I have a thing for vignettes. Not in my food photography, though—I feel it seriously distracts from what’s going on in step by step food photos—but in my regular photography I really like them. Provided it’s not a very dark and exaggerated vignette, I don’t care for those at all and that’s what you usually see around the internet a lot.
The one thing I seldom see are light vignettes. And they are amazing! I’ll show you how I create mine, it’s really simple. The best part is that you can actually decide between a dark or light vignette as you go. This can give your photo the boost it needs to turn it from a snapshot into something a little more special.
What is a vignette?
A vignette is the gradual darkening at the edges of the photo. A lot of photos will have a natural vignette caused by either scientific, lens-built, lens hoods or mechanical causes, but the more common vignettes are the artistic ones. The self-induced vignettes, so to speak.
How to do it:
Open your photo and choose Select - All from the menu. or click CTRL – A on your keyboard.
Next choose Select - Transform Selection. or click CTRL – T on your keyboard. Keyboard shortcuts really reduce your editing time!
Grab one corner of the selection and hold down the SHIFT and ALT keys while you drag the corner to the center of the photo. Make the selection as big, or as small, as you like.
Press the check mark in the top bar menu.
From the top menu choose Select - Inverse. Or click Shift- Ctrl – I.
This will select just the edge. But if we were to lighten or darken it now, there would be a very hard line of demarcation, so we’ll have to soften that.
We do that by feathering our selection. Go to Select - Modify - Feather. Or press Alt – Ctrl – D on your keyboard.
The amount of feathering depends on the photo size, exposure and on the size of the selection. The more you feather, the more gradual the vignette will be. Some photos can get away with less feathering than others, so you’ll have to toy around with the radius a little to see what works for you. For this photo it was 20px, but my photo was already light to begin with.
The darker the photo, the more you’ll have to feather to blend in the light.
The corners of your selection will be all round now. Time to add the light.
Make sure you don’t lose your selection!
Click on the adjustments layer icon at the bottom of your layers palette and choose Curves from the menu.
Now drag the center line to the left for a light vignette and to the right for a dark vignette. It’s that simple. You can watch this real time in your photo.
Rename your layer. You’re done.
I really like the light halo effect it adds to certain photos, especially photos of children and babies. You can create those old photo effects this way as well. Make it as light or as dark as you want! Light vignettes freshen and open up a photo where dark vignettes create a more dramatic and artistic look.
I’m usually very adamant about letting people create their own actions. But since it’s almost Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll let you off easy and add light & dark vignette actions free for you to use. See… I can be sweet, too! When it’s the right season.
I’ve added four actions: two for web size photos and two for print size photos. Enjoy! And if you get a chance, let me see how you’ve used them!