Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adding a vignette to photographs

Digital cameras have greatly advanced even an amateur photographer's ability to capture sharply focused images - sometimes too sharply focused. Back in the days when film photography was the only game in town, there were a lot of camera lenses that couldn't focus across the entire area of the film, leaving photos dark and a bit blurry at the edges and corners. Sometimes a lot dark and blurry.

For those times when you want to subtly age your photos or even emphasize a certain part of the picture, you can simply add a vignette via a photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop Elements, which retails for around $80.

To create a vignette, use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to select nearly the entire photo. Feather the selection (240 pixels on a 10 megapixel image works well, use less feathering for smaller images), then invert the selection. Go to Enhance/Adjust Lighting/Levels and slide the right Output Level slider to the left, which will darken the edges of the photo slightly. You can then add some soft blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) to your liking.

Photos © 2009 James Jordan.

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Make a statement with texture

Adding texture to a photograph is easy if you have a photo editing program that supports layers. I added a texture to a photograph of a surveyor's transit to emphasize the antique nature of the piece - it was manufactured circa 1943, according to records of serial numbers from Keuffel and Esser, the company that produced transits for the better part of a century.

I started with a straightforward photo of the transit, part of a friend's large collection of antiques. Daylight from nearby windows lit the piece, and a sheet of black foam board was placed behind the transit to provide a backdrop. The original photo is shown to the right.

The texture was provided courtesy of a 12"x12" piece of faux slate vinyl floor tile, which I picked up for 75 cents at Home Depot. I took a quick photo of the vinyl tile near a window in my garage .

Opening the transit and tile photos in Photoshop Elements 6.0, I copied the tile photo and pasted it over the transit photo, creating a layer. I selected "Multiply" to blend the tile into the transit photo, then adjusted the opacity of the layer to my liking - about 70% in this instance.

I then adjusted the lighting levels, added a vignette and sharpened the photo to finish it off.

Photos © 2009 James Jordan.