When it comes to editing your photos, do you go for full-on and all-out, none at all, or somewhere in between the two?
It's been a week of updates to our image-sharing programmes on social media. First Facebook introduced an auto-enhance feature, which will apply the filters that its algorithms calculate are most appropriate for your photos. Then Instagram unveiled five new filters, its first in two years. Now it's the turn of EyeEm, which brings a gaggle of new filters, fine-grained control over their application, and a new feature called Open Edit. The theory behind Open Edit is that it lays bare the post-processing path that a photographer followed to create an image, from the original to the final version. Each crop, tweak, and nudge is set out in a timeline that's made visible to the rest of the EyeEm community. If you see something that you like, you can apply the same edits to your own photos with one tap.
Right now, only certain photographers have the ability to open up their edits to the community, but it's something that will be rolled out to all members in time. The EyeEm team hopes that this open deconstruction of people's photos will lead to a more collaboratively minded community and one that can learn from each other and share their skills.
Can I see what EyeEm is trying to accomplish with Open Edit? Yes, definitely. Sometimes I do look at a photo and wonder precisely what sort of magic the photographer wove in order to create that particular effect. But at the same time, I'm not completely sold on it. The mystery and the secret behind someone else's photos are part of their appeal. Having the edits revealed to you can feel a little like the illusion of a magic trick being shattered when you know how it works. My curiosity means that I want to know, but the romantic in me appreciates the mystique.
From a teaching and learning perspective; I love EyeEm's enthusiasm to allow its users to share their knowledge. But I think that by going one step further, they could make this a much more valuable learning tool. How much people will actually learn from being able to see and apply other people's edits to their own photos will depend hugely on how much they're prepared to engage with the editing process and observe the kinds of impact each adjustment makes. Experimentation is such a valuable part of learning that just being able to apply someone else's workflow to your photos feels as if there's an important step in the process that's being skipped. It's not just about the what that you do to your photos, it's also about the why.
Bring a bit more dialogue to the experience—underpin the action with some explanation—and I think it could really work. Still, lots of people seem to be very excited by EyeEm 5.0, so perhaps I'm the one who's missing the trick here.
Let me know what you think.
You can download EyeEm 5.0 here.
Earlier this week an infographic design agency, NeoMam Studios, sent us an infographic about 'smoasting' which they'd produced on behalf of print company Photobox. Once I'd got over the shock of awful elision of 'social media' and 'boast' to form the ghastly portmanteau word 'smoast', there was one particular statistic that caught my eye. Take a look at the infographic and guess which it was.
Despite the prevalence of Instagram, the host of editing features that are built into apps such as EyeEm, Facebook, and Twitter, and the plethora of free-to-download editing programmes, only 28% of photos are cropped or styled in some way? Wow! I am surprised. And it's something I think deserves remedying.
While Team Photocritic advocates getting as much right in-camera as possible—you'll certainly not be able to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse—we're not beyond a little post-processing, either. If it's good enough for Cecil Beaton and Horst, it's good enough for us, too. A snip here and a swipe there can elevate an ordinary image into something a bit more special.
This isn't about air-brushing away half of someone's thigh, but about making minor adjustments to three specific areas: the crop, the colour, and the contrast. Here at Photocritic we call them The Three Cs. They're not complicated and they'll make a world of difference.
However well composed you think your image is, it will almost certainly benefit from having a few pixels shaved off it. It might be a case of reinforcing the rule of thirds, removing a bit of unwanted background that crept into the frame, or getting a bit closer to your subject.
At the same time as cropping, make sure to straighten your image, too. Unless you are deliberately tilting the frame for creative reasons, uprights should be upright and horizons should be level. When lines that are expected to be upright or level are wonky, it has an unpleasant impact on our sense of balance. By correcting wonky lines, you'll produce a stronger image.
Light has a temperature, and depending on the source of the light, or the time of day if it’s the sun, that temperature will vary. When the temperature varies, so does the colour of the light. As a general rule, we don’t notice the variation because our eyes cleverly adjust to the changes. Our cameras on the other hand aren’t quite so clever.
Have you ever noticed how white objects in your photos can show up with blue or yellow casts? That’s because the white balance in your photo was off.
It's a relatively easy correction to make using the 'Warmth' or 'White Balance' function in an editing programme. If you think the whites are looking a bit too blue (or if an image looks a little 'cold' over all), nudge the slider to the right. If the whites are too reddish in tone, or the photo looks a bit warm, slide it to the right. It's a case of trial and error to make the right adjustment, but the more that you practise it, the better you'll understand the shortcomings of your camera and how it reacts to different types of light.
Now if you want to intensify or tone down your colours, you can do so using the saturation slider. I don't recommend bumping up the saturation too much; it can result in a cartoon effect rather than a photo!
Contrast is the difference between the dark and light tones in your photos. Images shot on bright sunny days tend to have a lot of contrast, with dark shadows and bright highlights, but those taken in fog won’t have a great deal of tonal variation and will be low contrast. From time to time, you’ll want a low-contrast image, but, generally speaking, your photos can be improved by increasing the contrast a touch. It brings definition and depth to them.
Don’t go overboard, though, as too much of a good thing can turn bad. You’ll find that if you over-cook the contrast you’ll lose too much detail and end up with an ugly image. Subtlety beats brickbats.
If you use Snapseed to make your edits, it's worth getting to know the ambiance slider, too. I've often found that this is a preferable alternative to the contrast slider.
At this point, any other adjustments are gravy. I'm a fan of Snapseed's 'centre focus' options and often apply one of those. You might want to play with a tilt-shift effect. Or there's the waterfall of filters you can try in any programme, but you might find that you prefer your own edits to prefabricated filters, now.
Oh, and don't forget that it all starts with a decent photo, so check out our eight tips for better smartphone photos, too.
