose a problem while shooting.

How to Fix Chromatic Aberration in Lightroom

As a photographer, it’s not all the times that your images come out perfectly after your photo shoot. Chromatic aberration is one of the main problems many people encounter and knowing how to remove this optical aberration problem is very important. This video has been put together to guide you on how to remove chromatic aberration from your photos using Adobe Lightroom.

In our video, we already have our photo ready and some basic edits have already been done. However, the image still has a purple fringe dispersion to it, mainly around the leaves and the branches. This happens when your camera can’t decipher the colors of the image and the pixels in that particular range. The result is that the image gets a bit of color fringing, usually as a purple or green tone, but it could show up as a different color too. Adobe Lightroom actually makes it very easy to correct chromatic aberration. One thing you can try and this is where the camera profile for your lens in your camera combination will come into play here. But if you go to ‘Lens collection > Profile, you can say remove Chromatic aberration. This might do it but sometimes it doesn’t help. You can also enable the profile collection and see whether that will do anything.

In our particular photo here, there is a lot of chromatic aberration. We will go to the manual tab and here you’ll see the defringe option under which you find purple and green hue slider. We will click on the amount and drag it down up to a point where the purple fringing becomes less noticeable. You can also work on the green as well. If you increase the amount of purple or green back, you discover that it becomes clearly visible in the images. So, by using the defringing option and reducing the purple and green hues, you will be able to deal with the chromatic aberration problem with ease.

Looking at the before and after photos, you discover a whole lot of difference. The green and purple fringe in the before photo has already disappeared and aren’t visible in the after photo.

That is how quickly and easy it is to remove the chromatic aberration or color fringe from your images using Adobe Lightroom. If you do this and you find that the chromatic aberration does not go away, you can play with the hue of the tones in attempt to do a bit of chromatic aberration minimization. Sometimes you find that you have blue or a green tone instead of the purple tone. Still, you can play with the slider more to get rid of the problem.

You can check more of our tutorials to help you deal with different photography problems using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

I truly hope this article has helped you to avoid this issue we all face as photographers and I sincerely look forward to giving you some more tips! Take care.

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Michael Moodie is a Freelance Photographer and Photojournalist. He Enjoys Lifestyle Photography and Traveling while doing all things creative!

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