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Vignetting is one of those things we either love or hate. In photography, it has a negative connotation. Vignetting can show unprofessionalism in capturing or editing an image. But that’s not always the case.

In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about vignetting. From how it happens to how to get rid of it to why you should keep it.

An image of the tops of skyscrapers and tall buildings with vignetting occurring in the edges

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How Does Vignetting Happen?

There are four possible ways that vignetting can occur in your images: Natural, Mechanical, Lens and Intentional.

Natural

Natural vignetting happens due to the angle at which the light hits your camera lens. This affects. This is more likely to occur in low-end DSLRs, and this is due to software coding of these digital cameras.

The coding reduces the effects of light at the edges and corners of your images. Using a telephoto lens helps to reduce this type of vignetting. A wide-angle lens is likely to emphasise it.

An image of a small wooden pier with vignetting occurring in the edges of the photo

Mechanical

The other common type of vignetting is mechanical. It happens when something blocks the passageway between the light source and your digital camera’s sensor.

Examples of these obstructions include stacked filters, and lens hoods. And anything else you may add to your lens.

In these cases, a smaller aperture affects the image worse compared to a wider aperture. By increasing the f-stop, you can help to reduce this vignetting. Be aware of this when using a polarising filter or extension tubes.

A beautiful and dramatic dark seascape with vignetting added in post production

Lens

Lens vignetting can happen due to the size of your lens. Expensive, high-end lenses have over 20 individual elements. These can reduce the light’s intensity as it passes through them.

The rear elements of your camera, such as the sensor, are shielded from incoming light by the glass in front of them. Lenses that can go as wide as f/2.8 or wider help to cut this effect almost completely.

A hand throwing a camera lens with a pretty seascape in the background

Pixel / Optical Vignetting

Digital cameras suffer from what we call pixel vignetting. It only happens in image sensors. As digital sensors are flat, their pixels are all built the same way and face the same way.

This is somewhat different to our eyes, whose sensors are built on a curve.

On a flat sensor, the pixels in the centre of the sensor receive the light at a head-on, 90° angle. The pixels in the corner receive them at a slight angle.

This means the pixels found in the corners and edges receive less light than the centre. A diagram explaining how optical vignetting in photography occurs

Intentional

Intentional vignetting means adding it during the editing stage. Photoshop and Lightroom are perfect for this effect. And it can have a powerful impact on your photography.

This is common in portrait photography but isn’t exclusive to it. Any scene where the edges are somewhat distracting can use vignetting. You can use it especially for that antique look, along with a sepia tone.

A portrait of a young girl posing in front of a brick wall with dark vignetting in the photo

How Do We Stop Vignetting?

There are a few ways to get rid of vignetting.

In-camera Vignetting Reduction

Some modern cameras have built-in vignetting reduction. Nikon and Canon have lens-specific data pre-loaded inside the camera’s firmware. This reduces vignetting and other lens aberrations.

This feature is great for jpgs, but it has no effect on RAW images.

Software like Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture discard any such data.

But there’s a way to keep camera-specific settings for vignette control. Use a manufacturer-supplied post-processing tool instead.

Capture NX is a perfect example. It can read this header data and apply it to RAW images upon import.

A screenshot of removing vignetting from a photo on Capture NX2

Crop

One simple way is to actually crop the image. By cutting out the vignetted area, your image will be vignetting free!

If you have found that your images are giving you a vignette, shoot wider to account for the crop.

A screenshot of removing vignetting from a photo on Photoshop

Vignetting/Lens Tool (Photoshop)

Photoshop can also be of help in this matter. Here, you can use the Vignetting Tool to edit out the black areas of your image.

Open your image in Photoshop, and head on over to Filter>Lens Correction.

A screenshot of opening Filter>Lens Correction to remove vignetting from a photo on Photoshop

Hit the Custom tab, and use the Vignetting section to increase the amount and mid-points

A screenshot of how to remove vignetting from a photo on Photoshop

You can see the effect it has on your image. For my choice of image, it didn’t remove it completely, but it reduced it substantially.

A before and after removing vignetting from a photo of a couple sitting in nature

Lens Correction Tool (Lightroom)

Lightroom is another great option for removing that annoying vignette.

Open your image in Lightroom, and head on over to the ‘Library’ Module.

Scroll down to the Lens Correction area, and over to the manual area.

A screenshot of how to remove vignetting from a photo on Lightroom

Like Photoshop, it will give you an amount and midpoint to work with.

A before and after removing vignetting from a photo of a couple sitting in nature

Get Rid of the Add-ons

If you suffer from mechanical vignetting, then get rid of the items causing it. A lens hood isn’t necessary most of the time but look at your images with and without to see which is better.

Also, make sure you are using the correct one for your lens.

For filters, a polarizer can be beneficial in protecting your lens. But, if it is giving you a vignette, take it off and see what the images look like. You can always put it back on.

For everything else, such as extender tubes and on-lens flashes, take them off if you can. If you can’t work without them, look into removing vignetting in Photoshop or Lightroom.

A 35mm and 50mm lens

Stop Stacking!

If stacking filters are giving you vignetting, then don’t stack them. This will also limit other problems such as light refraction and colour casts.

Check out all the possible ND filters online, as they are very affordable.

A canon DSLR with ND filter attached - how to remove vignetting

Change Aperture

If you can, bring down your aperture to something wider. See if that helps reduce the vignetting.

A close up of changing camera settings to try reduce vignetting

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

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Thanks again for reading our articles!

Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer currently based in Budapest. His favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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