Far from being a bygone technique, it is still the best way to focus the eye ‘Darkened corners’ is the simplest way of describing the vignette (though occasionally it comes in lightened form), but this belies the effectiveness of a technique that harps back to the days of dodging and burning in the dark room. While it’s often said to add drama to an image, its main application is to direct the eye away from the edges of the frame and allow it to sit nearer the centre so that anything surrounding the image is less distracting. It’s effective for all images to some degree, even those with important information on the edges. For simple images with subject matter at its centre, you can afford to go even harder and ramp up the effect to add that extra dramatic twist. Here’s how it’s done on a Mac, PC and smartphone…
Adobe Photoshop Elements 11.
Open your image and select Expert mode. Choose the Elliptical Marquee tool from the top-right in the Select section of the toolbar and draw an ellipse to fill the image as a whole. A selection will now appear.
With the Layers palette on view, click the black and white circle button at the top of the palette in order to create a new adjustment layer and select Brightness/ Contrast. Move the Brightness slider all the way down to -150.
We want the darkening vignette to be applied outside the selection, not inside, so invert the layer mask with the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+I. The edge is too sharp, so the next step should be to feather it for a gradual transition.
Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and run 500px of blur for a high-resolution image. This is the maximum, but may not be enough, so you can run it again with the keyboard shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+F. Drop the opacity of the layer if it looks too heavy.
Open your image and make sure the Layers palette is active using Cmd/Ctrl+L. Create a new layer using the button at the base of Layers palette. Make sure Layer Fill Type is set to Foreground Color.Hit Enter and the image will fall black.
Next, select the Elliptical Marquee tool (second button along in the Toolbox) and click and drag to draw an ellipse the full width and height of the image. You can drag the side handles to extend.
With the selection still active, hit the Delete key to reveal the dog in the centre. We need to feather the edges now for a gradual transition. Go to Filters>Blur> Gaussian Blur. Enter 1000 for Height and Width for a high-res image and press Enter.
The transition should now be nicely smooth. The effect is perhaps a little heavy, so we can reduce its strength by dropping the layer opacity. Click in the middle of the Opacity slider at the top of the Layers palette to set it to 50%.
Launch Vignette Demo and sweep to open up the menu. Choose Import from the options and then Gallery rather than Vignette Gallery. Track down your image from the folder selections and select it to open it up.A random effect will be applied as default. Bring up the sub-menu and choose Effect (currently set to Random). In the dialog box that appears, scroll all the way up to the Filter section and change Filter from Normal to Vignette.
Next, choose Customise Filter and set Vignette Amount to half and Filter Intensity to full. Go back to the previous menu, choose Frame Type and select None (don’t crop the picture). Save this effect for future use if you wish.
Close the menu in order to see the results. To make changes, hit the Back button and click Effect again. Otherwise, press Save and close, use Adjust to make other alterations and then Share, or simply press Discard to close without saving.