Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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1 Jan 2021 8:03AM   Views : 393 Unique : 239


Digital photography has made vignettes easy again – they were originally the result of a common deficiency in lenses. These days, we talk about sharpness falling off towards the edges, and the image darkening in the corners, but before computer-assisted lens design, there was a fight to the death between the difficulty and cost of making a lens, and the level of optical defects that it brought to the camera.


Any lens focuses a circular image, and if we want to have a sharp image all over the frame, we use only the central part. Towards the edge, the image gets darker, and fuzzier. Although I bought my SLR Magic Hyperprime for its tiny depth of field, it’s designed for smaller sensors, and doesn’t cover a full frame completely – so the fall-off and softness can be seen pretty clearly in the image at the top (shot at f/0.95) and the next picture, shot at f/5.6. This was a novel experience for me, as I bought the lens for the sake of what it does at full aperture!

Going back to John Blakemore and his tulip pictures (did I mention a whole book of portraits of tulips when I blogged about Blakemore?), in some, he darkened the edges of the frame by spraying his background with water – an absorbent and dark material got darker, producing an out-of-camera vignette. Typically, darkroom printers give a little extra exposure to a strip along each edge, achieving the same result – but Blakemore’s approach means that printing can be more straightforward, with fewer additional exposures of the paper.


There are plenty of ways to add both softening and darkening vignettes in digital processing, and I tend to do it with Nik Efex. What leaves me a little unsure is the vogue for a white vignette. I have to say that I don’t generally like it as a look (though there are always exceptions to any rule), and it clearly doesn’t have an origin as a purely optical effect. It’s always been there as a deliberate effect…


Where does this take us? For me, vignettes are useful, but generally at their best applied subtly. Look at the three versions of the picture of inverse_expression – the vignette, whether dark or blurry, detracts from the image, as her collarbones are so much a part of the structure of the portrait… As with most techniques and special effects, handle with care.

And Happy New Year, everyone. May it be better than 2020 has been.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
1 Jan 2021 8:05AM
Looking at this, there's proof that nothing is ever free: while the Hyperprime gives very decent sharpness stopped down, it's very prone to flare. Heaven along knows how many elements lurk within...
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 37 8 England
1 Jan 2021 9:41AM
Cant remember which Hyperprime you have but the all knowing google says that the 50mm has 13 elements in 12 groups.
Happy New year Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
1 Jan 2021 10:00AM
It's the 50mm...

Thanks, Dave!
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
1 Jan 2021 3:23PM
I'm sure you knew that without needing Google, Dave Wink

You've just reminded me of the Cokin Centrespot filters from the last Century where you'd get colouired vignettes, often garish. Classy.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
1 Jan 2021 8:28PM
I have a couple of those that I can lend you, Keith?While away the Tier 4 tme?
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
1 Jan 2021 8:33PM
Thanks John, I'll politely refuse that kind offer... Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
2 Jan 2021 10:12AM
I had suspected that was a possibility... I don't think even Francisco Hildago (who produced postcards of London and other capital cities that celebrated the Cokin range) ever made anything of those particular filters...

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