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Vignetting Effects and Post-Cropping Vignettes

One of the most-requested features by users of the original version of Lightroom was post-crop vignetting. The reason is simple: Lightroom always added vignetting (edge darkening) to the original, full-sized image. So, if you cropped the photo, then added vignetting, it was still added to the uncropped image (even though you saw the cropped image onscreen—it didn’t adjust the vignette to the crop). Luckily, in Lightroom 2, we have a separate control for post-crop vignetting, so you can add your vignettes without having them cropped off.

Step One:

To add an edge vignette effect, go to the right side Panels area and scroll down to the Vignettes panel. There are two different controls here: (1) The one called Lens Correction adds (or takes away) a vignette from your entire photo (before any cropping). Then (2) the Post-Crop sliders are used for any photo that you’ve cropped, because as you’ll see in a moment, without this new Post-Crop control, when you cropped the photo, you cropped away the vignetting effect, as well.

Step Two:

We’ll start with regular full-image vignetting, so drag the Lens Correction Amount slider almost 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 (in this case, my buddy Jeff) looks nicely lit, and your eye is drawn right where you want to look.

Step Three:

Now, here comes the problem (and why Adobe added post-crop vignetting in Lightroom 2): when you go to crop the photo (as I have here, where I’m cropping in tight, so you don’t see the camera he’s holding), most (or often, all) of that edge darkening you added goes away. In this case, if you look at the crop, we’re losing the darkening on the right side and the bottom. That’s why one of the most requested features from Lightroom 1 users was a vignette effect that would work after cropping.

Step Four:

I went ahead and cropped the photo tight, so we could apply some post-crop vignetting. The Post-Crop Amount and Midpoint sliders do the same thing as always, but now you actually see the darkening on all sides, even though we cropped in (so drag the Amount slider over to the left quite a bit, and the Midpoint slider just a little bit to the right, since we’re so close to his face already). The next two sliders are there to make your vignettes look more realistic than the one you applied the old way. For example, the Roundness setting controls how round the vignette is (try dragging it all the way to the left and you’ll instantly see what I mean). Feather is the amount of softness of the edge, and dragging this to the right helps make the vignette softer and more natural looking. I’ve over-exaggerated the effect a bit here, just so you can see it at this small size, but you can see how much smoother the post-crop vignette looks compared to the original. These vignettes have become so popular (and they’ve become so much a part of my “look”), that I created a preset, so I can apply them with just one click.

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