Vignettes 101

Vignettes 101

2.jpgIn my last post, ‘Vignettes ‘ Lighten or Darken?‘ I discussed vignettes in brief detail and only brought up the issue of lightening the edges vs. darkening them.

The word ‘vignette’ has quite a few meanings. In photography, it is the edge of an image and comes from the old french ‘vigne’ and refers to a decorative border.

Vignettes happen naturally when more light reaches the center of an image than is reaching the edges. Optical vignetting is caused by an internal obstruction in the aperture. It can commonly be seen with wide angle lenses and those used with wide open apertures. Physical vignetting is caused by a physical obstruction preventing light from hitting the sensor. It can be caused by a lens hood a filter, anything preventing the light from coming into the sensor. Even the most expensive lenses can produce this aberration. Although unintentional and sometimes unwanted, vignetting can actually have quite a beautiful effect and quality which has made it something desirable in certain situations.

The word ‘vignette’ has quite a few meanings. In photography, it is the edge of an image and comes from the old french ‘vigne’ and refers to a decorative border.

Intentional – Darkening

Darkening the edges of an image can add a dark, vintage or even macabre effect to the interpretation of your image. It draws the eye into the centre of the image, framing the edges in darkness. Darkening can be achieved in both Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop and they function in different ways.

Intentional – Lightening

Darkening your edges isn’t the only form of vignetting which can be achieved through digital retouching. You also have the option of lightening the edges. This option may not be as popular as darkening and you don’t get quite as extreme a result, but lightening your edges can have a huge impact in the quality and feel of your image.

How-To in Lightroom

In Lightroom, vignettes can be achieved in the Develop module. On the right column, there is a section for ‘lens correction’.

The reason vignettes can be found in this section is that post production programs like Lightroom and Photoshop have this feature primarily as a way to correct the natural vignetting from your lens should you want to lighten up the edges which have gone dark.

Amount – Sliding to the left makes the edges darker, to the right is lighter.

Midpoint – Midpoint brings the vignette in towards the centre of the image, sliding right brings it out.

Post-Crop – You’ll want to use these sliders if the image you are editing has been cropped. Otherwise, you will be editing the phantom edges which have been cropped away and there will be no effect made as you move the sliders.

How-To in Photoshop


In Photoshop, vignettes can be found in filter —-> correct camera distortion. Just like in Lightroom, there are sliders to adjust the lightening or darkening of your edges.


In Photoshop, the sliders are much the same as in Lightroom in that sliding to the left darkens, to the right lightens. The midpoint slider brings it nearer to and farther from the centre of the image.

This ‘correct camera distortion’ module in Photoshop includes sliders to correct other types of distortion as well and you could be pleasantly surprised as you experiment with these sliders.

In Photoshop you’ll see the ‘preview’ tick-box. You can click and un-click this to preview the effect the vignette is having on your image before you commit to the changes.

Producing Vignettes – Layering in Photoshop

Being that I mainly shoot people and I’m a bit obsessed with tight shots, I come across the problem of my vignettes spilling onto the subject and causing their face to go dark which I definitely don’t want. I’ve managed to come up with some ideas for adding a vignette which doesn’t affect the main subject.

1. Start with your image< ?h3>


First, I select the image in Photoshop

2. Select the subject


Second, I use the selection brush tool to select my main subject (I included the foreground tree as well)

3. Feather selection


I then go to select —–> feather and type ‘1’ in the box to feather the selection out by 1 pixel. This prevents the selection from being too hard-lined around the edges when I add the vignette behind the subject.

4. Make new layer


After finishing selecting the subject and feathering the selection, I hit ctrl+j which creates a new layer from your selection.

5. Vignette


In the layers palette on the right, click the background layer to select it and go to filter —-> correct camera distortion. Use the sliders to darken or lighten your edges to create the vignette you desire. Then click ‘ok’. When it takes you back to the image, you will see that there is vignette which isn’t affecting your subject.

6. Check that you are happy


In the layers palette on the right, clicking the visibility button (the eye to the left of each layer) to see the effect the vignette has had on your image and to see the areas that were avoided by our exercise of making a foreground layer.


In conclusion, I always find it important to point out that as with any digital retouching, you must be careful not to ruin your image with too much editing. Many images will be perfect without a vignette and using them too often can make your albums of images seem overdone.

Let the images themselves be a voice in guiding you in your process and you can’t go wrong.

Read more from our Post Production category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • Patricia Pope February 9, 2012 12:33 pm

    Thank-you, Elizabeth, for sharing these tips on Vignettes. I am anxious to try out your tips.

  • photomatt7 January 7, 2010 11:33 am

    Glad I found this. As I continue to try to improve as a photographer, taking control of Photoshop is one of my major goals.

