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Eliminating Fisheye Distortion in Aerial Photography

As drones have taken over as a leading tech tool for aerial photography, what’s known as fisheye distortion (or the barrel effect) can become a major problem for optical clarity. You’ve perhaps already seen what can happen with this problem after using wide-angle lenses on your drone. The reason fisheye distortion happens in drone photography is because the lens’ field of view is wider than the size of your image sensor.

Eliminating fisheye distortion in aerial photography isn’t too complicated if you have the right type of software available. Yet, maybe you’re still mystified as to why it’s called fisheye, or the “barrel effect.” On a more technical level, this happens because the camera squeezes the field of view so it fits into the image. It causes straight lines in the photo to looked curved, or like a barrel shape.

The term “fisheye” means virtually the same thing due to wide-angle lenses having short focal lengths. GoPro cameras cause this same problem, but here’s how to solve this based on the corrective software you use.

Using Adobe Lightroom

No doubt you’ve worked with Adobe products before when it comes to photo editing. Adobe Lightroom is excellent software to use for editing your aerial photography taken from drones. This Adobe program is already a full-fledged photo editing tool, though they make fisheye distortion particularly easy to solve.

This starts by importing and isolating the photos where barrel distortion is a particular problem. Once you do, use their menu to click “Develop”, then scroll down to “Lens Correction.”

What makes this so easy is they let you enter the type of camera you use into a profile section. The distortion problem gets automatically corrected based on the camera you selected.

While some photos might require more tweaking to completely remove fisheye, it works on most vertical and horizontal objects in the photo.

Using GoPro Studio

Those of you using a GoPro camera for your aerial photography have some advantages in being able to use GoPro Studio. While you have to buy the software separately, they make it as easy to use as Adobe does above. The exception: to correct fisheye distortion in your photo, the file has to come directly from your GoPro camera.

Once you’ve imported and converted your photo in the program, select “Advanced Settings.” You’ll instantly see a box that says “Remove Fisheye.” Click this and press OK.

To save, you have to move the file to the Conversion List where you can convert the clip. It’s one of the simplest procedures out there, though you’ll find other photo editing software sometimes doing a more thorough job.

Using PTLens as a Smaller Application

Sometimes the big names aren’t the only ones giving you good photo editing results. PTLens is a small application and maybe one you’ve never heard about or used. Nevertheless, it’s a good source for correcting fisheye distortion without hassles.

One great thing is it’s simple to download, install, plus has versions for both Windows and Mac. Above all, you may appreciate its ability to let you fix fisheye distortion manually. It gives you a digital interface to fix the problem on your own with various controllers and sliders.

Some photographers may prefer fixing barrel distortions this way rather than relying on one-click quick fixes. The latter sometimes fails in more complex aerial photography. With manual controls, you assure each horizontal or vertical line in your photos are truly straight for more photo accuracy.

If you’d like to learn more, please check out some of our other drone photography tutorials, or simply follow dronegenuity on our social media channels: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates.

About the Author

Adam Shore

Adam is a Central Florida alum who recently left the Orlando area to relocate to Denver, where he enjoys shooting aerial photography of the Rocky Mountains. And to ski. He is a member of the AMA and was been a drone photographer since the early days of the industry. Follow him @dronegenuity.