Some photographers battle to eliminate vignetting – darkened edges and corners – from their shots, but used creatively, it can add interest to otherwise dull photos, and can help focus the eye on the subject of the image.
But while a vignette can be added in Photoshop either manually using the Burn tool or by using the Lens Correction tool in CS2 or later, the result is often a little flat, as you can see from the examples at the bottom of this page. It’s easy to create a much more crisp, eye-catching result, and I’ll show you how here. It takes a little more time, but it’s well worth it – and besides, you could always record it as an Action for easy playback.

STEP 1 SELECT AND FEATHER
Step 1
Choose the elliptical selection marquee from the toolbar and drag it from one corner of the photo to the other. You don’t have to be too exact about this; indeed, a little roughness often adds to the effect’s charm, so feel free to alter the shape of your selection to change the focus by adding on bumps and carving away sections with judicious use of the Shift and Alt keys. When you’re done, feather the selection using the command in Select ▸ Modify; our value of 150 pixels works on a two megapixel image, but experiment to suit. (If you need a softer edge than the Feather command allows, skip the feather stage for the moment then apply a Gaussian blur to the layer mask created in step three.)


STEP 2 SELECT INVERSE
Step 2
You’ll use this selection to create a layer mask – hiding parts of the effect we’re about to apply – and to make life a bit quicker in the next step, invert the selection now.


STEP 3 ADJUST LEVELS
Step 3
From the adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette – it looks like a half-black-half-white split circle – select Levels. In the Levels window, drag the black marker under the input levels graph in from the extreme left. You’ll need to use your judgement here to decide what looks best; you may need to shift the position of the grey and white markers too. If you decide that the layer mask – see it? it’s just to the left of ‘Levels 1’ in the layers palette, above – needs alteration, you can edit it independently of the levels adjustment itself.


WHY BOTHER WITH ALL THIS WORK?
Here’s the finished result from my vignette 2.0 technique:
Vignette - levels copy
If we’d done the same thing using Lens Correction – in this case applying a -50 vignette correction value – we’d get the below image; note how the vignette here simply darkens the corners and edges uniformly, an effect that’s particularly noticeable on the white hind leg of the dog. Vignette 2.0 just punches up the blacks for a more sharp, graphic look, leaving the midtones and highlights alone.
Vignette - lens correction copy
Want to know more about the dog in these pictures, by the way? Click here!


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