I was out the other night judging a competition at a local camera club. I've done it a couple times a year for the past several years. It's typically a fun night and we (the other two judges and I) usually get into some good natured wisecracking along with serious the constructive critiques. The people in the leadership of the clubs tend to say they like the lighter atmosphere. Some people who judge are just too dour for my taste. The club I was at last week is one I'm often asked to as a judge. It seems every time I go I ask the members to put a vignette on their images. To have a beautiful image or print where the color just slides off the edges just makes me nuts. It may come for when I first started out in photography. It was at a camera club. The more experienced members would really get on my case if a print didn't have a very subtle vignette on it. Today's image shows different degrees of vignettes. To find out which one was used on the final image (on the right), hit the "Read More".
First lets go through the series from left to right. The far left is a solid hole punched into the shot. Unless you're going to put the image into an oval frame we can pretty much eliminate it from consideration as something you might use as a vignette.
* In each case the vignette would be applied by putting the outer portion of what you see on a separate Layer in Adobe Photoshop CS6 (or any other version) and changing the Blend Mode to whatever works best for you. Typical good choices would be Overlay or Multiply. In both cases Opacity can be used to fine tune the amount to produce a very subtle effect.
**The three center images have different levels of feathering. It would be dumb to give specific numbers of pixels for the feathering without stating the dimensions of the original image. I grabbed an old image that had been formatted for printing as a small sized print. The dimensions are 1500 pixels wide and 2250 pixels high.
The second image from the left has a 100 pixel feather. You can see that quite a bit of the outer edge of the image is visible. There may be some images that can take this heavy a vignette. A stylized portrait might work, but not too many landscapes.
The middle image has a 200 pixel feather. There's less of the hard image left. The fade goes almost out to the edges, but the corners still have a lot of information. This is getting closer to what would make a good vignette. It's important that the vignette doesn't dominate the image. The idea is to work on the subconscious portion of the brain. You don't want people says "oh, there's a vignette on this image", but you do want to hold their focus to the part of the overall shot that you want them to look at.
Image four has a 300 pixel feather, Only the tips of the corners have the full detail of the image. The center "spot" is very small by comparison and should be at the center of interest. There's nothing that says the vignette must be symmetrical. If the object you want the viewer to concentrate on is off center, the vignette should be off center. You would have to be careful. One side of the vignette might go right off the side (or top or bottom) of the frame. In that case you might have to go back in a paint in a little darkening at the smaller side of the image.
The last image is the finished image. It does have a vignette applied. Can you tell which version of the vignette was used? There are all sorts of ways to add a vignette. This is only one way. Punch a hole in a Layer. I typically like to use a Layer Mask. You can get the same effect but also have the advantage of being able to uncouple the Layer Mask from the image Layer and move the spot around to wherever you need it. I can easily think of a dozen ways to apply a vignette. The one thing to remember is to use a vignette to "finish" the image.