Project Description

Learn how to apply vignettes to your photos. This video shows you how. The tools in Exposure give you unparalleled control over the vignetting process.

Photo: Tomasz Migdal


In photography, vignette is a darkening or desaturating effect at the edges of an image. It can help focus attention on the subject. In the real world, vignetting can happen when you’re shooting at a wide aperture. Light entering the camera can be partially blocked by the lens barrel, and light at the periphery of the lens takes longer to reach the camera sensor. Vignetting can be an element of a vintage film look. I’ll apply Exposure’s Cinematic Technicolor preset.

This preset noticeably darkens the image at the edges. You can press the \ key to compare with the original image.

Exposure’s vignette effects are applied in the Vignette panel. The preset vignettes are a great place to experiment with looks. Just open the list and scroll through the presets to quickly preview how each will look when applied to your image.

When you find one you like, click on it to apply it to your image. You can then adjust the look using rest of the controls. I’ll dial back the amount a bit.

Once you have a look that you like, you can save your edits as a custom preset. This will save the vignette panel settings so you can use the same look in future edits. Click the Manage Presets button, then choose Save as a Preset.

Let’s walk through the vignette controls so you can see all the options. The amount slider controls how strong the vignette is. It goes from -100 to 100. Positive values darken the edges. Negative values lighten edges. At zero, the vignette isn’t visible and all the other controls are disabled.

When you’re starting to work on a vignette, it can be helpful to turn the slider all the way up or down. This allows you to see the shape of the vignette while you’re working on it. After you get the other controls set, move the amount slider back toward zero to get a more subtle effect.

Let’s skip ahead to the softness slider. Softness controls how the the image fades into the border. Low values of softness give you a hard edge, and high values make it increasingly subtle. Let’s leave softness turned all the way down as we go through the other controls, again so you can easily see the shape of the vignette.

The size slider controls the radius of the vignette. At low values only a small part of your image shows though. As you go higher, more of your photo is shown.

Roundness controls the shape of the vignette. Low values make the vignette have the rectangular shape of your photo. High values make the vignette more round.

Distortion gives your vignette an irregular shape. This can add a more messy organic look to your photo. Turn distortion up to make the shape of the vignette more lumpy.

You can control the size of the lumps with the Lump Size slider. Turn it down low and you can see that the ripples at the edges are getting smaller. Higher values make bigger ripples.

By default the vignette is positioned at the center of your photo. You can move it by clicking vignette location control. Move the cursor to the preview window and you’ll observe the vignette moving with it. When you have the placement just right, click the mouse.

The random seed button allows you to vary the look of the distortion in the vignette. Click it a few times to experiment with different looks. The number next to the button allows you to reproduce a particular distorted look later.

Now that we have the shape of our vignette set, let’s make a few changes to make it more subtle. Make the size a little larger so you don’t darken your subject. Next, Increase the softness so the effect isn’t so dramatic. Now dial back the amount a bit. Press the backslash key to compare with the original image. This looks good! We have a subtle effect that draws attention to the subject.