Digital EditingVignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

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WesternGuy
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Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby WesternGuy » Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:39 am

My wife went to a craft show recently. There was a photographer there exhibiting images of feral horses that can be found in the foothills west of town. Most of his images were head shots with a white vignette. Needless to say, she really liked the "style" and asked me if I could replace the flower pictures that were hanging in the kitchen with some that had white vignettes. The flower pictures are mine that I put up a few years ago to "fill up" a wall. So I showed her some potential results and she liked them.

This got me thinking (I know, I know, that can be dangerous) about whether, or not there are any guidelines for vignetting black/white, large/small, wide feather/narrow feather, amount of the image to be vignetted, etc. I have looked and not found anything, so I thought I would put the question up here and see what ideas folks might have and maybe some folks would share their experience as to what works and what doesn't.

Then again, maybe it is just one of those "personal" things that is unique to each individual in their own post-processing. Any thoughts and ideas that anyone would care to share will be greatly appreciated.

WesternGuy
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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby Duck » Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:34 am

Interestingly enough Lightroom has a very easy utility for adding light and dark vignettes to an image and it is one of the first tools I have my students build presets for. Therefore it is a subject that definitely comes up during my class. Here is how I describe their usage;

The use of vignettes in an image is like pickles on a burger. Some people love them while others think it's the most disgusting thing in the world.

Whether you love them or hate them you have to judge each image on its own merit as to whether a vignette will benefit the image. At the very least I usually illustrate how a slight dark vignette can add a subtle pull of the eye into the image. Most people can't really tell there is a vignette applied at all until I show them the before and after side by side and that's usually enough to sell them on the benefit of vignettes. This is because most people, when they hear the word vignette, think of the heavily applied vignettes of older styles of photography. Which leads me to part two of my discussion.

If you are looking to replicate a particular look in your image then, yes, a vignette can be very useful and shouldn't be discarded. In this case a careful study of how past photographic techniques caused their particular look is needed in order to replicate it in a realistic way.

Finally, if you are drawn to the particular look a vignette gives to your images then that can be used as a signature look to your photography. You just need to understand that one size doesn't fit all and each image needs to be handled individually.

As for the lesson in building develop presets in Lightroom, I suggest building a preset for three to four strengths of vignette, both dark and light, plus a reset to remove the vignette. This allows you to float the cursor over the presets and quickly see the effect of each in the preview image of the develop module.

On a side note; I used a white vignette on the lighthouse image I posted a short while back that you asked about.
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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby WesternGuy » Fri Nov 20, 2015 7:44 am

Thanks Duck - pickles on a burger - I like that analogy :thumbup: .

I do like the vignette on the lighthouse. It gives it a certain je ne sais quoi, but I do think it makes the image look a bit like a painting, with, of course the other processing that you did to it. I did mention that in my comment on your image.

I do like your idea about the presets for some vignettes, particularly since if you have a few for a given "look", then the preset can always be tweaked a bit to fit the image, once you have one that is close.

WesternGuy

P.S. Any more thoughts, or progress, on my posting problems? I was wondering if I uploaded the images to a private Flickr account and then to PM, would that work? I guess I will try it when I get a chance. It is still strange that this "problem" just started a while back, even though my "upload" process did not change.
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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby Onslow » Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:17 am

I like vignettes. All of my images have dark vignettes. I have though a particular distaste though for white vignettes. ( Sorry Duck??) I think they draw the eye away from the subject and to the edge which my subjects are not located in. Wide thin vignettes of varying opacities are applied to each image individually.

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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby Ed Shapiro » Mon Nov 23, 2015 3:43 pm

Vignettes! This is a very interesting thread and brings out many good points- some are debatable but debate is a good thing on a forum. Like many other artistic aspects in photography, perhaps there are no rules or regulations on how certain effects are applied so I'll just share my approach to vignetting and see what y'all think.

I feel the basic concept of vignetting is indeed to bring the viewer's eye firstly, to the primary subject rather that the periphery or outskirts if the composition. In portraiture is it oftentimes also used to enable a smooth transition from the subject to the background rather that “cutting off” the subject at the bust or torso at the bottom of the composition. In some cases vignetting adds an ethereal mood to an image, especially in high key imagery.

In my studio, I seldom apply vignetting in my commercial work such as product shots. I try to direct the viewer's eye to the principal subject via lighting and composition.

Traditionally, vignetting in portraiture is done in the camera with the use of vignetting systems where a bellows lens shade or matte-box is attached to the lens mount and various vignetting scrims and cards are inserted as required. This take a bit of work and practice but it makes all the difference when compared to vignetting done in post production or as an afterthought.

