Creative Vignettes

Creative Vignettes

Fine art photographer Theodore Kefalopoulos shows his method for making gorgeous vignettes in Exposure. He makes lots of helpful artistic suggestions, such as to base vignette effects on strong linear elements in the photo. Learn more about his creative workflow in the video.

Photos: Theodore Kefalopoulos

This is a conversation with fine art photographer Theodore Kefalopoulos about creating vignettes in Exposure. Theodore, let’s talk about why we would want to apply vignette effects to images.

My work is all about mood and atmosphere. That’s why I use vignettes to enhance that aspect of my photography. It’s important for my work to have at least a basic level of vignette to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject.

Vignettes can be used to manipulate light, and give a sense of depth to a photo. Depending on your composition, you can make vignettes go along with some elements in your frame like rooftops, piers, or horizons. You can apply vignette according to straight lines, if there are any, in your photo. Depending on the artwork that you’re making, you can also emulate vintage optics using vignettes. We all know that vintage optics have specific characteristics, which is great if you want to use it.

Let’s go over a couple of tips for making better vignettes in Exposure.

When you apply a vignette, do it in a way that the vignette is part of the frame, but not the subject itself. Vignette effects should always be subtle, yet interesting at the same time. They shouldn’t be very distracting to the viewer’s eyes.

Let’s take a look at this particular picture. The shot is all about a long pier that forms a strong leading line in the photo. In fact, the basic idea behind this shot is to focus the viewer’s gaze to the far horizon on the left. If you look at the original image, you can see that the light is coming from the right side of the pier, which doesn’t look very interesting to me.

When you apply a vignette in this type of photo, the most important part is the point you place the vignette center. It’s essential to follow the leading line, and when you move the center point to where we want it to be, the mood becomes very interesting. You will need to apply a hefty amount of vignette to this type of photo, because you’re essentially erasing the light coming from the right side, and moving it to the left.

Another important thing to consider is that you should preview your photo at the largest possible screen size. Just click on the quotation key (next to return) on the keyboard so you can see the entire frame. This is very important when you’re evaluating your vignette.

Theodore, are there any other common issues you encounter when you’re applying vignettes?

Yes, sometimes when you’re applying large amounts of vignettes, you might see some brighter edges at the corners of your frame. This doesn’t help you create a gradual effect of the applied vignette because the edges and corners are brighter than the center. This creates a circle on the frame, which aesthetically we don’t want to happen. What we should do is follow a smooth spread of the vignette, and apply the amount and size accordingly. We’re trying to even-out the vignette, so it spreads from the center to the edges in an aesthetically acceptable way.

For this photo, we can eliminate that dark circle phenomenon with the Softness slider. It reduces the effect on the edges. You can’t see brighter corners anymore, and the vignette spreads evenly from the center of the frame to the edges.

Another thing that you might face when you apply a vignette is when there are some parts of the frame where you don’t want the vignette to be that evident. Let’s take a look at this photo–the bush in the lower right is pretty dark. So, I’ll select the brush tool, then select the eraser. Make sure the Feather is set high and the flow is set low. This enables you to pass the brush over the area gradually, and it will start to remove some of the intensity of the vignette.

Thanks, Theodore for sharing some of your insight with us into making better vignettes with Exposure.