What Is Chromatic Aberration? How to Avoid or Fix It

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What Is Chromatic Aberration? How to Avoid or Fix It

Do your images show signs of chromatic aberration, also known as color fringing or purple fringing?

It’s a common problem. And it can easily reduce the quality of your images.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to deal with chromatic aberration so that your images are free from color fringing.

In this article, I’m going to explain how chromatic aberration occurs. And then I’m going to show you several easy ways to get rid of it.

Let’s dive right in.

What Is Chromatic Aberration?

First things first:

Chromatic aberration is color fringing that occurs in high-contrast areas of your photos. You’ve probably noticed it as purple fringes in your images (though it can also be red, green, blue, and more).

Look at the landscape photo:

Sony Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 lens

Do you see the purple and green fringing along the edges of the trees?

Let’s zoom in:

300% magnification

That’s chromatic aberration.

But what causes chromatic aberration?

Basically, chromatic aberration occurs when light passing through your lens bends at different angles. You see, some wavelengths of light bend more than others when they pass through the lens. And this causes certain colors (especially purple, red, green, and blue) to appear in unwanted places.

Chromatic Aberration – Visual Explanation

Chromatic aberration is a problem caused by your lenses, and basically every lens displays chromatic aberration to some extent.

But you don’t need to be afraid of chromatic aberration. Because there are methods of minimizing it while shooting–and, if it becomes a serious problem, you can remove it easily in programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

How Do You Minimize Chromatic Aberration?

1. Use High-Quality Lenses

The first way to minimize chromatic aberration is to buy high-quality lenses. The better the glass, the less chromatic aberration will be an issue. This is because the best lenses (Canon 17-40mm for example) are made to limit the separation of light when it passes through the glass elements. Look for lenses with low-dispersion elements. These are designed to significantly reduce color fringing.

But what if you can’t afford these expensive lenses? What then?

2. Avoid High Contrast Scenes

First of all, you can avoid situations that result in a lot of color fringing. The fact is that many scenes don’t trigger much chromatic aberration at all. The key is to keep things low-contrast.

Related: Wide Angle Lenses: The Ultimate Guide

So if you’re shooting a dark subject on a white background, change the background. Try to shoot your subject on a background that’s similar to its main colors. Instead of shooting a purple flower against a bright white background, shoot against a green background. And chromatic aberration will instantly become less of an issue.

3. Increase the Aperture Value

Another way that everyone can minimize chromatic aberration is by stopping down. That is, use an aperture a stop or two beyond your lens’s maximum. If you’re working with an f/2.8 lens, stop down to f/4 or f/5.6. A lot of the color fringing will disappear. 

4. Keep Your Subject Close to the Center

You can also try placing your subject toward the center of the frame. One type of color fringing (lateral chromatic aberration) only occurs at the edges of the frame. By positioning your main subject at the center of the image, you reduce the effect that CA has on your photo.

Related: Best Macro Lenses for Nikon DSLR Cameras

But sometimes, chromatic aberration gets out of hand, and there’s nothing you can do about it in the field.

That’s where post-processing comes in.

How Do You Fix Chromatic Aberration With Post-Processing?

When editing out chromatic aberration, I like to use Lightroom or Photoshop, and I suggest you do the same. Both of these programs offer powerful tools to rid your images of chromatic aberration–without significantly damaging image quality.

If you prefer to use Lightroom (which is my go-to image editing program), then read on.

How to Remove Color Fringing in Lightroom

There are two simple ways of getting rid of chromatic aberration in Lightroom.

Both require the Lightroom Lens Corrections panel.

To access the Lens Corrections panel, open Lightroom, then click on the Develop module.

Related: How To Clean Camera Lens Safely & Effectively

Next, scroll down on the right-hand side until you see the Lens Corrections heading. Click to open the panel.

1.Fully Automated Method

Now, the first way to remove chromatic aberration is to simply check the Remove Chromatic Aberration box.

This generally does a good job of removing fringing

2. Manual Method

However, if you’re not satisfied with this method, you can remove chromatic aberration manually:

Click on the Color option in the Lens Corrections panel.

Then click on the eye-dropper tool.

Related: Best Wide Angle Lens for Canon

Place the eye-dropper tool along the fringing.

Then simply click – and watch as the fringing is removed.

Chromatic Aberration Free Photo at 300% magnification

You’re also free to adjust the removal levels manually via the sliders in the Lens Corrections panel. For instance, you can increase the purple fringing removed by pushing up the Amount slider.

You can even change the fringing hue with the Purple Hue and the Green Hue sliders. Just drag the sliders to alter the color you want to remove.

How to Remove Color Fringing in Photoshop

Based on my experience, the Lightroom chromatic aberration removal methods cover 99% of situations. And only in severe cases, I need to use Photoshop.

Go ahead and watch this video, which takes you through the color fringing removal process in Photoshop:

What Is Chromatic Aberration? How to Avoid or Fix It: Conclusion

Now you know exactly what chromatic aberration is–and that it’s nothing to be worried about.

Because it’s easy to minimize by shooting with high-quality lenses, or by stopping down your lens.

And if you end up with an image full of unsightly chromatic aberration, you can always remove it with a couple of quick clicks in Lightroom!

At the same time, it is much better to choose the lens wich produces minimal chromatic aberration.

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Jaymes Dempsey

Jaymes Dempsey is a photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He’s obsessed with nature, and loves teaching people new photography tips and tricks. To see more of Jaymes’s work, check out his portfolio website (https://www.jaymesdempsey.com/) or his photography tutorial blog (https://www.jaymesdempsey.com/blog/).
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