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What is Chromatic Aberration?

By Michelle Ecker on February 13, 2018

What is Chromatic Aberration?

Have you ever taken a photo where say, for example, your entire background was made up of lush green grass- but for some reason, you notice that green grass streaked with odd lines of pink and yellow? Have you ever spotted strange color fringes like this, maybe only on one side of your composition or maybe just in the background? This is called chromatic aberration.

What is Chromatic Aberration?

Put simply, chromatic aberration is something that occurs when light is passing through your camera’s lens, and it gets refracted in a particular way that does not coincide with your focal length. When this happens, that light falls behind or before the focal length of your lens, presenting itself as those odd bright streaks throughout your image.

If this is confusing to you, just remember the definition of focal length itself- it’s supposed to be the point where ALL the light wavelengths that pass through the camera lens meet. When that doesn’t happen, when that light doesn’t meet there like it’s meant to, something goes wrong in the image capture.

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How Can You Avoid Chromatic Aberration?

There are several effective techniques you can employ in order to minimalize or completely eliminate this phenomenon from your shots.

  1. Avoid High Contrast Photography

    Color fringing will always increase when you are shooting super high contract scenery. Is the bright sun sitting in the background of your image? You’re at higher risk. Are you shooting with a bright white backdrop outdoors? You’re at higher risk. One of the easiest first steps in avoiding chromatic aberration is to know when you can most expect it.

  2. Try to Re-Frame

    If chromatic aberration is ruining your compositions, you could also try to recompose. Are you working indoors? Try to switch up your background so that it’s one that contrasts much less to the subject in your foreground. If your background of choice is much more subtle and is a color more similar to that of your subject, you’re much less likely to run into any issues. Are you working outside? Consider waiting until the sun isn’t directly overhead.

  3. Don’t Want to Re-Frame? Work in RAW

    Maybe having the sun in the background of your shot, or having your subject in a deep red dress standing in front of a bright white background is exactly the shot you had in mind, and you’re not up for re-composition. Understood! If that’s the case, we highly recommend you work in RAW, and prepare to spend some time in Photoshop making corrections when you’re done.

Fixing Chromatic Aberration in Photoshop

If you’ve decided to attempt option 3 listed above, there are a few Photoshop fixes you can try including in your post production process to fix chromatic aberration issues. Once you’re in the software, head to the “Develop” module, and once there, head to the “Lens Corrections” panel.

Once inside the Lens Corrections panel, find the “Profile” option, and within that Profile list, check the box entitled “Enable Profile Corrections.” This is the simplest, quick-fix option. They’re basically pre-set editing tools created to correspond with errors associated with all major lenses. After that, simply head down to “Remove Chromatic Aberration” (another option under “Profile”), and check that off as well for a simple, straightforward post-processing routine.