Monday, April 15, 2013
Crafting Vignettes: Part 2
Refine in-camera vignettes and build them from scratch with these simple editing techniques
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has become my preferred tool for making digital vignettes, but almost every editing program has its own special tool designed for this very purpose. Lightroom's most powerful vignette tool is called Post-Crop Vignetting. Sounds perfect, right? It's a set of sliders found under the Effects heading in Lightroom 4's Develop module. It's pretty straightforward, too. Simply slide the Amount slider higher for a light vignette (not something I often recommend) or to a lower value for a dark vignette. The real brilliance of the tool, however, comes from all of the control it provides for fine-tuning the look of the vignette.
The midpoint slider, for instance, determines whether the vignette begins closer to the center of the frame or close to the edges. The Roundness slider adjusts the vignette's shape—from round to oval and even almost rectangular in the extreme. Feather is perhaps the most important slider to use with Post-Crop Vignetting, as it softens the transition from the original photo to the darkened edge. Too much feather can make the vignette all but invisible, while too little makes for an unpleasing, hard-edged transition. This is perhaps the biggest key to creating a pro-caliber vignette: subtlety. (There's no right way for every vignette, but I like a fairly strong feather to keep the edge smooth and help hide the transition.) Lastly, is the Highlights slider that adjusts how much of an effect the vignette will have on highlights in the image. It can be very useful to make the vignette appear to fall behind a light-toned subject—creating the same effect as a lighting-style vignette without appearing overly obvious as post-production
For those who prefer using Photoshop to create digital vignettes, there are plenty of opportunities for customized shapes and patterns in your vignettes. The classic oval vignette, though, can be best accomplished by combining adjustment layers with a feathered oval mask. To start, choose an adjustment layer that affects the overall brightness of the scene. This could be Curves, Levels or Brightness/Contrast, but I like to start with Exposure. Apply a fairly strong underexposure to the scene—maybe 1.5 or even 2 stops underexposure. It should look dark, but not yet a vignette.
Experimenting with different feather amounts, layer opacities and selection areas can provide complete control over exactly where you paint your vignette, and how well it conforms to the particular shapes in the image. When in doubt, though, a subtle, soft oval vignette is a great place to start. If you're unsure of the effect, try clicking the layer on and off for a before and after view. It should instantly provide proof that this simple tool is also very powerful.