A vignette is essentially a reduction of an image’s brightness or saturation at the periphery compared to the image center. This technique is often used when processing portrait images of people which are clear in the center and fade off at the edges, but this technique can be used to good effect in wildlife as well!
Adding a vignette to images during post processing can help focus your viewers attention on your subject but, as with everything, it should be used with moderation and should rather be used to accentuate the content of the image, rather than dominate the final product. The vignette tool in Lightroom can be found in the “Effects” panel
You will see that we have a number of sliders in this panel.
- Amount – Controls how light or dark the edges get as you slide this control left or right.
- Midpoint – Controls how far the vignette creeps in toward the center of your image.
- Roundness – Controls how the vignette overlays the corners of your image. Slide to the left and you get more of a rectangular vignette, to the right for more of a circular look.
- Feather – Controls the hardness or softness of the vignette edge.
Examples of Vignettes in Wildlife Photography
Lets have a look at some examples of how the subtle addition of a vignette can help to accentuate the content and change the mood of a wildlife image. This first example was taken at the Nambiti Private Game Reserve, one of the two new venues for our Wildlife Photography Courses.
Reducing the amount slider to a value of -6 darkened the fringes of the image, leaving my subject as the main focus of the image. Personally, I think that both images work but the image with the Vignette applied carries a bit more drama. Here is another example which I felt needed a subtle vignette to dial down the background content and shift focus onto the subject in the middle of the frame. This was taken on our Chobe Photo Safari.
Again, the vignette does not doiminate the frame, but rather accentuates the content and subject matter. The two examples above show how a vignette can be applied to Black and white images with great results, but vignettes can work just as well in colour images like this leopard below.
Once again, with my subject placed just off center in the frame, the clever use of a vignette darkens the cluttered background and accentuates the face and eyes of the leopard. I was rather aggressive on this example pulling the Amount slider to a value of -21. Even though I was more aggressive, I was very cautious about creating a very obvious and harsh vignette.
So how do you know how much is enough? This is a difficult one to answer. Personally, I prefer to keep vignettes as subtle as possible. I always ask myself three questions:
- Would I have known that there was a vignette applied to this image if it I hadn’t processed it myself?
- If yes, does it serve its purpose and compliment the subject matter?
- If the answer to number 2 is “No” then perhaps I need to dial it down a bit…
Things to Remember when applying a Vignette
- The vignette should only be applied once you have edited and cropped your image
- Use the Feather slider to seamlessly blend your vignette
- Dont over do it!
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