Vignetting is one of those photography occurrences that people seem to love or hate. If you’re not even sure what it is, technically speaking, vignetting is a decrease in brightness of a photograph around its edges, usually most apparent in the corners, which are furthest from the center of your photograph. The brightness of the photograph is compromised in these darkened spots, and vignetting can have a negative effect on the accurate saturation.
When it comes to photography, vignetting is often undesirable; although to some degree, its popularity is on the rise due to Instagram and other camera app filter capabilities. However, when you’re using your DSLR, you should know when it’s going to happen and how to avoid it if you don’t want the effect. Let me get to the bottom of it for you.
Vignetting occurs in four different ways
It’s something that you’re likely to experience if you take enough photos and for various reasons that I’ll touch upon.
Natural: The first form of vignetting is known as natural vignetting. This happens when the angle at which the light hits your camera lens (negatively) impacts your image sensor. This type of vignetting is more likely to occur with lower-end DSLRs. The reason being is that the software that drives these cameras is often coded in such a way that reduces the effects of light at the edges and corners of your photographs. Telephoto lenses, being above a certain focal length, are far less prone to natural vignetting than their wide angle counterparts.
Mechanical: Another common type of vignetting happens when something obstructs the passageway between the light rays that are trying to enter your camera and your camera’s sensor. Examples would be commonplace accessories, such as lens hoods, a stack of filters, or some kind of add-on to your lens, such as extension tubes. In these cases, the smaller the aperture, the worse the impact of mechanical vignetting. Stepping the aperture down a few stops will help (increase the f-number). Along the same lines, be careful when you use a polarizing filter. This can enhance the effect of vignetting in an unwanted way.
Lens Size: The next type of vignetting often happens as a result of the actual size of your lens(es). Pricier lenses will often have over 20 individual elements, which means that by the time the light finds its way through the elements, it loses some of its intensity. What happens is that the rear elements, such as your sensor, are somewhat shielded from the incoming light by the lenses in front of them. Lenses with apertures of 2.8 or less pay off when it comes to reducing vignetting because when you step down to these wide open aperture settings, vignetting pretty much disappears.
Intentional: There are photographers who love the impact of vignetting. Therefore, they will love that vignetting can be created using post processing tools in image manipulation software, such as Photoshop. The extent of post processing vignetting is controlled by the photographer, and can most certainly add creativity to your photographs. One commonplace genre for this effect is portrait photography, but only if you want an antique look!
Just as there are ways to create vignetting, there are also ways to eliminate it. Here are a few post-processing suggestions followed by ‘in the moment” options.
- One way is to simply crop the edges. This works if you’re not cropping out important parts of the image. If you know your shot will be vignette, then plan to shoot wider to leave room for the crop.
- Photoshop also options, such as using the vignetting tool or you can clone stamp over it. The image above is a good candidate for cropping or clone stamping out the vignetting.
- In Photoshop CS6 and CC, there’s a Lens Correction option under Filter. These software options take getting use to and will depend on the extent of vignetting you trying to get rid of.
- Alternatively, in the RAW utility, there should be an option for a "Lens Correction" tab. If you move the “Vignette Amount” slider to the right, you'll see a countering of the dark vignette. With this, you should be able to adjust the “Midpoint” and “Amount” in order to cancel out the dark vignette.
- If you use Lightroom, the option for Lens Corrections is available. It’s easy to use with just one box in the “Develop Panel.” Look for the Lens Correction section, and put a checkmark in the Enable Profile Corrections box. Done!
- Another is to get rid of your lens hood. These are often a big culprit to vignetting, especially if it’s the wrong hood for your lens.
- Stop stacking! All of those filters piled up on your lens could be the issue. You don’t need a UV/skylight filter under a polarizer, for example.
- Check your shot on your display and if it has vignetting, change your aperture, i.e. to f/8, and see if that helps.
Whether you prefer vignetting or detest it is a personal choice. The good news is, there are ways to add it and ways to avoid it, thereby keeping peace in the photo world!
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