Vignettes aren't a new editing trick, in fact when darkrooms were still widely in use photographers would apply dodging and burning masks to images during the processing or use filters on their camera lenses when taking the shots. Now the effect is usually re-created digitally with software but the reason for applying them hasn't changed. They are still a simple yet, subtle way to guide / draw the eye to your main subject and frame shots.
The effect has also grown in popularity thanks to cameras such as Holgas becoming popular again. This 'hipster' look is now rather desirable so using techniques that re-create this, what was an unintentional vignette, on digital images is now something even apps are doing. In fact, creating vignettes on photos taken with mobile phones is one of the effects that's listed in our Ten Photoshop Techniques To Do On An iOS App article.
How And Why
When it comes to applying vignettes, less is usually better than more as if you make the effect too strong and obvious, it can end up spoiling your shot rather than enhancing it. Of course, there are times when a stronger vignette will work, such as with moody black & white landscapes, but most of the time subtle will be the way to go.
You should apply a vignette once all your other edits are complete as adjustments such as cropping may change the overall look of the image and the vignette could end up sitting in the wrong place or highlighting part of the shot you didn't want it to. This isn't true in Lightroom, though, as we'll explain further into the tutorial.
You can create vignettes in several applications including Photoshop, GIMP and Lightroom. For those wanting to learn more about the vignette options available in Lightroom, carry on reading this tutorial. For those looking for tips on how to create vignettes in Photoshop or GIMP, click on the following links:
Vignettes In Lightroom
When you open the develop module in Lightroom you'll see there are two Vignetting options. The first can be found under Lens Corrections and this is designed to decrease or even fully remove the vignetting caused by the lens when the image was taken. The changes are applied to the corners of the full-frame image and two sliders allow you to alter the strength and positioning of the effect.
Move the Amount slider to the right and the figure will increase, lightening the corners as the slider moves. Pull it to the right and the figure will decrease, darkening the corners. The Midpoint slider alters the area the vignette is applied to. Move the slider to the left and the vignette amount adjustment is applied to a larger area away from the corners, pull the slider in the opposite direction and this will restrict the adjustment area nearer to the corners of the image.
The Post-Crop Vignetting tool is one that's designed for more creative purposes and once applied, will stay on your image even if you decide to crop the shot again. There are also more editing controls available under the Post-Crop Vignetting tool, giving you more control over how the final vignette will look.
Three types of vignettes are available and these are accessed from the Style menu. These three options will alter how the vignette you apply blends with the photo you're editing. Highlight Priority is set as the default option and will create a vignetting effect that you're most familiar with.
Once you've picked your Style (we are using Highlight Priority) you can use the various sliders to adjust the vignette.
Pull this slider to the right and the vignette will lighten, pull it to the left and it will appear darker.
This will change how much of the image away from the edges the vignette is applied to. Pull the slider left and the vignette's size will be increased, pull it to the right and it will retreat back into the corners of the shot.
This changes the shape of the vignette to give it rounder or straighter edges. If you pull the slider to the left the shape is more rectangular / square while pulling it the opposite way will make the vignette more circular.
This adjusts how hard or soft the edges of the vignette are. A harder vignette (which you get by pulling the slider to the left) generally doesn't look as good as feathered vignettes as it creates a shape that's too defined. The second image, which shows a vignette with a higher feathered value, is much softer.
When in Highlight or Colour Priority the Highlights slider becomes active if you've used a negative value when adjusting the amount (so the vignette is dark). Pulling the Highlights slider to the right will, according to Adobe, 'control the degree of highlight contrast preserved'. In other words, it allows you to control how little or much highlight contrast there is in your vignette.
See the difference in these two images when the slider is set at 0 then 45:
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