Learn How to Avoid Chromatic Aberration

Compose Your Images to Avoid Noise

chromatic aberration
Photos with highly contrasted lighting can be subject to chromatic abberration. Getty Images / Aaron Foster

When shooting photographs, you have to think about a lot of different things before you shoot – composition, lighting, backgrounds, and camera settings among them.

So after putting in the time and effort to create the perfect photograph, the last thing you want to see when you’re viewing your photos on the computer screen is some sort of visual problem that ruins the photo. A poorly focused photo that you don’t notice until viewing the images on a computer screen is sure to drive you crazy.

Another problem no one wants to see when reviewing photos on the computer screen is chromatic aberration. Chromatic aberration is a situation where a purple fringe or a halo appears around objects in the photo. It's a type of photographic noise. It occurs because the lens cannot properly focus all of the light wavelengths onto the image sensor. While you can attempt to remove chromatic aberration in the post-processing phase with mixed results, it’s best to simply avoid scenes where chromatic aberration may appear.

Continue reading to find tips that can help you avoid chromatic aberration in your photographs.

  • Try to avoid scenes with highly contrasted lighting. Perhaps the best method for avoiding chromatic aberration is to shoot in situations without high contrast. Rather than shooting at mid-day, when the contrasts are at their greatest, shoot later or earlier in the day when the sun is lower in the sky and the sunlight is softer.
  • Try to avoid scenes with highly contrasted colors, too. Chromatic aberration is most common in situations where the types of light waves in the photo are highly contrasted. For example, you may see purple fringing in areas where the dark leaves of a tree meet a bright blue sky.
  • Increase the f-stop setting. You also may see chromatic aberration when shooting with a small depth of field and a wide aperture versus when shooting with a large depth of field. For example, even if the background is out of focus, a dark subject in front of a bright background can cause halos or purple fringing. If you’re afraid a certain photographic situation will lead to chromatic aberration, such as because of lighting and color contrasts as described above, use a smaller aperture and increase the depth of field. You also can try shooting the same scene at a variety of apertures to increase the chances that you’ll end up with at least one photo without purple fringing.
  • Keep the subject in the middle of the scene. Chromatic aberration is more noticeable near the edges of the frame, rather than in the center. So if you think a certain type of subject and background could cause purple fringing, try to keep the subject away from the edges of the frame. You may be able to later crop an edge of the frame if it shows chromatic aberration.
  • Try a specialized lens. With a DSLR camera, some lenses use an achromatic lens design that helps focus the light rays properly. If you shoot a lot of photos where chromatic aberration is a common problem, consider an achromatic lens.
  • Stay away from the extreme ends of the zoom lens. Additionally, zoom lenses tend to suffer from chromatic aberration at the extreme telephoto and extreme wide angle settings, so try to avoid using those extreme settings in high-contrast lighting situations.
  • Fix the problem with image editing software. If you see a photo that has chromatic aberration while reviewing the photos on your computer, most image editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop) includes a setting that will “fix” chromatic aberration. Because there are varying degrees of purple fringing, you’ll have to experiment with the various settings to figure out which one can correct the problem in each individual photo.