How to Avoid Camera Lens Problems

Don't Worry, Most Camera Lens Issues Can Quickly Be Fixed

Camera Lens
Peter Macdiarmid / Staff / Getty Images

Even the cheapest camera lenses have wonderful optics, and they can usually produce wonderful pictures. But, nothing is infallible, and whether a lens costs $80 or $6,000, you can still run into a few problems. Here's how to avoid some common camera lens problems.

How to Correct Vignetting

Vignetting occurs when the corners of an image appear darkened as if a shadow were surrounding the photograph. This is caused by the edges of the lens actually being captured in the image.

Vignetting appears most often when shooting at wide open apertures (e.g. f/1.8, f/4, etc.) and using wide-angle lenses. An easy way to avoid it is to stop down until the dark edges disappear.

If you use Photoshop for editing purposes, you can easily remove vignetting using the "Lens Correction Filter."

How to Correct Chromatic Aberration

This is also sometimes known as "fringing," because it produces color fringing around the edges of high contrast images.

For instance, you often notice chromatic aberration when photographing objects against a bright sky. It happens when the lens cannot focus wavelengths of light onto the exact same focal plane. It can be corrected by using lenses that have two or more pieces of glass with different refractive qualities, such as Nikon ED or Canon UD lenses. 

How to Correct Lens Flare or Ghosting

Light straying across the camera lens or a very strong light source can cause ghosting or lens flare. Ghosting is a contrast reducing sheen on an image and lens flares are spots of light in an image.

The easiest way to get rid of this problem is to use a lens hood, which blocks stray light from the edges of the camera lens. A lot of manufacturers now include a lens hood when you purchase a lens.

Changing your angle and position to the light source is another way to combat both issues.

How to Correct Perspective Issues

Problems with perspective are most commonly seen when photographing a building while looking upward. The lines of the building appear to get closer and closer at the top of the building. This creates an unnatural looking shot because our minds know that those lines do not meet in reality. Photographers can correct perspective issues by using dedicated tilt and shift lenses. A cheaper solution is to correct perspective using the Skew tool in Photoshop.

How to Correct Barrel Distortion

With barrel distortion, images appear wrapped around a barrel, and the center of the image appears larger than the edges. This is caused by standing too close to your subject and zooming out (using a wide focal length).

Fish-eye lens photographs are the most extreme example of barrel distortion, though in this case it's the desired effect of using that lens. Simply step back and zoom in while using a longer focal length to avoid it.