The vignette is one of the most powerful ways to boost your photos. It reduces your photo’s brightness at corners and sides compared to the image center. It’s mainly used to highlight elements in the center even more. Besides, you can also use it to cover distracting details on the sides of your image.
As popular as it is, it’s just as common to not apply vignettes properly using Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Let me show you three powerful tweaks to squeeze out 100% of its potential and present your photos in a better light!
1) How to decide which photo is suited for a vignette
The vignette shifts the focus to the center of your frame. That’s why you’ll ideally have a photo where your subject is placed in the middle. Otherwise, the vignette will make your subject darker and take away the spotlight.
To make the vignette even more powerful, it really helps to have the light in the center of the frame as well. Your subject is either lit up from the front or illuminated by some backlight. Of course, it depends on how strong you apply the vignette. If you use it lightly around the sides and corners, then the subject can also be a bit to the top, bottom, left or right of the frame.
Take a look at the two photos above. The one on the left has the subject on the far left. The vignette not only covers the subject, it also highlights the less important wall in the middle. The right photo, however, has the subject in the center. The vignette blends out the unimportant details of the office and highlights the person and the view in the center. Do you see how the vignette works much better in the example on the right?
Whether you are capturing buildings in a city, trees in the countryside or animals in the zoo, the same rule of thumb applies: place the most important element in the center.
2) How to make the vignette as smooth as possible
The best vignette in the world is the one you barely notice. That’s why you always need to make sure that the transition is as gentle as possible. Once you notice the transition from dark to bright, it’s not done right. Do you see the circle of the vignette in this photo?
The reason for this is generally that the feather slider is too far to the left side. As you can see in the screenshot below, it’s at 33. The more you go to the left, the more visible the transition will be.
Always make sure to move the feather slider to the right side. For most of my vignettes, I slide it all the way to 100. That way, you will achieve the smoothest transition for your photos.
Once you’ve applied the feather more generously, the vignette’s border will largely disappear. As a result, your vignette will blend more smoothly into the natural light of the scenery. In case the transition remains too strong, you can always reduce the amount a bit as well.
3) How to create a custom vignette
Although the post-crop vignette works best with subjects in the center, you will also use different placements. Luckily, you can always create a custom vignette that is tailored to your composition. The easiest way to do this is to use the Radial Filter.
The following photo could really need a vignette. That way, we could highlight the sunset and the silhouette even more. In order to create a custom vignette, open the Radial Filter (Shift + M) first. Then you decrease the exposure to a level between -0.20 and -1.0. In this case, I set it to -0.64.
Click on the subject in your photo, hold and drag the circle around your subject. Everything outside of the circle will become darker.
Remember the first tip how the transition always needs to be smooth? We will do the same for the custom vignette. With the feather slider, you can make the transition from dark (outside the circle) to bright (inside the circle) smoother. The further you slide it to the right, the gentler the transition becomes. For this photo, I changed it to 81 instead of 50.
When you compare the original photo (left) with the custom vignette (right), you can clearly see the difference. The light atmosphere in the right photo is more intense and the vignette guides the viewer to the subject.
I hope these three tips for better vignettes will you take your images to the next level. Of course, practice makes perfect. Play around with the sliders as much as possible to get a feel for the right amount. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’m more than happy to help you out!