We recently had a wonderful reader ask about "distortion."

This top graph is what Barrel distortion looks like with an example photo below.  The photo looks like it's been wrapped around a barrel.  Usually your subjects heads are a little bigger than normal.  Barrel distortion appears mostly when using a wide angle lens at it's widest.

This next graph is what Pincushion distortion looks like with an example photo below.  The photo below looks like you stuck a pin in the middle of it with the rest of the photo gravitating towards the middle.  Most subjects with this distortion have small noses and bigger heads.  Pincushion distortion appears mostly when using a telephoto lens in it's most zoomed in state.

Then last is the infamous Moustache distortion which is a little of both Pincushion, and Barrel.  Barrel in the center and Pincushion in the corners.  This distortion appears when using wide angle lenses.

For me, personally, with these photos I need to look close.  I don't have a huge critical eye or you can say I am very forgiving.  I think distortion can ultimately make a picture but it has to be appropriate.  There are some very critical eyes out there that find a photo unacceptable if there is any distortion.  For these people you can correct your photo in photoshop.  Another thing you can do is only buy prime lenses or a lens that does not zoom and a camera with a full frame sensor.  Prime lenses and full frames don't always keep the distortion away but it does help.  I say try using distortion to your benefit and have fun with it!


  1. Great post - I seem to learn something every time I come to this blog!

  2. I too needed a cheer leader. Every day I come here to get my "cheering" session. I feel overwhelmed with trying to "make it" in photography in such a saturated market. While my technical skills are sharpening daily, I am still not overrun with clients. Thanks for being a bright spot in my day!

  3. Thanks for the explanation. I must not have a very fine tuned, critical eye either, because sometimes I just love the look of distortion.