Overcome Barrel Distortion With These Simple Tips

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published February 21, 2018

toronto buildings photographed free of distorition

Shooting tall buildings with a wide angle lens is a prime candidate for barrel distortion. Don’t be afraid to leave room around the subject and crop down the image, helping you overcome barrel distortion. © Robert Lowdon

So, it has been 7 years since I originally wrote this post, “5 Tips to Overcome Barrel Distortion”. I would say I am bit wiser, and a little less “this is the way it is!”

There is still some relevant information in here regarding the use of wide-angle lenses in photography. As a commercial photographer traveling throughout Canada, I use a lot of different lenses, almost everything.

See the thing is, as a photographer can shoot anyway you want. Use distortion, or make the shot look crazy. Or make your images look normal it is up to you.

When as a photographer, you shoot for a client, things get a little different. Your getting paid for visually representing a location, item or person accurately.

We earn our income by making our subjects look good. So, barrel distortion can really mess up your photography, and it can stop a lot of clients from ever hiring you in the first place.

I do not want to tell anyone what to do with their photography, that is there decision. If you want to avoid barrel distortion in your photographs here are some tips. Here is 2012 Robert to explain it:

Generally, barrel distortion occurs when a wide-angle lens is used to photograph a subject with strong vertical or horizontal lines. Especially when photographing architecture, it is important that verticals stay straight.

These photographs of tall buildings in Toronto will give you some basis as to what I am talking about. Basically, a convex mirror effect is applied because the lens is bending the light, forcing a larger image area to be recorded on a smaller capture service. Or in super confusing mathematical formula format: R=(a* r ^ 3 + b * r ^2 + c + d).

Simply, objects closer to the camera appear larger and straight lines are curved and objects in background appear smaller and further away.




On a 35mm format camera a focal length of 50mm is almost identical to that of the human eye. Coincidentally, what you see is what you get. Furthermore, I strongly believe every person interested in photography should learn on a 50mm lens first before moving on to different lens types. Any lens with a shorter focal length will cause barrel distortion.


Shooting a panoramic image allows you to use a lens with a longer focal length yet still capture a wide field of view. I will often shoot two or three image pans so I can create the exact image I want without adding distortion.


When shooting with a wide-angle lens always avoid putting subject matter in the edges of the frame. Barrel distortion increases exponentially as you move away from the centre of the lens. Photographing a group shot with a wide angle well often turn one or two members into a cone head.


A Fisheye looks good in maybe 1% of the instances you will have the opportunity to use one. It is a specialty lens that is more for dramatic effect.

Preventing and properly managing distortion is one of many key steps in the advancing the quality of your imagery.


In 2018 you can use camera raw to fix and overcome barrel distortion use lens corrections, it is awesome. The software has become so good that barrel distortion is far less of an issue.

I also wrote this other one on how to use a wide angle lens properly. Also check out: What is the Perfect Shutter Speed?

Sign up For Our Newsletter
Our newsletter is the perfect way to stay up-to-date on all the latest news from our company. You'll be the first to know about new product releases, special events, and exclusive offers. Plus, you'll also receive valuable tips and advice on how to get the most out of your creative endeavors. So don't wait any longer, sign up for our newsletter today!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

How to Hang Artwork with Ease

How to Hang Artwork with Ease

Whether it’s an old family photo, a treasured painting, or a vibrant print, adding artwork to your home is one of the most effective ways to make a space feel warm and inviting. But before enjoying your new artwork, you must hang it up!

What is Depth of Field?

What is Depth of Field?

There’s a lot that goes into taking a great photograph. Composition, lighting, and timing all play a role. But one of the most important elements of a great photo is depth of field. In this blog post, we’ll break down what depth of field is and how you can use it to take better photographs.