Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

Barrel Distortion

Posted by larrylohrman on February 25, 2006

Interior photographers need to be on the look out for barrel distortion. Barrel distortion is a feature of wide-angle lenses that causes straight lines to look outwardly curved like the shape of a barrel. The curving happens more toward the outer edge of the image. Barrel distortion is worse in inexpensive lenses but even expensive zoom lenses have barrel distortion. Only high quality fixed focal length lenses are free of barrel distortion.

Sometimes the barrel distortion can just be cropped out when it’s near the edge of the image. A great way to get rid of barrel distortion completely is a plug-in for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements called PTlens by Thomas Niemann. Check it out at it’s a great little tool.


2 Responses to “Barrel Distortion”

  1. Hi Larry,

    I shot this house the otherday, the shot came out really bad,

    Under the porch is really dark and the roof was white so it came out over exposed.

    How could I fix this problem,up in the future,

    Also this pic has been cleaned up slightly in photoshop, the orginal was really bad!

  2. Hi Vince,
    Yes, This looks like a challenging shot.

    The way to deal with this kind of shot when you essentially have a range of brightness that is too much for the camera to record is use a tripod and take two shots, one exposed for the bright roof and sky and the other exposed for the dark area under the roof. Then in photoshop when one image is opened, click and drag the second image on the layer pallet (this will exactly register one image over the other. Then with a soft medium size brush erase the over or under exposed part of the top image and thus combining the best exposure of each image.

    Alternatively, if you shoot raw you can get the two images described above by opening the RAW image twice and adjusting the exposure differently each time you open it, one with exposure for roof and one for the dark area. This way you can get two images to combine several stops apart. Of coarse this alternative only works if 2 or 3 stops will fix the problem.

    A third alternative would be to carry a graduated neutral density filter that effectively does the same thing without the post processing in Photoshop.

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