Vignette Photography And How To Use It

When it comes to optics and photography, vignetting, which is also known as “light fall-off” (or “light falloff”), is a common occurrence. To put it simply, it means that the image corners are darker than the center. Either optics or post-processing create vignetting to draw attention away from distractions in the image’s corner and toward the center.

Vignetting can occur gradually or suddenly, depending on the type and cause. optical vignetting can have a variety of causes. It can be caused by the use of filters, filter holders, or lens hoods, or it can be increased or intensified naturally in all lenses as well. Using post-processing tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, I’ll go over the different types of vignetting and how to use them to your advantage.

1. Types Of Vignetting

To begin, there are various types of vignetting that can be encountered when taking photos or viewing images. Natural vignetting results from lens design, while artificial vignetting is created by the photographer after the fact using third-party accessories like filters and extended hoods. Let’s dig deeper into each of these categories.

1.1 – Optical Vignetting

In all lenses, optical vignetting is a given. It can be quite strong on some lenses, while being barely noticeable on others, depending on the optical design and construction of the lens. Even so, vignetting is a common problem with modern lenses, especially those with large apertures and prime / fixed lenses. This is due to two factors.

First, the lens barrel partially blocks the light that enters the lens at the widest apertures, as shown in the diagram below:

Peripheral light rays that travel at extreme angles are partially blocked by the lens barrel’s length and the relative size of the front and back frames. So, when light is reflected at an acute angle, it naturally dims (decreases in brightness) as it approaches the frame’s outer corners.

This vignetting is most noticeable at large apertures because the lens barrel physically blocks peripheral light coming from the front and back of the lens barrel. When the lens is stopped down, even from the corners, the smaller aperture in the center can be seen, allowing light to pass. Since fast aperture prime lenses have a lot of distortion when used wide open, they perform better when the aperture is shut all the way.

In the preceding illustration, pay close attention to the first-year student at the entrance. Notice how it is round in the middle, but has what some people refer to as “cat’s eye” corners. The bokeh shapes stay circular in the center, but gradually change in shape towards the corners, as you can see in the following crops if you have a fast aperture prime lens.

A comparison of four different Nikkor 50mm lenses’ bokeh can be seen above. Optical vignetting is evident here because all of the crops were taken from the same area of the image frame. Highlights in the corners are rendered differently by each lens, as you can see. The size of the front and rear elements, the length of the lens barrel, and the aperture all have an effect on the overall shape.

Second, When light passes through a lens, rays on the lens’ outer edge travel farther than rays on the lens’ inner edge. Wide-angle and super-wide-angle lenses show this off the most. Here, illumination falloff is governed by Cosine’s fourth law, which says that the angle between a light beam’s periphery and its optical axis is proportional to that angle’s fourth power (or cosine). Due to the fact that it can become quite complex and technical, I won’t go into specifics at this time. Just keep in mind that light rays that aren’t parallel to the optical axis will always travel farther, resulting in more vignetting on your images.

1.2 – Pixel Vignetting

Pixel vignetting is a problem with digital cameras, as is moiré patterns in the images. This type of vignetting is unique to image sensors because it differs from optical vignetting. All pixels on digital sensors face the same direction because digital sensors are flat. While light rays fall directly on pixels in the center of the sensor, they are angled slightly toward pixels on its periphery. Thus, the sensors located at the corners of the device will have slightly less light than those located in the center, which will result in visible pixel vignetting. Because pixel vignetting is solely the result of the angle at which light reaches individual pixels on the digital sensor, it cannot be cured by stopping down the lens.

1.3 – Mechanical / Accessory Vignetting

Manufacturers often design lenses with some slack to allow the mounting of various accessories such as filters and lens hoods due to the sometimes extreme angles at which light enters the lens, particularly on super wide-angle lenses. Lens hoods are always larger than the lens’ front element if you look closely at your lenses. That’s because the idea is to prevent flares, ghosting, and reduced contrast due to internal reflections by blocking bright light sources such as sunlight from entering the lens at extreme angles, without blocking necessary light, which would obviously result in vignetting.

The size of lens hoods is very important to lens manufacturers, who make sure they are large enough to let light in while not adding vignetting to the image. Lens hoods are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes for this reason. It is also the reason why lens hoods supplied by the manufacturer should always be used instead of generic third-party versions.

