What Is Chromatic Aberration and How Do I Fix It?

What Is Chromatic Aberration and How Do I Fix It? - Mastin Labs

If you’ve ever played with a crystal or prism in science class, then you may remember that light is composed of color wavelengths that represent all the colors of the rainbow. 

In photography, a phenomenon occurs when the color wavelengths in light are separated and rejoined as they pass through a lens. When light is bent incorrectly as it passes through an imperfect lens, it can cause a color blurring effect along the edges of an image. This effect is called chromatic aberration. 

Although this effect is common, it’s not ideal. The good news is that there are ways you can get rid of chromatic aberration. Before we jump into how to fix it, we’ll explain exactly how and why it happens in the first place. 

What is Chromatic Aberration?

Chromatic aberration occurs frequently in photography; but thankfully, there are some straightforward strategies for reducing, eliminating, and fixing chromatic aberration. These solutions are also quite simple. With the power to restore otherwise unusable images, knowing how to manage chromatic aberration is a valuable skill for every photographer.

Chromatic aberration is a very common problem in lenses, and is sometimes also referred to as “color fringing” or “purple fringing”. Chromatic aberration can present itself as blurring or coloring of red, green, blue, yellow, purple, or magenta around the edges of an image. These colors are especially likely to appear in high-contrast photos with extreme highlights and shadows.

Chromatic aberration occurs because the lens of your camera is virtually a prism. As light passes through the prism, the light is bent and the color wavelengths become separated. Lens imperfections can cause the light to bend incorrectly, and certain wavelengths to change their speed or angle. This results in unsynchronized wavelengths and consequential color blurring and abnormalities in the image.

No lens is perfect, and every lens suffers from chromatic aberration to some degree. It is such a common occurrence in photography that many DSLRs have in-camera post-processing technologies to help correct chromatic aberration as it happens. 

If your camera does not have this ability, if your lens is visibly displaying chromatic aberration, or if you simply want tips on how you can control chromatic aberration, read on for an overview on the two types of chromatic aberration and a few ways you can reduce or eliminate it; in camera, and in post processing.

image of a woman bending down to tie her shoelace displaying chromatic aberration
Photo Credit: Sierra Jessup

The Two Types of Chromatic Aberration

Before we jump into how you can fix chromatic aberration, it may be helpful to know that there are actually two different types. Understanding the two different types and what makes them different will lead you to the best way of fixing it.

Longitudinal (or Axial) Chromatic Aberration

This type of chromatic aberration occurs when color wavelengths do not join at the same point after passing through a lens.

Signs: If your image has color fringing around objects throughout the image, even in the center, and if the colors that appear are red, green, blue, or a combination of all of them.

Remedies: Faster aperture lenses are typically more prone to longitudinal chromatic aberration than slower lenses, so stop down your aperture. This may reduce it or fix it completely. To compensate for light when you stop down, remember that you can slow your shutter speed, boost your ISO, or add a flash or other light source.

Lateral (Transverse) Chromatic Aberration

Light wavelengths (colors) are bent and pass through the lens at an angle, refocusing on different places along a focal plane.

Signs: The blurring effect is most visible at the corners of a highly contrasted image, not in the middle.

Remedies: This effect will not be affected by stopping down the lens aperture. To remove lateral chromatic aberration, you must correct it in a post-processing program, like Lightroom.

picture of a wooden swing hanging from a tree showing how chromatic aberration shows up on an image

How to Fix Chromatic Aberration

There are some things you can do as a photographer to reduce or eliminate chromatic aberration in camera, and this can also reduce your editing time in post.

Avoid High Contrast Situations

Chromatic aberration is aggravated in high contrast situations where there are extreme shadows and highlights in the same image. High contrast situations include:

  • Harsh outdoor lighting
  • Backlighting
  • Images with a light-reflective surface (ocean, sky, or a white backdrop)
  • Indoor lighting with a bright light source
  • Avoid the Extremes of Your Zoom Lens

Zoom lenses can exhibit various degrees of chromatic aberration, especially at their most extreme short and long focal lengths. If your zoom lens is showing chromatic aberration, you can usually reduce it by zooming towards the middle of the focal range.

Fix It In Post

Whenever possible, try to fix chromatic aberration in-camera. Fixing it in post is just going to add more time to your editing process. The good news is that if you absolutely have to save the fix for later, you can usually remove chromatic aberration effectively in post if the image was originally shot in RAW.

close up of a woman tying her shoelaces where chromatic aberration effect is apparent

Photo Credit: Sierra Jessup

How to Remove Chromatic Aberrations in Adobe Lightroom

Are you wondering how to remove chromatic aberrations in Adobe Lightroom? Here are step-by-step instructions on how you can fix it.

  • Step 1: Open Lightroom and zoom in on a part of your image where you see visible chromatic aberrations.
  • Step 2: Click to the ‘Lens Correction’ panel (in the ‘Develop’ module) in either the ‘Basic’ or ‘Color’ tab.
  • Step 3: Click the ‘Remove Chromatic Aberrations’ checkbox to turn it on.

After you’ve completed Steps 1-3, zoom out and look at your image. For most images, this simple process will do the trick to cure chromatic aberration in Lightroom, and you can move on to other editing.

If some is still visible in your image after completing Steps 1-3 above, move on to Steps 4 and 5.

  • Step 4. Click on the ‘Color’ tab in the ‘Lens Correction’ panel.
  • Step 5. Observe the remaining color. If you still see a green line around the edges of your image, increase the ‘Amount’ slider above the ‘Green Hue’ option by sliding it to the right until the fringe disappears. Repeat this action for the ‘Purple Hue’ if you’re observing a purple fringe.

Get Rid of Chromatic Aberrations for Good

Now that you know what chromatic aberrations are and how to get rid of them, they can never tarnish your photos again. Whether you are fixing them in post or avoiding them altogether, take comfort in knowing how to fix the issue, in camera or in post!

Want to learn more Lightroom tools? Read our post about 5 Amazing Lightroom Tools for faster, more efficient and confident editing.