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Vignettes 101

2.jpgIn my last post, ‘Vignettes ‘ Lighten or Darken?‘ I discussed vignettes in brief detail and only brought up the issue of lightening the edges vs. darkening them.

The word ‘vignette’ has quite a few meanings. In photography, it is the edge of an image and comes from the old french ‘vigne’ and refers to a decorative border.

Vignettes happen naturally when more light reaches the center of an image than is reaching the edges. Optical vignetting is caused by an internal obstruction in the aperture. It can commonly be seen with wide angle lenses and those used with wide open apertures. Physical vignetting is caused by a physical obstruction preventing light from hitting the sensor. It can be caused by a lens hood a filter, anything preventing the light from coming into the sensor. Even the most expensive lenses can produce this aberration. Although unintentional and sometimes unwanted, vignetting can actually have quite a beautiful effect and quality which has made it something desirable in certain situations.

The word ‘vignette’ has quite a few meanings. In photography, it is the edge of an image and comes from the old french ‘vigne’ and refers to a decorative border.

Intentional – Darkening

Darkening the edges of an image can add a dark, vintage or even macabre effect to the interpretation of your image. It draws the eye into the centre of the image, framing the edges in darkness. Darkening can be achieved in both Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop and they function in different ways.

Intentional – Lightening

Darkening your edges isn’t the only form of vignetting which can be achieved through digital retouching. You also have the option of lightening the edges. This option may not be as popular as darkening and you don’t get quite as extreme a result, but lightening your edges can have a huge impact in the quality and feel of your image.

How-To in Lightroom

In Lightroom, vignettes can be achieved in the Develop module. On the right column, there is a section for ‘lens correction’.

The reason vignettes can be found in this section is that post production programs like Lightroom and Photoshop have this feature primarily as a way to correct the natural vignetting from your lens should you want to lighten up the edges which have gone dark.

Amount – Sliding to the left makes the edges darker, to the right is lighter.

Midpoint – Midpoint brings the vignette in towards the centre of the image, sliding right brings it out.

Post-Crop – You’ll want to use these sliders if the image you are editing has been cropped. Otherwise, you will be editing the phantom edges which have been cropped away and there will be no effect made as you move the sliders.

How-To in Photoshop


In Photoshop, vignettes can be found in filter —-> correct camera distortion. Just like in Lightroom, there are sliders to adjust the lightening or darkening of your edges.


In Photoshop, the sliders are much the same as in Lightroom in that sliding to the left darkens, to the right lightens. The midpoint slider brings it nearer to and farther from the centre of the image.

This ‘correct camera distortion’ module in Photoshop includes sliders to correct other types of distortion as well and you could be pleasantly surprised as you experiment with these sliders.

In Photoshop you’ll see the ‘preview’ tick-box. You can click and un-click this to preview the effect the vignette is having on your image before you commit to the changes.

Producing Vignettes – Layering in Photoshop

Being that I mainly shoot people and I’m a bit obsessed with tight shots, I come across the problem of my vignettes spilling onto the subject and causing their face to go dark which I definitely don’t want. I’ve managed to come up with some ideas for adding a vignette which doesn’t affect the main subject.

1. Start with your image< ?h3>


First, I select the image in Photoshop

2. Select the subject


Second, I use the selection brush tool to select my main subject (I included the foreground tree as well)

3. Feather selection


I then go to select —–> feather and type ‘1’ in the box to feather the selection out by 1 pixel. This prevents the selection from being too hard-lined around the edges when I add the vignette behind the subject.

4. Make new layer


After finishing selecting the subject and feathering the selection, I hit ctrl+j which creates a new layer from your selection.

5. Vignette


In the layers palette on the right, click the background layer to select it and go to filter —-> correct camera distortion. Use the sliders to darken or lighten your edges to create the vignette you desire. Then click ‘ok’. When it takes you back to the image, you will see that there is vignette which isn’t affecting your subject.

6. Check that you are happy


In the layers palette on the right, clicking the visibility button (the eye to the left of each layer) to see the effect the vignette has had on your image and to see the areas that were avoided by our exercise of making a foreground layer.


In conclusion, I always find it important to point out that as with any digital retouching, you must be careful not to ruin your image with too much editing. Many images will be perfect without a vignette and using them too often can make your albums of images seem overdone.

Let the images themselves be a voice in guiding you in your process and you can’t go wrong.

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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