March 10, 2011

How To: Lens Distortion

After a long day at work, I decided to test out my new tripod at the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.  Lighting was great and the new tripod worked well, but when I downloaded my images to my computer I noticed the temple looked more like the leaning tower of pisa than the SLC Temple.  This was because of lens/barrel distortion.  I have a great 17-40mm Canon lens, but at 17mm it can start to distort straight lines, especially towards the edges.  It's not necessarily the lens' fault, lens distortion is expected with any wide angle lens, but I knew I had to fix it.  So I did a little research and found a program called PTLens and immediately downloaded the free trial.  After fiddling with the controls a bit it became easy.  In minutes I was fixing my unpleasing images and turning them into what I had envisioned them to look like in the first place.  I still haven't experimented with the other capabilities this program offers such as chromatic aberration and vignetting, but they should be a great addition.  This program, or any program like it, is a priceless addition for any serious photographer.  I know when my free trial is up I will have no problem forking over the $25 for the full download.

Here are some examples of the capabilities of PTLens:

The ground looks level, but the temple is completely tilted.
With the help of PTLens the temple is standing straight. 
When titling the lens up to fit the building into the picture distortion like this is very extreme.
Again, PTLens fixes the problem and gives the image a professional look.

To say the least, I was impressed and excited to improve my photography so much with such little effort.

Note: Tripod was great and easy to get use to.  For the money, it's awesome.  I just hope it can stand up 'til I can afford a real professional tripod. 

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