Lens hoods are not usually the cause of vignetting because they are custom-made for each lens. Third-party tools such as filters and filter holders are frequently to blame for mechanical vignetting. For protection or other reasons, most lens manufacturers design their products to accommodate a single filter. However, when using filters, some lenses, particularly circular polarizing filters, which are typically thicker than regular ones, can introduce significant vignetting.

The Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G VR, for example, has vignetting issues even when shot at its widest aperture of f/4 when used without filters. A filter increases the vignetting, and if the filter is thick enough it will not be reduced even by stopping the lens down to f/8. If you use more than one filter or a filter holder system, other lenses may perform better at handling filters.

When using a circular polarizer, the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G does a good job of controlling vignetting, but when using the Lee filter holder system with a standard ring, the lens suffers greatly. Vignetting can be minimized by using a wide-angle lens ring. Vignetting becomes extremely heavy when the filter holder is attached to another filter, necessitating further cropping. And vignetting can be horrendous if a filter system is overly dense, as in the example below:

It was used in its full configuration in the above case, causing very well defined vignetting from 24mm all the way up to 45mm. In these situations, the only way to reduce vignetting is to use filter holders that are thinner and do not protrude as far.

The use of manufacturer-supplied hoods and the use of thin rings and adapters for holding larger filters will help reduce mechanical vignetting. When using wide-angle lenses, it’s especially important to avoid stacking filters.

1.4 – Artificial Vignetting

Vigilance isn’t always a bothersome or problematic activity. If done well, vignetting can draw attention away from the edges of the frame and towards the center of the image, pleasing the viewer’s eyes. In fact, some photographers prefer to leave optical vignetting in their images uncorrected, while others purposefully add it or enhance it in post-processing. Both Lightroom and Photoshop make it simple to add vignetting. In order to draw the viewer’s attention to the main subject in the frame, the following example of vignetting was added to the photograph:

2. In-camera Vignetting Reduction

In-camera vignetting reduction is an option on some newer cameras. Lens-specific data is pre-loaded in camera firmware, for example, by Nikon and Canon, to reduce vignetting and other lens aberrations. RAW images are unaffected by this feature, which is great for JPEG images. Third-party tools like Lightroom, Aperture, and Photoshop unfortunately discard proprietary, manufacturer-specific data written to RAW files. To keep camera-specific vignette control settings, use manufacturer-supplied post-processing tools like Capture NX, which can read and apply header data to RAW images upon import.

3. When To Avoid Vignettes

+ Landscape and architectural imagery: A vignette is probably not the best choice if you’re trying to capture a scene without a clear focal point or if you want the viewer’s eye to wander across the entire image in search of interesting details.

+ When there are multiple subjects: Using a vignette on an image with three or four people or subjects can throw the composition off and make the viewer’s attention go straight to one of the subjects’ faces.

+ When it’s not intentional: Always keep your story or subject in mind when taking pictures. It’s possible that an unintentional vignette will throw off the entire composition. When photographing, eliminate vignetting by switching lenses, removing any filters, or selecting a smaller aperture.

4. How To Correct Vignetting In Lightroom And Photoshop 

To use vignette correction in either of these, simply do the following:

1.Go to the module called “Development”

2.Open Lens Correction in Lightroom or Camera RAW in Photoshop, then click OK.

3. Enable profile corrections by clicking on the box next to it.

4.Use sliders to lessen the vignette’s impact

5.Save your preferences by selecting Enable Profile Corrections from the Edit Profile drop-down menu. As a result, these settings will be applied to all images taken with the same lens in the future.


When should I vignette and when shouldn’t I? Vibrations caused by the use of accessories may or may not be considered optical vignetting. In order to create images with more depth when photographing living things and other forms of life, I frequently leave optical vignetting in the final product. As you can see in the examples above, I’ll use vignetting to draw attention to a specific part of the image.

My goal is to have the viewer focus on the entire image when photographing landscapes and architectural subjects, so for those subjects, I often remove vignetting. When you’re taking photos and editing them, I suggest playing around with vignetting. Look at the vignetting on your lenses and decide whether or not you want to keep it.

Adding more vignetting via your preferred post-processing tool may help if it’s too light in appearance. I don’t recommend using a lot of vignetting, and black is the only color you should use for the background. The use of white or other colors for gradual vignetting is popular, but I have yet to see a result I like. And if an accessory is causing a lot of vignetting, it’s always a good idea to take it out in post-production. As a result, no lens profile will be able to fix this, and the only option left is to crop the image to remove the unwanted image corners.

1 ratings