Lighting vignettes interact with the textures of the object, and cast shadows showing how objects line up. The inverse square law of light can also help photographers show depth. Lighting vignettes are only similar to ‘regular’ vignettes in the way they make the perimeter of a photo darker. However using light goes far beyond the benefits of a post production (PP) vignette.
PP vignettes affect the image based on pixels already captured, not on the space you are photographing. PP vignettes generally bring down the brightness value of all the information around the perimeter of the photo. Depending on your methods you can add contrast and texture to the vignette, but it’s still only applying to the existing pixels.
In the same way that you can’t recreate beautiful/realistic split lighting in PP from a sunny day portrait taken at noon, you can’t recreate a lighting vignette.
Shooting with the band For the Weekend we crashed the Fall City Fall house, so we could utilize their photogenic wall space. -This was before FCF got evicted for playing loud music and being general dirt bags.
Key Light; shoot through umbrella a bit above the camera, to the right.
Hair Light; bare strobe top left, behind the subject, with a CTO gel. Cramped space made setting it up interesting; the strobe couldn’t drop to a low enough power, and was nuking the side of Colton’s head. Without a different strobe or neutral density in my bag I thought I was SOL. Wait… polarizers cut light, right? Perfect! I cut two stops of light from a strobe using a screw mount lens polarizing filter.
Light for Vignette; the subject is very close to the shoot thru umbrella, so before adding the 3rd light the background was quite dark –Think inverse square law-. I sat a strobe on the exposed furring strips in the ceiling (no drywall here) and zoomed it in. The zoomed in light creates a small pool of light on the wall; a vignette which interacts with, and enhances the texture of the painted brick.
To make a light vignette, use a strobe to illuminate only part of the visible area. The lit area should frame the subject, with light falling off towards edges of the image. Use either light fall off and the inverse square law, or the edge of the area a strobe is illuminating to make the light drop of closer to the edge of the frame.
Lighting vignettes aren’t limited to portraiture, what about mountain biking with a lighting vignette? Lighting a location with depth, even more texture, and landscape makes light vignettes even more interesting and beautiful.
Key Light; cam left, high off the ground, zoomed in, bare head. The light isn’t hitting the entire frame equally; the bottom corners of the frame are outside of the strobe’s range because it’s so far zoomed in. These darker parts frame the bottom of the image, the black trees in the background make the upper portion of the light vignette.
Fill Light; cam right, bare head. Kept at a low height to avoid conflicting shadows on the ground, and keep out light vignette looking great.