Chromatic Aberration

A Quick Guide to Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration in the lens. Macro, high ISO

As you continue to learn about photography and improve your skills, you’ll come across some strange phenomena in your pictures. Overly exposed or saturated images are common issues, but a less well-understood optical problem is chromatic aberration.

In this article we’ll explain what chromatic aberration is, how to avoid it, and how to deliberately create chromatic aberration in your pictures.

What is Chromatic Aberration?

Also known as ‘color fringing’ or ‘purple fringing,’ chromatic aberration definition is an optical error that occurs within the lens of a camera. Chromatic aberration happens when the camera lens and sensor are unable to accurately convert each wavelength of color to the same focal plane.

Chromatic aberration is essentially a distortion that is caused by lens dispersion. Different wavelengths of color pass through the lens, reaching the sensor at different speeds and intensities. 

The effect of chromatic aberration is an image with blurred, soft objects due to color and/or purple fringing around subjects.

Chromatic Aberration

There are two forms of chromatic aberration; Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration & Lateral Chromatic Aberration.

Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration is sometimes referred to as ‘axial chromatic aberration’ and, if present, happens across an entire image. It occurs when the wavelengths of color lie at disparate points along the longitudinal optical axis.

Lateral Chromatic Aberration, if present, is visible towards the edges of an image, but not towards the center mass. Lateral chromatic aberration occurs when colors are not placed along the same optical axis by the lens. It’s lateral chromatic aberration that causes color fringing or purple fringing around objects.

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Avoiding Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration makes many photographers, especially those who are not professionals, feel powerless when it comes to avoiding chromatic aberration. It’s important to note that color issues can happen in different lighting conditions and focal ranges, no matter how expensive or engineered a lens is.

There are, however, a number of ways you can attempt to avoid chromatic aberration. It’s also relatively simple to edit out chromatic aberration in image editing programs like Lightroom.

Here are some simple tips to avoid chromatic aberration. 

When shooting photos:

  • Invest in High-Quality Lenses

One of the most practical steps to take, if you have the financial means, is to invest in high-quality lenses for your camera. The best lenses on the market are designed to reduce disparities in the processing of wavelengths of color. 

Lenses with low-dispersion capabilities are designed specifically for reducing purple or color fringing. 

  • Keep The Subject in The Center 

We learned earlier that lateral chromatic aberration affects the edges of images, therefore, placing your subject as close to the center as possible will reduce the negative impact of lateral chromatic aberration. 

  • Increase The Camera’s Aperture Settings

Increasing the aperture value on your camera is known as ‘stopping down’ the lens aperture. Faster aperture lenses often struggle with longitudinal, or axial chromatic aberration. Therefore, ‘stopping down’ your aperture can help. 

Increasing the f-number/aperture can significantly reduce the chances of color fringing around objects in your photos. 

  • Avoid High Contrast Situations

High contrast scenes or shots where the tonal contrast is off can result in extreme color fringing. Think about the contrast of materials (plastics), surfaces (water), textures (landscapes), and lighting situations, because clashing can result in both forms of chromatic aberration.

Post-production: 

If you notice chromatic aberration in your photos, you can solve the issue in post-production;

  • Removing Chromatic Aberration Using a Photo-Editor

As long as you’ve taken your photos in RAW format, you’ll be able to effectively edit images on your computer. 

If you want to experiment with editing, it’s best to use high resolution stock photos, as well as various photo-editing apps and programs. 

In Lightroom, for example, there are useful tools for removing chromatic aberration. In the Develop menu, select Lens Corrections and then hit the Remove Chromatic Aberration button.

It’s also possible to remove chromatic aberration manually. Refer to your photo-editing program’s support guides.

Creating a Chromatic Aberration Effect

Now, there are some artists who use the chromatic aberration effect to draw attention, or aid in creating a certain theme or visual aesthetic. Movie directors will often employ chromatic aberration in order to make an object appear hyper-realistic. 

Just as it’s possible to remove chromatic aberration and color fringing, you can use video or photo editing programs to add it. Some popular apps have even added filters that create a chromatic aberration effect. 

Adding chromatic aberration that looks appealing is about matching the colors you’d like to use. In some images, green and blue will work, whilst in others, it might make sense to distort other color pairings.

For in-depth guides on adding chromatic aberration to an image, check out the Depositphotos guide to chromatic aberration.

Summing Up: Chromatic Aberration

There are ways to avoid chromatic aberration, including selecting great lenses, adjusting camera settings, and avoiding extremes in contrast. The ability to edit and remove chromatic aberration in post-production allows photographers to shoot freely and worry about optical defects at a later time. 

If you like the effect, why not experiment by creating a chromatic aberration effect on some of your futuristic-looking photos?