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Edge Vignetting: How to Fix It and How to Add It for Effect

If you’re looking at a photo and the corners of the photo appear darker, that’s lens vignetting. Generally, I look at it this way: If it’s just the corners, and they’re just a little bit dark, that’s a problem and I fix it. However, sometimes I want to focus the viewer’s attention on a particular area, so I create a vignette, but I expand it significantly beyond the corners, so it looks like an intentional soft spotlight effect. Here’s how to fix (or create) vignettes:

Step One

In the photo shown here, you can see the dark areas in the corners (that’s the bad vignetting I was talking about). This vignetting is normally caused by the camera’s lens, so don’t blame yourself (unless you bought a really cheap lens—then feel free to give yourself as much grief as you can bear).

Step Two

To remove this vignetting from the corners, click on the Lens Corrections icon (it’s the sixth icon from the left) to bring up the Lens Vignetting controls. Click on the Amount slider and drag it to the right until the vignetting in the corners disappears (dragging to the right essentially brightens the corners, which hides the vignetting). Once you begin moving the Amount slider, the Midpoint slider beneath it becomes available. That slider determines how wide the vignetting repair extends into your photo (in other words, how far out from the corners your repair extends), so drag it to the right to expand the lightening farther toward the center of your photo.

Step Three

Now for the opposite: adding vignetting to focus attention (by the way, in the “Special Effects for Photographers” chapter, I also show you how to get the same effect outside of Camera Raw). This time, in the Lens Vignetting section you’re going to drag the Amount slider to the left, and as you drag left, you’ll start to see vignetting appear in the corners of your photo (as seen in Step Four). But since it’s just in the corners, it looks like the bad kind of vignetting, not the good kind, so you’ll need to go on to the next step.

Step Four

To make the vignetting look more like a soft spotlight falling on your subject, drag the Midpoint slider quite a bit to the left, which increases the size of the vignetting and creates a soft, pleasing effect that is very popular in portraiture, or anywhere you want to draw attention to your subject. That’s it—how to get rid of ’em and how to add ’em. Two for the price of one!

Step Five

So far, adding the vignette has been pretty easy—you just drag a couple of sliders, right? But where you’ll run into a problem is when you crop a photo, because you’re also cropping the vignetting effect away, as well (after all, it’s an edge effect, and now the edges are in a different place, and Camera Raw doesn’t automatically redraw your vignette at the newly cropped size). That’s why one of the most requested Camera Raw features is the ability to add a vignette after the fact, and in CS4, not only did they add it, they added more controls to vignetting. It’s called Post Crop Vignetting and it’s found at the bottom of the Lens Corrections panel (seen here).

Step Six

When you crop a photo (like we did here), you can see the problem—the vignette effect (added in Step Five) is pretty much gone. So, to add it back in, go to the Post Crop Vignetting section and drag the Amount slider to the left to darken the edges, then use the Midpoint slider to choose how far into your image this vignetting will extend.

Step Seven

One of the two new sliders they added in CS4 is a control over the roundness of the vignetting. I lowered the Feather amount here to 0 just so you can get a better idea of what the Roundness slider does. The farther to the right you drag, the rounder the shape gets, and when you drag to the left, it actually becomes more like a large, rounded-corner rectangle.

Step Eight

The Feather slider determines how soft that oval you created with the Roundness slider becomes. I like it really soft, so it looks more like a spotlight, so I usually drag this slider quite a bit over to the right (here I dragged it over to 73, but I wouldn’t hesitate to go higher, depending on how it looks on the photo).

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