Custom Vignette Lightroom Tutorial
Image © Randy McKown

Lightroom vignettes are extremely popular and also one of the most abused effects seen in modern photography. It’s true that a generic vignette effect will often look great when added to an image. However, if you’re just slapping one on every single image, over and over and over, then something is wrong.

Try asking yourself if the composition of the photo will work with a generic and centralized vignette before you apply one. The purpose of the vignette is to focus attention on your subject – is your subject dead center? If not, why are you trying to draw the viewers eyes to the center of your frame?

If your subject is off-center, creating a custom vignette in Lightroom is going to be a much better approach. Sadly, the vignette tool in Lightroom does not allow you to shift on an X/Y axis. So, here’s what we can do to work around that.

How to Create Custom Vignettes in Lightroom

Here is the image we are going to be adding a custom vignette to in Lightroom. You can see that my model is not centered in the frame and is leaning more towards a Rule of Thirds Composition. This means that I need to focus my viewers’ attention slightly to the left of center.

Custom Vignette Lightroom Tutorial

Determine the Lightroom Vignettes Intensity

To create this custom Lightroom vignette, we are going to start by burning the entire image using an adjustment brush. Click on your adjustment brush icon and drop the exposure and highlights a bit. Now brush over the entire image .. but do not click the Done Button just yet.

How much you lower the exposure and highlights will vary from image to image. In the example below, you can see that I decided to dramatically darken my portrait.

Custom Vignette Lightroom Tutorial

Create the Vignette by Erasing the Adjustment

After you’ve brushed the adjustment onto the entire image, switch from whichever brush you are using (A or B) to Erase. The next step is to simply erase over the subject area you want to focus attention on.

To create a nice natural effect you will want to use a brush size that is large in comparison to the subject and also with an increased feather size. Harsh vignettes can look very amateurish. Try creating a softer effect that mimics a natural falloff of light.

Custom Vignette Lightroom Tutorial

Fine-Tune Your Custom Lightroom Vignette

You can see above that my custom vignette is now more off-center, which is appropriate for this composition. Now that you have finished creating the shape of your custom vignette in Lightroom, continue to fine-tune your brush settings until your image looks exactly the way you want it to. Once you’re finished click the done button below your image.