Just a Simple Vignette

(check this article out on the new blog at www.sagelightblog.com)

I was going to write the second part to the Tone Blender introduction, but in the process of looking for examples, I realized that sometimes its just very simple things that can make the biggest difference.

One of those things is a vignette.  A vignette can be very subtle where it focuses the subject, but also not noticeable unless you know it’s there (i.e. you’re the one that added it).  Or, you can add one that is obvious, which is what I want to show here.

A note about dissonance with the examples in this article:

An interesting phenomenon with image editing is that when images that are very different are compared against one another, the result can look artificial.

In the example below, the eyes change fairly dramatically from the original image to the final image, and when you are comparing the images to each other directly (by scrolling up an down), the concept of dissonance between the images may become apparent.  Try putting the result (with brighter eyes) on the screen, go away for a couple minutes, and come back – it should look more natural.

Keep in mind that due to the nature of the blog, the before & after images are shown in close proximity, where a final edit in any other circumstance is the only image presented.

Here is a basic picture

girl_org-400

Already, on its own, it is a very cute picture.  If we add a vignette:

girl_1-400

Suddenly, the picture takes on a different form. The girl is much more centered in the picture, and the vignette helps to frame the picture in a natural manner.

Vignette Controls in the Power Box

The Tone Blender Presets in the Power Box allow you to use the Vignette very easily.  Just Launch the Power Box, and then Select the “Color Tones Button”.  When the menu comes up with the presets, select Vignette Only”.

In this case, I used the “Hard Vignette” style and moved the vignette to center more around the girl’s face.

You can try it yourself:

Just a Couple Touch-ups

The nice thing about image editing in Sagelight is that it is designed to do things in small steps.  It’s the better way to edit, and it allows you to try things to see if they work; if they don’t, you can just undo it and try something else, and if they do, then you can move on to other things to make your image look even better.

Here is what I did with this image with just a few steps:

girl_1_final3d

In some ways, not too different, but in other ways these few changes make all the difference (scroll up to compare to the original).  I did this in a freestyle* editing form with just a few changes:

    1. I used the Skin Smoothing function to get rid of the blemishes from her skin (either dirt or perhaps image noise)
    2. Use the Soft Focus function to add a glow to the image
    3. Brightened the eyes with the LightBlender

In almost all portrait pictures, I also use the Dodge and Burn Brush for just light touches, followed-up by the Undo Brush to blend back in only what I want to keep.

If I were to go further with this image

and some comments/suggestions on the image-editing workflow

In many cases, when I put out examples to the web, I draw back from what I would personally do, mostly because I want to make a point about something and I don’t want to get carried away – I take the risk of doing something to an image I might like, where some people might have preferred that I went another direction, and I want to stay focused on the point.

But, there is another reason.  As a general philosophy, it’s good to take a break from an image, to do it in two pieces.  We can tend to get saturated with how we’re seeing the work-in-progress when we really need to relate it to the world around us.

Another reason I stop short is because I did the above example in one session.  Now that I’ve taken a break from it and have “unsaturated” or defocused myself from the image as I was editing it, I can see a lot of things I’d like to go on with.  Still simple things, but, after being refreshed from editing it, I get a clear impression of what I want to do with it.

If I were to continue on this picture, I would deepen the contrast around the edges and lighten up the face in certain areas – I would use the Dodge and Burn brush for both things, as it gives a great contrast and also is perfect for adding uneven light, which is called for in most pictures, but most definitely when it comes to skin tones and faces.

Also, I would brighten the eyes a little bit (either with the Light Blender or general masking), and then add some color.  I didn’t do it here because I wanted to make sure I didn’t add too much light and color to the eyes and make them look unnatural.  As it is, I see that I really want to go just a little bit further.

(addendum: I came back and brought the eyes up.  The comments  above regarding the eyes refer to the image before I reposted it)

As a tip, when working with the eyes in this manner, my suggestion is to always step back just a little bit and then come back to it (in as little as 30 seconds), because this is an area where adding too much light and color can introduce an artificial sense to an image.  This is a good example of why it’s good to break any more than simple editing (i.e. adding some fill light, color; that is, anything where you’re really going for something) into a couple steps.

When I say “take a break” I really mean something as simple as checking the news on the Internet or checking e-mail – just something to distract you from the editing session for a few seconds so that you can look at the image from a fresh point of view.  I personally like to get to a certain point and then move onto another image or other things, and then return to the image later.  But, from a practical sense, it really is just a matter of defocusing from the image for any length of time.

Conclusion

Sometimes something as simple as adding a vignette can make a very big impact in a picture, and it can also lead to other things.

In this image, once I added the vignette, it led me to do other simple things to the image.  All-in-all, the entire editing process for this image was just a few minutes. A few simple things combined together for an image with an entirely different tone that also has brighter eyes and smoother skin.

Sometimes, all an image needs is just one or two touch ups, such as fill light, saturation boost, or a vignette. Other times, just starting with something simple to get the process going can inspire us to go on to a number of things we start to see will make the image nicer.

In this case, the end result started with one simple operation: adding a vignette.

Image Credit: “Cute Eyed Girl” by Ing. Jose Herrera

*Freestyle Editing is defined by editing in a manner that has no plan, but just creative flow.

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