Lightroom Only

My “Magic Number” for Nice Subtle Edge Vignetting


Adding a vignette (darkening the edges all the way around the image to focus the attention on your subject) is definitely one of those things you either love with the passion of a thousand burning suns, or you hate it with every fiber of your being. Most folks fall on one side or the other (kind of like people feel about HDR), but I think one reason is that, like HDR, people tend to greatly overdue their vignettes making them really obvious and over the top.

Personally, I’m a fan of adding a very subtle vignette — one that you wouldn’t really even notice was there (a kind of “less is more” thing). Here’s the original image without the vignette (above). In the image below, I used my “magic number” for any time that I’m adding a vignette. It’s enough to make a difference, but not enough to draw attention. That magic number is -11, but I only apply this using the Effect panel, and by just moving the Highlight Priority Amount slider. That’s it. -11. I have it on a preset that does just that one thing, and nearly every portrait, wedding shot, or other image (besides sports photos), of mine has that added. Here’s what that subtle bit of vignette looks like (see below).


If you’re looking at the image above and you’re thinking to yourself, “I can barely see it…” then my work here is done. 🙂

Hope you find it helpful.




  1. Max A. 17 February, 2015 at 19:32 Reply

    It’s interesting that you added in the phrase “except sports” since that’s when I find that I use it the most, especially at the high school level where you’re in stadiums/gyms which are not well lit and/or have a lot of white walls as a background… or are outdoors where the background is plain (such as a wide open field).

    Regardless, it’s a trick I’ve used over the years (I’m usually around -5 to -10), so it’s good to know that one of the seasoned pros uses it as well and promotes it!

  2. Keith R. Starkey 14 February, 2015 at 02:09 Reply

    I go 100% and black out the photo completely. Then when someone says, “Hey, I can’t see your photo,” I say, “That’s right! You pay or you cry! Now what’s it going to be?” Inevitably, they walk and…well, I cry!

  3. art 3 December, 2014 at 11:18 Reply

    I finally came to the conclusion that for my tastes the magic number is -9. I never thought of it being my ‘magic number’ until I saw this post. Good stuff. I may have to go all Spinal Tap and turn it up to -11.

  4. Sean Condon 28 November, 2014 at 10:50 Reply

    I didn’t realize this page existed this I seen the post in facebook. Very nicely laid out design and most importantly it’s not cluttered. I like this.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *