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  • Writer's pictureJeremy H. Greenberg

Blog #158 Vignettes

Blog #158 Vignetting

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A vignette is defined in the dictionary as “a small illustration or portrait photograph which fades into its background without a definite border.

Vignettes are a characterises of most old photographic prints, papers, techniques, and lenses. Lense technology in the early days was crude and the corners of the frame would be blurry or softer than the center. Glass was hand ground for many decades and the materials used were of a lesser quality and consistency than machines can produce these days.

These days, a vignette can be added to an image for a specific purpose. If one of the goals of photography is to draw the views attention to the subject of the image, such as the case in making a portrait, then the vignette can blur the edges of the frame and decreasing the visual weight so to speak of the background and extraneous information.

Ansel Adams famously said something along the lines of…

“I always burn the edges of every print before its done”.

Of course he was referring to darkroom techniques such as dodging or burning (light onto the photo paper). In Lightroom you can dial in black or white vignette at various degrees. I’ve included the adjustment EFFECTS panel here to see the controls at your disposal along with some 35mm black and white film images containing various amounts and types of vignettes. Click for the slideshow with labels showing various degrees of vignette.

Try to experiment with this finishing technique but go light handed at first. It’s easy to be carried away here. You want to avoid the vignette stealing the viewers attention from the subject in the image.

The light is always right.


*Images: © Limelight Limited

Where: The Harbour School, Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong, May 2019

Subject: THS Photo Club

Gear: Nikon FM3a + Nikon 28mm f/2 + Rollei 35mm Black and White RPX 400 film


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