Vignettes

September 12, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Perhaps the title of today's blog gives it away. You just looked at the title again, didn't you? Well, try your best to forget what topic this blog is about, just for a minute. Close your eyes for a bit, clear your mind and just look at the image below, making a mental note of your eye movement through the image.

So, which path did your eyes take when looking at this image? Were your eyes tempted to move to the total left or total right edge of the frame? Did your eyes circle back anywhere in the image? When I look at this image the sun draws my eyes since it is the brightest object to look at. Then my eyes stay between the highest peak on the left to the highest peak on the right, horizontally speaking. My eyes are not tempted to move to the left or the right beyond those two points. But why not?

          Many landscape photographers use vignetting to move the viewers' eyes to the middle of the image and away from the edges of the frame. A vignette is where a photographer darkens the outside edge around the image thereby leaving the center of the image brighter. Our eyes always go to where it is brighter away from where it is darker. Just about all image editing software offers this feather. I never ever use it, never. Why not, you may ask?

          Firstly, a round or oval vignette is a dead giveaway. Secondly, many photographers overdo it. If someone can see that you used a vignette, it is probably overdone. Thirdly, I believe that just slapping on a darker edge is not the best way of achieving the same effect. Lastly, I don't want to apply the effect equally everywhere around the edge. What if you already have a section on the edge with dark shadows? Making that section even darker can leave you with no detail. So here is what I do and advocate you do.

          When we "developed" the raw image we set the black and white point (if you don't know what this is, just search my blog posts as I did write about that in the past). But then when we edit the image using our editing software and plugins these editing changes impact and move the black and white points. So before I am done with any image I take it back into the raw developer to reset the black and white points. While in the raw developer I select the brush tool. Rather than just lowering the exposure and painting in my vignette I deliberately fine-tune the brush settings to create a vignette that I believe is better than one simply created by lowering the exposure.

          Yes, I do lower the exposure just a bit, but really just a bit. What I lower more are the highlight and white point sliders. We don't just want to darken everything, we want to lower primarily the lighter colors. Then with the brush set, I only paint the section that I want darker. I do not follow a round or oval pattern. I darken where the most brights are on the edge. Where it is already darker I leave untouched. Using this technique gives you more control and leaves your image with a more polished, natural effect.


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