As Onslow alluded to, a vignetting application can have an adverse affect on an image and become a distraction and actuality pull the viewer's eye away form the principal subject in a portrait. The “key” to avoiding that issue is simply to stay in KEY, that is, applying a dark or black vignette only to a low key image with a darker background and only applying a white vignette to a high key portrait with a white or very light pastel background. You do not want the vignette to become obvious and call attention to itself- that's when things go wrong.

The technique involved is rather simple and once mastered it can be done quickly and efficiently during a portrait session without fumbling or delay in capturing poses and expressions- even in childcare's portraiture.

Selective focus is important in that you don't want the vignetting scrim or card to fall into focus therefore, longer lenses, as usually required for good perspective in portraiture, are essential in this method as well as the use of wider apertures. Theses bellows lens shades are adjustable as to the distance form the front of the unit to the lens. Some experimentation will be required to establish the distance that will yield the best selective focus and blending effect. The size of the opening in the vignetting scrim or card will also an important factor.

Most importantly, all theses adjustments need to be made with the lens stopped down to your working f/stop otherwise what you see at a wide open aperture is not what you're gonna get as to cut off points and blending. Again wider apertures are required and setting south of f/6.3 or f/8 many be problematic.

In low key applications, the vignetting cards are are matte black. The are fitted to the front of the lens shade and can be moved up and down to accommodate your composition. Their function is simply to block the light at the edges of the composition and enable a smooth transition into the dark background.

In high key applications the technique is a bit more painstaking but the results are worth the effort. In order to blend in a white background, the vignetting scrim, made of frosted plastic, must be illuminate by a separate light, striking the scrim from an oblique angle, otherwise, the scrim will provide neutral density and cause the vignette to go gray or somewhat muddy. Again, a bit of a job but the results are beautiful and require little or no post production manipulations to preserve the effect.

At the present time, I have no images of the aforementioned equipment so I will make some and post them later on. There are also other methods of vignetting in outdoor portraiture and in medium key work. I will try to put something together if anyone is interested in trying out theses techniques.

Ed

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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby WesternGuy » Mon Nov 23, 2015 5:11 pm

Ed, thanks for your contribution, enlightening (I learned something) as usual. I am not a portrait/people photographer, but do often investigate the use of vignettes for some of my flower images, and yes, I use the "software" vignettes as they do work for me. I am thinking that I should be looking at how they might be used with some of my other images - who knows.

I would be interested to see what the "hardware" versions look like, so please feel free to post them here.

WesternGuy
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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby cyclohexane » Wed Nov 25, 2015 6:27 pm

Personally, I pretty much never add software vignettes, black or white. Just not my thing.

Of course, some of my lenses are so old (no offense to the elder statesmen here, but I think only our very own Ed would have even been born when a few of my old screwmount Nikkors was made) that they have some dark corner vignetting when wide open as a result of the lens design, but I don't go out of my way to include it and usually end up cropping it out.

I do have a somewhat newer lens that exhibits some black vignetting when shot wide open, but it honestly just looks like I attached the lens hood on incorrectly so it's showing in the picture. If I see a good example in my files, I'll post it here.

I do sometimes like the high key hardware vignettes with the lit-up scrim described near the end of Ed's excellent post here, but I've never done it myself.
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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby Ed Shapiro » Fri Nov 27, 2015 8:25 pm

Yes! I have quite a collection of old lenses, however, the first thing I wanted and still want to know about any lens, especially in the view camera and large format days, was/is the lenses' field of coverage. A lens that vignettes, as the result of a shortcoming or defect, is useless when view camera movements are employed. Since the vignette caused by a deficient lens is not really controllable as to positioning, again it is useless even in traditional portraiture. A lens with such an aberration is likely to have a falloff in sharpness at the edges of the format, as well. Besides, any vignetting or other special effect should not call attention to itself or it will certainly act as a distraction. Sometimes photographers will add a special effect just because they can and it ends up being incompatible with the subject or the motif of the original unaffected image.

Historically speaking, I remember when the line of Nikon cameras was first introduced in the United States- I was a teenager. The first models were the S (screw mount) and the Sp having a bayonet lens mount, both rangefinder 35mm cameras. Prior to their introduction the Lica M series, during that era, was the gold standard in 35mm RF camera systems and the Nikons were the first line of cameras that gave the Licas some formidable competition in that class of equipment. I don't remember any of the early Nikon lenses having any significant fall off or unwanted vignetting. The Lica lenses, however, at the time, were still superior in that the field coverage extended somewhat beyond the 24x36mm coverage of the Nikons. Back in the day, Canon also made a number of RF cameras but I did not have any experience with them except for trying out their early f/.95 lens for shooting the proverbial “black cat in a coal mine at midnight” scenario. Well it was fast but the image quality at full aperture was nothing less than dismal.

