Vignetting in photography – the darkening of the areas at the border of the photo – can either be an artistic choice or the result of something going wrong when taking a shot.
We’ll look at ways to achieve a vignette, how lenses and filters can impact them, when they are most effective, and how you can add or remove a vignette effect when editing your photos.
A vignette is a darker border - sometimes as a blur or a shadow - at the periphery of photos. It can be an intentional effect to highlight certain aspects of the image or as a result of using the wrong settings, equipment or lens when taking a photo.
The gradient of the effect can be gentle, with just a subtle edge to your photo or more impactful, where parts of the image are actually obscured by the vignette. It’s usually most apparent in the corners as the vignette creates a rounded effect within an otherwise square or rectangular photo.
The ways vignettes are created also affects how to add and edit them. We usually talk about four main types of vignette:
These are natural vignettes, added by the type of lens you are using. They are most common on lenses with large apertures or barrels. Light entering the camera can be blocked by the barrel and wide-angle lenses - as light takes longer to travel from the edge of the lens to the centre, creating a dullness.
This is caused by the construction of the digital sensor in the camera. This sensor is flat, so while most of the light coming through the lens hits it head on, the light from the edges often hits the outside area of the flat sensors at an angle. This can lead to the edges of these images appearing darker.
This can be a result of using the wrong type of lens or filter. Most lenses that have large hoods are designed to reduce vignettes. But vignettes can be caused if you choose the wrong lens for your shot, as not all the light hits the sensor as it should. Mechanical vignettes can also be created when you add filters that aren’t the correct size for your camera or lens.
Whether or not you choose to use a vignette in your images comes down to what you’re trying to achieve in the composition of your photograph. Simply put - if you’ve added it in intentionally then it should be fine, as long as you can justify it artistically. But if it appears as a result of choosing the wrong lens or filter, then it might not be such a positive thing (unless it looks unexpectedly good).
Using a vignette is a great way to guide a viewer’s eye. You can use them to:
While every image is different, we’d suggest avoiding vignettes in the following situations:
There are two main ways to intentionally create a vignette - when shooting and during the editing process. If you add the effect when shooting then you’ll have less control over the intensity of the vignette.
You can add a vignette when shooting by:
Alternatively, some modern DSLR cameras come with the option of adding a vignette using their software, if you are looking to create a vignette effect why not try our online tool.
With Photoshop, go to Filter then click Correct Camera Distortion. You’ll find similar options as in Lightroom, as well as the ability to preview your changes.
You can also add vignettes in Photoshop using a number of techniques:
You can also use both Lightroom and Photoshop to correct or remove a vignette from an image you’ve shot.
A simple way to apply vignette correction in either of these is to:
Ultimately, a vignette might be a happy accident you make when photographing, an intentional approach you take in editing or an effect you want to remove immediately. It all depends on the subject, context and composition of an image.