Chromatic aberration, or CA, can create muddy, amateurish-looking images – if you let it run unchecked, that is. Fortunately, Lightroom offers a way to get rid of CA, and it’s so easy that practically anyone can do it.
In this article, I share a simple, step-by-step method on how to fix chromatic aberration in Lightroom. And while it won’t handle every instance of CA, it’ll certainly do a great job in the majority of cases.
Ready to get rid of chromatic aberration like a pro? Let’s do this!
What is chromatic aberration?
Chromatic aberration is an optical phenomenon caused by lens imperfections; more specifically, it is a failure of the lens to focus all colors at the same point.
CA appears as purple or green fringing along high-contrast edges. See the ghostly colors at the edges of the building below? The fringes are clearly visible when the image is cropped to 100%:
Not all images suffer from chromatic aberration. Lower-contrast scenes tend to result in little-to-no obvious CA, whereas high-contrast shots – depicting a bird against a cloudy sky, for instance – often feature lots of noticeable fringing.
The quality of the lens also plays an important role. Expensive professional lenses are carefully designed to suppress chromatic aberration. On the other hand, cheaper lenses, such as the kind you find in a beginner’s kit, are often plagued by major CA, especially at their widest apertures.
But even the best gear can produce chromatic aberration on occasion, which is why it’s a good idea for every photographer to learn to remove fringing in Lightroom. It’ll help your photos look better on screen, and it’ll improve your prints, too.
One more thing:
Chromatic aberration may be apparent when zoomed in to 100% or 200%, yet it might not appear when viewing an image at lower magnifications. In such cases, you don’t need to remove the CA if you simply plan to share the image online. But if you hope to crop or print the image, you’ll probably want to do some CA correction.
How to fix chromatic aberration in Lightroom
In this section, I explain the exact steps for removing CA in Lightroom.
The process I’m about to share can work on JPEG files, but the result is much better on RAWs. (This is one of the many reasons you should shoot RAW whenever possible!)
Step 1: Find the Lightroom Lens Corrections panel
The Lens Corrections panel is located in the Develop module, toward the bottom of the panel array:
Make sure the panel is open; you should see a Profile and a Manual section at the top.
Step 2: Enable chromatic aberration removal
Next, you’re going to apply Lightroom’s basic chromatic aberration removal option.
Simply find the Remove Chromatic Aberration checkbox under the Profile section, then make sure it’s checked:
(While you’re at it, go ahead and check the Enable Profile Corrections box. That way, Lightroom will attempt to recognize your lens model, then compensate for any standard distortion or vignetting issues.)
After you’ve enabled the Remove Chromatic Aberration option, zoom in to 100% and evaluate the image’s high-contrast edges. Is any chromatic aberration visible? If not, then you’re done – but if you can still see some CA, continue on with the next step:
Step 3: Manually correct chromatic aberration
If you’ve continued on to this step, some of the chromatic aberration has likely been removed, but there’s still stubborn fringing that needs to be dealt with.
Click on the Manual option within the Lens Corrections panel. Then grab the eyedropper tool:
And select the offending chromatic aberration:
You’ll see the Amount and the Purple/Green Hue sliders shift as Lightroom identifies and fixes the remaining chromatic aberration.
Finally, if you check your image at 100% and still see CA, go ahead and move the Defringe sliders manually. The Purple Hue and Green Hue sliders let you target the precise fringing colors; then, when you boost the Amount sliders, Lightroom will remove the remaining fringing.
Remember that building image I shared at the start of the article? Here is the final result:
As you can see, the chromatic aberration is essentially gone and the image looks far better.
And here’s the final shot without the 100% crop:
What if Lightroom can’t remove all the chromatic aberration?
Lightroom’s CA removal tools are excellent, but you’ll occasionally run into situations where the program fails.
So what do you do then? Do you just give up?
While Lightroom doesn’t offer much for additional chromatic aberration removal, you can always right-click on the image and select Edit in Photoshop. There, you can do some clever blending, masking, and even cloning to get rid of the remaining CA.
Is chromatic aberration always a problem?
Cheaper lenses tend to produce more chromatic aberration, so the effect is associated with low-grade optics. And CA can hurt edge sharpness. But is it always bad? Does it always need to be removed?
In my view, you can forget about CA removal in a few specific cases.
First, if you’re planning to convert the final image to black and white, sepia, or some other monochrome look, then removing chromatic aberration is completely pointless. The monochrome conversion will take care of the CA, and you’ll be left with a pristine image. (In fact, if you can’t seem to get rid of your CA, then you should try converting the shot to black and white!)
Second, in certain situations, chromatic aberration can be used for creative effect. If you like to freelens, for instance, CA can add to that distorted, vintage-style look. Sometimes, fringing isn’t so bad – so if you’re ever not sure whether removing CA is the right move, try activating and deactivating Lightroom’s Remove Chromatic Aberration option. And see what you prefer!
How to fix chromatic aberration in Lightroom: final words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you know how to remove CA using Lightroom’s tools.
So go test the step-by-step process on your photos. I guarantee you’ll be pleased by the results!