By the way; when I started apprenticing in a studio and trying to build an equipment inventory of my own, I used to shop at Penn Camera in New York City. The owner there was Joe Erenrich a very fair gentlemen who was very kind to me as a young rookie and always furnished me with good gear and very reasonable prices. Joe was the first guy to go to Japan and bring back the first Nikon cameras. He eventually established his distributorship; Erenrich Photo Optical Inc. (EPOI) and became one of the largest importers and distributors in the world. In the 1980s, many of the Japaneses manufacturers decided to open up their own distributorships in the U.S. and Canada and bought out most of the established companies in North America. They paid a good price and I don't remember anyone leaving the deal under unhappy circumstances.

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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby cyclohexane » Sat Nov 28, 2015 1:24 am

I never had the patience for working with large field cameras. I liked to go places on foot, actually still do, and a 4x5 field camera was ideal since it was smaller than my DSLR kit (or an autofocus 135 format SLR kit using the same lenses), even with ten+ film holders. Being of diminutive stature, a true view camera requires a car for me to get it around effectively, and I didn't have one in school.

One of the things on my "I'd love to have that" shopping list is one of those compact digital medium format cameras that offer body and lens movements, marketed under the name "technical cameras", but that's a long ways away since it wouldn't make any money for my business.

One of the examples of 3.5cm f/2.5 W-Nikkors I used showed significant fall-off and vignetting when mounted using the Leitz factory screwmount adapters, but that lens was nearly-destroyed (cost me almost nothing, or nothing... can't recall how I ended up with it) and eventually met a fate as a parts donor, so the condition of the lens may have played a part in its performance.

I do know that old M-mount (and screwmount lenses adapted to Leica M) lenses on digital Leica M cameras show more fall-off and vignetting than they did with film because the lens designs are not telecentric like most autofocus DSLR lenses; Leica actually has some sort of hardware solution in the filter array glass covering the sensor to rectify some of these issues, along with some software corrections (both in-camera and through Adobe Photoshop Lightroom).

The screwmount 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor-S is the lens off the top of my head that I remembered displaying vignetting on digital cameras, but admittedly the lens displays so many aberrations wide open that vignetting probably isn't the first thing one notices when viewing images or prints from the lens. The lens stopped down looks more modern; it's like having a soft focus lens with you without having to carry anything else; also, the lens focuses closer than the Leica rangefinder allows for, but enabling the camera's live view function allows accurate focusing for close-up shooting as well... I digressed quite a bit there. :D

Leica lenses have notoriously large image circles. Some of the R-mount SLR lenses completely cover the digital crop 645 sensors found in the Leica S DSLRs even at infinity, though they need some modification to focus at infinity on the new digital cameras.

The 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux-M displays prominent vignetting wide open on 135 film and digital, but it has a somewhat dated optical formula and is more of a special purpose optic anyways.

Another aside, I probaby only use my set of screwmount Nikkors once or twice a year; I should probably sell them (well, except for the 13.5cm Nikkor telephoto that belonged to my grandfather) considering I could probably find better uses for the money and quality photographic equipment deserves to be used instead of collecting dust in my closet/bags or on a collector's shelf, but I haven't been able to bring myself to divest myself of the lenses yet. I have considered marketing them as a some sort of option or perk package ("Vintage, real Instagram effect") but haven't discovered a ton of interest yet...
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Re: Vignettes - guidelines? personal thing?

Postby Steven G Webb » Sun Dec 06, 2015 11:31 pm

Ah the good ol white vignette K-Mart photo studios made the a thing in the 1980's probably in some weak attempt at reviving the look of photos from the late 1800's. I like vignettes. I've used products like the Curtis Combo Box and the Bell-O-Shade to create them in-camera and I've added them in Photoshop to digital images. I've been in the darkroom where all kinds of paddles and fringed paper has been used to dodge in corners I even saw once a machine that held a mask that was moved under the enlarger head to create the effect. My thoughts about them are brief: If you can see the vignette, it's too much; and, the effect should match the key of the photo rather than contrast with it. The over-use of vignettes is also a predictable step in photography. Heavy black vignettes usually come somewhere in the development between flowers and selective color. Again, when the effect is done most effectively it is not noticeable.
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