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How to Add 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 other vignetting options.

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 7—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 it 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 away. 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 (though the only one that really looks good is Highlight Priority, so it’s the only one I ever use. The results are more like what 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 to make sure they stay bright). 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). 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, and it’s not as dark (or nice) as the Highlight Priority style. Finally, Paint Overlay gives you the look we had back in Lightroom 2 for post-crop vignetting, which just painted the edges dark gray (yeech!).

Step Five: The next two sliders were added to give you more control to make your vignettes look more realistic. For example, the Roundness setting controls how round the vignette is. Just so you know exactly what this does, try this: leave the Roundness set at 0, but 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? Of course, you wouldn’t really use this look (well, I hope not), but it does help in understanding exactly what this slider does. Well, the Roundness setting controls how round that oval gets (drag the slider back and forth a couple of times and you’ll instantly get it). Okay, reset it to zero (and stop playing with that slider). ;-)

Step Six: 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 57, 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 farther 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 (but you’re not going to set it to Color Priority, because it looks kind of yucky, right?). So there ya have it—how to add an edge vignette to focus the viewer’s attention on the center of your image by darkening the edges all the way around.

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