Fisheye? With drones? What is it and how do I get rid of it? Those might be some questions one new to photography might ask themselves, and very rightly so.
Thankfully it is not as bad as it initially sounds. So then, what is fisheye and how can you remove the barrel fisheye effect for perfect aerial photos?
To remove the barrel fisheye effect from your drone photos, you will need to use specific photography or image manipulation software such as Adobe Lightroom to remove the image distortion in post-processing.
In this article, I’ll go over what exactly the fisheye effect is, what causes it, and a quick guide to how to get rid of it.
What is the barrel fisheye effect?
Interestingly, the barrel fisheye effect is not something specific to just drone photography. It is something that occurs in regular photography as well. The fisheye effect mostly occurs when using a wide-angle lens.
Since drone camera lenses are indeed especially wide, with most of the popular drones having a field of view ranging between a fairly narrow 77 degrees to a super-wide 108 degrees, it is more common to see this fisheye effect.
With fisheye, as you get farther from the center of the image, the outside of the picture begins to curve or distort, giving it a slightly rounded appearance, as the example below demonstrates.
If steps aren’t taken in-post (post-processing) to correct this, your drone photos will tend to look distorted, more so depending on your drone’s field of view. The wider the field of view, the worse the distortion.
How to remove the barrel fisheye effect from your drone photos
Sadly, as was mentioned prior, the fisheye effect is the result of the actual hardware (camera) on the drone, so the only way to counteract the effect on GPS camera drones is by using post-processing photo software after the photos have been taken.
This is an interesting one, as there are currently a few versions of Lightroom currently available, for both Windows and Mac.
- Lightroom (standard) – very popular and easy-to-use, monthly subscription-based, with a modern user interface
- Lightroom Mobile – free for Android and iOS users with a user interface similar to the full version of the standard Lightroom
- Lightroom Classic – Classic Lightroom interface, more along the lines of the ever-popular Adobe Photoshop and is also monthly subscription-based
There are two ways to correct fisheye in Adobe Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile:
After adding your photo(s) to the workspace, you’ll open the edit panel on the right side of the screen.
Method 1: Lens Profile
To fix fisheye using a lens profile, scroll down to OPTICS.
- Check the box “Enable Lens Correction”.
- Click “Change profile” and then
- select your drone’s Make, Model, and Profile.
- Alternatively, you can choose the Auto-Select option to see if a comparable option is applied. As of this writing, there are a handful of DJI, Parrot, Skydio, and Yuneec specific drones and camera options, as well as offerings by GoPro.
NOTE: If your drone’s make and model are not listed, OR the profile specifically for your drone doesn’t seem to work well, try playing with other drone make and model options, as these might work better for your case.
Method 2: Geometry
This method is less involved and only one thing needs to be adjusted.
- Within the Edit Panel, scroll down to GEOMETRY.
- Your first option, “Distortion” is the slider you’ll want to use.
- Moving the slider left and right will correct the curve in your image.
- There will be a grid screen overlay to assist in getting the picture unbowed.
This is one of the quicker, but slightly less precise ways to pull the barrel distortion out of the image.
For those that have worked in the Adobe ecosystem for a while, it might be more familiar and comfortable using Lightroom Classic, with its tried-and-true interface that is more in line with Photoshop.
Interestingly, the method to fix the fisheye effect in Classic is similar to the methods used in the standard Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile.
To remove the fisheye effect using Lightroom Classic:
- Locate and press the “Develop” tab, along the top right of the program
- Scroll down to “Lens Corrections”
- Under “profile” check off Enable Profile Corrections
- Manually choose your Make, Model, and Profile
NOTE: After choosing your camera information, you’ll additionally be able to manually manipulate the distortion amount using the “distortion” slider to fine-tune the desired effect.
Working with GoPros
For those not using a traditional GPS Camera Drone to take photos (ie: DJI, Autel, Skydio, etc.), but instead are using an FPV drone with a GoPro camera mounted, there is a very simple solution for you built right into the GoPro camera itself. This involves changing a simple camera setting, prior to shooting any photos. It is called Linear Mode.
Shooting in Linear Mode
Linear mode allows you to shoot photos and videos without the signature GoPro fisheye effect, while still retaining a relatively wide viewing angle. All curved angles are straightened out to give you a more traditional photo appearance.
NOTE: When shooting in Linear Mode, the angle is not as wide as when taking photos in Wide Mode, due to in-camera cropping to allow for the straightening of the image lines.
To shoot photos and videos in Linear Mode:
Simply go into your settings and switch the current view from Wide and set the mode to Linear on the slider.
That’s it! You’ll know you have successfully changed the option when you look at the camera view and see FOV LINR, as opposed to FOV WIDE.
You can also apply lens corrections to your GoPro footage using the methods above for Lightroom standard, Mobile, and Classic.
While there is a slew of other applications out that effectively remove fisheye (see PTLens and GIMP), the methods mentioned in this article are very simple and easily accessible to most drone photographers, new and seasoned alike.
PTLens has moved to a pay-for-use model (it was previously free) with a slightly complicated installation and usage scheme. It is advised, if you plan to look into PTens, to really read all of the information the developer has available, to see if this is a solution you’d like to use.
Although there is a charge now for the software, it is still much less expensive than the monthly subscription model Adobe has implemented for its Photographer suite of apps.
GIMP, on the other hand, is free but a bit more complicated to use than the methods outlined here. Although GIMP is a great all-around tool for image processing and editing, the fisheye end results are not as consistent or effective as the above-mentioned methods.