Can You Correct Tilt-Shift Lens Distortion Using Built in Profiles in Lightroom?

Can You Correct Tilt-Shift Lens Distortion Using Built in Profiles in Lightroom?

Gear

Short answer? There is no lens correction profile in Lightroom specially dedicated to tilt-shift lenses. Okay, then why am I writing about it? Because contrary to popular belief, there are some profiles that can be applied, and they actually correct most of the major issues.

The first question could be: why on earth do you want to apply a lens correction profile for these amazing, flawless lenses? There are two reasons:

1. They have a little bit of barrel distortion which is not noticeable until you see before-after images, especially when you shift the lens more than halfway either direction.

2. In some cases they tend to produce images with severe chromatic aberrations. If you are using an extender like the Nikon 1.7x, the problem will be much more visible.

But how can you correct this in Lightroom?

I’m a Nikon shooter, what I will show here works fine with the Nikon 19mm and the Nikon 24mm TS lenses, but when I was at Mike’s workshop this February in Dubai we tested for the Canon 17mm TS, and it also worked perfectly. (If you want to see some images from that workshop, I dedicated a page on my website for that trip.)

Here is the trick: in Lightroom’s Develop module, you will find a tab called ‘Lens Corrections’. If you try to find a profile dedicated to the lenses I mentioned above, you will not succeed. But you can apply any of the existing profiles. I found for me the best fit was the profile for ‘Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED’. This is also a wide-angle lens with the same focal length as my first TS lens. I used this profile settings for a year when I bought the 19mm TS and, I was happy to find out that the profile works for that one too. If you make a preset where this lens correction is applied, then it is a one-click fix, that’s it! 🙂 Not quite… I always try to eyeball this, because it needs some finetuning in many cases:

  • If there was not extreme shift used than I always dial back a little bit of the amount of the distortion from 100 maybe to 60 or so.
  • The chromatic aberration could be magnified with the standard settings if there was an extender used. See the example below.

Yes, the second one is the after… So it doesn’t work right off the bat, luckily we can make adjustments to this by clicking ‘Manual’ on the ‘Lens Correction’ panel. You may have to play with it a little bit and see how much is necessary to get rid of the problem. Be careful and use small adjustments; if you max out the sliders, guess what happens: it screws up the edges everywhere on the image.

This works with shift panoramas as well:

Bottom Line

While not perfect, Lightroom provides a decent suite of tools that can be adapted to fix common barrel distortion and chromatic abberation problems inherent to tilt shift lenses. While these built-in profiles will never be perfect, they offer a large improvement over the straight-out-of-camera images.

About György Palkó
Hello! I'm György (or George) an architectural and interiors photographer based in Hungary, father of a beautiful little girl and a happy husband.