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Adding Vignette Effects

An edge vignette effect (where you darken all the edges around your image to focus the attention on the center of the photo) is one of those effects you either love or that drives you crazy (I, for one, love ‘em). Here we’re going to look at how to apply a simple vignette; one where you crop the photo and the vignette still appears (called a “post-crop” vignette), and how to use the new options just introduced in Lightroom 3.

  • Step One: To add an edge vignette effect, go to the right side Panels area and scroll down to the Lens Corrections panel (the reason it’s in the Lens Corrections panel is this: some particular lenses darken the corners of your photo, even when you don’t want them to. In that case, it’s a problem, and you’d go to the Lens Corrections panel to fix a lens problem, right? There you would brighten the corners using the controls in this panel. So, basically, a little edge darkening is bad, but if you add a lot intentionally, then it’s cool. Hey, I don’t make the rules—I just pass them on). Here’s the original image without any vignetting (by the way, we’ll talk about how to get rid of “bad vignetting” in Chapter 6—the chapter on how to fix problems).
  • Step Two: We’ll start with regular full-image vignetting, so click on Manual at the top of the panel, then drag the Lens Vignetting Amount slider all the way to the left. This slider controls how dark the edges of your photo are going to get (the further to the left you drag, the darker they get). The Midpoint slider controls how far in the dark edges get to the center of your photo. So, try dragging it over quite a bit too (as I have here), and it kind of creates a nice, soft spotlight effect, where the edges are dark, your subject looks nicely lit, and your eye is drawn right where you want to look.
  • Step Three: Now, this works just fine, until you wind up having to crop the photo, because cropping will crop away the edge vignette. To get around that problem, Adobe added a control called “Post-Crop Vignetting,” which lets you add vignetting effects after you’ve cropped. I’m cropping that same photo in tight here, and now most of the edge vignetting I added earlier will be cropped off. So, scroll down to the Effects panel and at the top you’ll see Post-Crop Vignetting. Before we try that, reset your Lens Vignetting Amount slider to 0 (zero), so we don’t add the post-crop vignetting on top of the little bit of original vignetting still in our photo.
  • Step Four: Before we get to the sliders, let’s talk about the Style pop-up menu. You have three choices: (1) Highlight Priority, (2) Color Priority, and (3) Paint Overlay. We’ll start with Highlight Priority, which is my favorite of the three. The reason I like it is the results are more like you get with the regular vignette. The edges get darker, but the color may shift a bit, and I’m totally okay with the edges looking more saturated. This choice gets its name from the fact that it tries to keep as much of the highlights intact, so if you have some bright areas around the edges, it’ll try and make sure they stay bright. Again, this is my favorite choice, and is a big improvement on the old post-crop vignetting from Lightroom 2. I made the edges pretty darn dark here—darker than I would make mine, but I wanted you to really see the effect on the cropped image (just for example purposes).
  • Step Five: The Color Priority style is more concerned with keeping your color accurate around the edges, so the edges do get a bit darker, but the colors don’t get more saturated (as seen here—the edges also aren’t as dark as the ones you saw in Step Four). Color Priority isn’t a bad choice. It’s a little more subtle in most cases (even when using the same Amount setting), and I think it’s also better than the old Lightroom 2 post-crop look.
  • Step Six: And finally Paint Overlay, seen here, gives you the same look we had back in Lightroom 2 for post-crop vignetting, which just painted the edges dark gray. I don’t think this looks nearly as good (or realistic) as the other choices, which is why I don’t use Paint Overlay at all (yeech!). Okay, so that’s the styles thing. The Post-Crop Vignetting Amount and Midpoint sliders do the same thing as the standard Lens Vignetting feature (the Amount controls how dark the edges get, and the Midpoint determines how far in the darkening goes). Even though we’ve cropped the image in tight, when you drag the Amount slider over to the left quite a bit, and the Midpoint slider to the left a little bit, you can see the results.
  • Step Seven: The next two sliders were added to make your vignettes look more realistic than the ones you applied in Lightroom 2. For example, the Roundness setting controls how round the vignette is (try leaving it set to 0, and then drag the Feather amount, which we’ll talk about in a moment, all the way to the left). You see how it creates a very defined oval shape? Well, the Roundness setting controls how round that oval gets (drag the slider back and forth and you’ll instantly get it).
  • Step Eight: The Feather slider controls the amount of softness of the oval’s edge, so dragging this slider to the right makes the vignette softer and more natural looking. Here I clicked-and-dragged the Feather amount to 33, and you can see how it softened the edges of the hard oval you saw in the previous step. So, in short, the farther you drag, the softer the edges of the oval get. The bottom slider, Highlights, helps you to maintain highlights in the edge areas you’re darkening with your vignette. The father to the right you drag it, the more the highlights are protected. The Highlights slider is only available if your Style is set to either Highlight Priority or Color Priority.
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