Lightroom's Little Vines

A small story before we get started… As I was putting together the screenshots for this article I saw a tweet pop up from Laura Shoe about her latest article "When to Use Lightroom’s Two Different Vignetting Functions."  The coincidence made me laugh. Anyway, check out Laura's article for more information and while you are at her site check out her excellent training DVD!

People, being the creative beings they are, have long sought ways to enhance and decorate their work. As the printed word progressed, little vines and flowers were added to separate chapters or sections of a story. The french word vignette was used to describe these little vines. Vignettes indicated the edges of a story. Later, photographers started defining the edges of their images by darkening or lightening the outer parts of the frame. This technique also came to be known as a vignette. The image told the story and the vignette helped define the edges.

The way Lightroom handles vignetting has evolved over time. Take a look at where vignettes have shown up.

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In Lightroom 1 the Lens Vignetting was intended to be a lens correction tool. Some lenses impart a vignette to images because of their design. Lightroom allowed photographers to remove this vignetting. The controls were simple and the effect easily applied.

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Using a simple graphic to illustrate this we can see the darkening around the edges.

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Soon, photographers began using the tool to apply a vignette to lead the viewer's eye to the center of the image. However, there was a problem. The lens correction intent of lens vignetting was to correct a lens issue for an entire image. So once you cropped the image the vignette was either cut off or only partially applied.

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And so, starting with Lightroom 2 a second vignette tool was added, the post crop vignette! More control over how a vignette is applied, where it extends, how it blends in, and so on. A great addition. This tool adds the vignette to an image (similar to the lens vignetting tool).

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But now, the vignette remains no matter how you crop the image!

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Nice! Still looking to improve Lightroom, Adobe listened to comments that the vignette was nice to have but it just looked too "painted" and flat. Lightroom 3 answered that with styles. Here is how the panel looks today.

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I've applied a very obvious vignette so we can easily see how styles change the application. At the top of the panel is a small dropdown where you can choose the style of vignette you want to apply.

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One of the issues with vignettes is that they can impact highlights or color, depending on the image. To address the highlight issue we have the Highlight Priority style.

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When you choose this style the Highlights slider will let you adjust highlight that fall within the vignette area. This can be an artistic effect or a correction for vignettes that adversely impact highlights.

Some images suffer a color shift in the vignette area. For these you can choose the Color Priority style.

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The Highlights slider will now effect highlights and color shifts. Finally, for the nostalgic among us there is the Paint Overlay style. That's the vignette we came to know and love in Lightroom 2. The Highlights slider is inactive in this style.

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It's encouraging to see how the Lightroom team listens and addresses the concerns of the Lightroom community. The vignette capabilities of Lightroom is just one example of how features evolve. So don't hesitate to speak up and let Adobe know when features you'd like to see. While they can't add everything at the same time they can (and do) keep track of these suggestions. Who knows? Your great idea might make it into Lightroom 6 or 7!

BONUS TIP!

You can use the vignette tool to create rounded corners on your images. Just change the sliders to give you a rounded rectangle with no feather. When you print these you will have a border with rounded corners.

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If you like that tip then jump on over to Laura Shoe's site. She also wrote an article that goes into framing tricks using the vignette tool. Click here to read her excellent article.