  • Curtis Wallis January 3, 2010 09:20 am

    Are the same filters in CS3?

  • Gbenga Loveeyes Images December 30, 2009 07:28 pm

    Another nice one from DPS. I am refreshred.

  • Hooch December 28, 2009 09:18 am

    Using Adobe Camera Raw (and probably some other apps) it's possible to move the post crop sliders right to the ends to crate a nice, hard, rounded corner boarder instead of a translucent vignette. Similar to what you would get in some older cameras.

    This can be achieved using Photoshop pretty easily too, though with more steps for the action. It comes in handy if you wanted to do it to a batch of photos without having to leave Camera RAW and adding another step to the workflow.


    Not having the edge 100% sharp can add to the effect of it being an 'in-camera' effect, not a digital post effect.

  • Danferno December 28, 2009 03:51 am

    @Laci: I don't.

  • Laci December 27, 2009 08:01 pm

    Would you consider this photo overdoing it?

  • Greg Aleknevicus December 26, 2009 03:45 pm

    A GIMP tutorial can be found here:

  • Nikki December 25, 2009 06:13 am

    In Photoshop CS4, the path is actually: Filter-->Distort-->Lens Correction

    Vignetting of RAW images in CS4's Camera RAW editor offers two options: 1) "Lens Vignetting" of the original, uncropped image and, 2) "Post Crop Vignetting" of images which have been cropped. You can use either option on uncropped photos (though I think the "Lens Vignetting" option yields superior, more natural results for uncropped images); for cropped photos, you need to use the "Post Crop Vignetting" else you will lose the vignetting effects at corners or edges which were lost due to cropping. Using the "Filter-->Distort-->Lens Correction" filter in CS4 allows for vignetting cropped images but does not offer all the options one gets when using Camera RAW, specifically the "Roundness" and "Feathering" options.

  • Eternal*Voyageur @ Venusia*Glow December 25, 2009 02:52 am

    Any chance of a Gimp tutorial ?

  • Haley December 25, 2009 02:24 am

    another way you can achieve the vingette look in photoshop is by double clicking on the picture layer in the layer pallette and hit "okay" to unlock the layer if nessecary, then double click on it again where the "lock" was and a box will pop up that says "layer style" , go to the one that says inner shadow. there you can adjust the color, opacity, size, and even the style of the vingette. :) [eimg url='' title='X-P4wHkh5D9KdKcV4WCDHTK9s11W9UB0']

  • Danferno December 25, 2009 02:12 am

    It should be called "lens correction"

  • Anita Yadav December 24, 2009 02:34 pm

    I do not have the “correct camera distortion” filter, even i m using the CS4, how do i get this filter???

  • Brett December 24, 2009 08:00 am

    Vignettes can also be used when recreating the aesthetic of a much older camera, such as this example:

  • BebopDesigner December 24, 2009 07:33 am

    Brillliant article! thanks for sharing so much... Happy Christmas!


  • Luis Alvarez December 24, 2009 06:49 am

    I have been looking at the tools in Photoshop for vignetting and I ended up choosing the simple Levels tool. I simply create a Levels adjustment layer and mask off the center of the layer. I then use the Layers to brighten or darken. I find it to be the most comfortable way but perhaps its not the most flexible.


  • Sarah December 24, 2009 05:34 am

    Really really appreciate this article. I've been trying to figure out a better way of doing vignette, but since I don't use it often I hadn't sat down here and made myself work to figure it out the right way. :) Merry Christmas to me. :)

  • Danferno December 24, 2009 03:39 am

    The vignette option @ Lens correction is rubbish imo. Not enough control over the shape. Doing it yourself is too much work, so that's not really an option either.

    Solution? Use the RAW dialog (it works for JPGs too if you go to preferences and enable it). If you want to be ubercool, you do a vignette, then save the preset and add it with just one click whenever you need it :o

  • Jesse Kaufman December 24, 2009 02:54 am

    oops, someone must've hit shift on accident:

    "1. Start with your image"

    ;) ... great article, though, and here's to hoping for a great lack of the flames that were on the last vignetting article ;) ... oh, and as a side note, i'd love to see more Aperture tutorials on the site as well, since I don't use Lightroom and try to do as much from Aperture as possible so I don't have to pull up Photoshop all the time :)

  • Jocelyn December 24, 2009 01:40 am

    I'm confused, I do not have the "correct camera distortion" filter. Is it because I use PC Photoshop?

  • AEG December 24, 2009 01:04 am

    For those who are using Lightroom 2, it is worth noting that using the post crop vignette settings seem to produce a unnatural looking vignette. Even on a cropped image, depending on the crop, I get better results using the vignette setting and adjusting the midpoint so that it can be seen on the cropped image.

  • Chris December 24, 2009 01:02 am

    Hi, nice tutorial but your intro repeats itself.