When you tell people that image processing and manipulation isn't anything new, but is just about as old as the art of photography itself, you can get some funny looks. Many of the processes that we carry out without a second thought were equally normal for analogue developers. Depending on how proficient you are with Photoshop, compositing might be faster today, but it's not new. Think of Man Ray and his image Le Violon d'Ingres. And beautifying subjects with the help of a brush was a far from alien practice for Cecil Beaton. Yes, really.
The difference is that now the ubiquity of editing suites means that techniques that were once the preserve of skilled darkroom practitioners are accessible to anyone with a computer. The degree of skill required to complete subtle, effective, and credible edits is still high, but the mystery has gone. Or rather, the mystery has assumed a new narrative as the dark arts of the darkroom remain under wraps.
To try to set some of that record straight, here's an extensive, but not necessarily exhaustive, list of the techniques that bridge the analogue and digital divide.
Have you noticed how the crop icon is a variation on a theme, in almost every editing package you encounter? That's because it's based on the tool that would be used to crop and resize images in the darkroom.
The brush icon is another familiar one, whether you're in Photoshop or Pixelmator or Aperture or GIMP. Brushes were used extensively in the darkroom, to define edges or enhance details, to hand colour, to spot correct, to complete just about any task for which you might now use a digital brush.
Dodging and burning
Haje has already written an article that explains why the dodge icon resembles a lollipop and the burn one a fist. Of course, they're techniques that were used in the darkroom to lighten or darken specific areas of an image as required. The dodging 'lollipop'—or piece of black paper on a stick—could protect the photographic paper from too much light during the development process, thereby keeping the areas in question lighter in the final image. The fist would be your hand, controlling how much light got through to darken areas of your photos.
Using red to distinguish masked from unmasked elements in an image wasn't an arbitrary choice by software engineers. That too is a hangover from darkroom days. Mask an area that you don't want developed with red, gel-like rubylith and the light won't be able to penetrate it in the darkroom, so it won't be exposed. If you've ever found yourself irritated when masking a complicated outline in Photoshop, imagine what it would be like doing it with a scalpel!
Yes, there's a reason why the sharpening tool in Photoshop is called the Unsharp Mask. Again, Haje has a comprehensive explanation here, but the short answer is that images were sharpened using a not-quite-sharp positive of the image to make a mask (an unsharp mask) combined with the negative. The blurriness of the positive image should work with the negative to create a sharper final image.
Maybe you use the split-toning feature in Lightroom to create cross-processed effects, or to give a golden-hour glow to your photos, or perhaps to correct the white balance in your images. But it was originally a darkroom technique that allowed different tones to be present in the highlights and shadows of an image. Split-toning was something of a dark art, relying on the interplay of different papers and different chemical toners deployed after the standard developing and fixing process to produce different colours in the final image. Getting the balance right with your sliders might be a frustrasting experience now, but I'm sure it beats fiddling with gold-, selenium-, and sodium-based chemicals!
It might be simple to adjust the contrast in your photos on a slider in a digital darkroom, but you had at least three ways of doing so in an analogue darkroom: with graded papers, with variable contrast paper, or with filters.
Unless you're shooting with a Leica Monochrom, you can choose between colour or black and white for any given photo now, switching back and forth between them as many times as you like in a non-destructive editing package. But in the early days of film it was black and white, maybe sepia, or perhaps the vagueries of split-toning, unless you opted to hand-colour your images. Love or hate selective colouring, for some people that was all that they could afford when hand colouring was a time-consuming art form. It isn't just a Photoshop abomination.
Finally, the much-maligned airbrush. It's not just a new-fangled phenomenon that magically reduces the size of an already-stick-thin model's thighs. The airbrush has been removing undesirables from images since at least Stalin's time and Cecil Beaton was famous for slimming his subjects.
I think you'll find, then, that there is very little that's new between the red light of the darkroom and the digital glow of Photoshop.
Editing, post-processing, whatever you want to call it: some people love it, some people hate it, some people are fortunate enough to work with professional retouchers, and some people just don't know where to start. There are a few businesses out there who are seeking to unite those people who feel frustrated or flummoxed by the editing process with people who can work post-processing magic, and the newest one is Spruced up! Spruced up! was founded by Rob Willingham, who used to work with photographer Rankin, and the Spruced up! team seem to be an experienced bunch, having worked on campaigns for the likes of Christian Dior and Calvin Klein and been let near photos of the Queen and Kate Moss. They're looking to provide a complete editing package for users, from simple enhancements to total overhauls.
Each image incurs a £2.49 handling fee, with simple changes—for example exposure tweaks, black and white conversions, and sharpening or softening—priced at 49p a go, rising to 99p for cosmetic changes (tooth whitening, nail colour alterations, for example), £1.99 for removals, and ending at £12.99 for a full make-over. You check out the menu and price list here.
This isn't the first time that we've looked at editing out-sourcing options. Our conclusion now isn't that much different from our conclusion then: it's not for us. It doesn't really matter if the resulting photos are good, bad, or indifferent, but that but that processing our images ourselves is important to us. It ensures that we realise our own creative visions and intentions, rather than placing them into the hands of others.
Sure, post-processing can be tricky and tiresome, but at £2.98 for a black-and-white conversion or an exposure fix, I'd be inclined to suggest that learning a few key adjustments in a free editing package such as Pixlr or Aviary (which is built in to Flickr) would be a relatively pain-free and definitely cheaper alternative. But a bit of Stalinesque airbrushing at £4.48 a time isn't too bad. If you're not in regular need of re-writing history, and don't therefore have the processing package or prowess, it makes sense to send your photos to someone who's more talented and less frustrated by the procedure, to do it for you. And that's where Spruced up! comes in.
If you've a digital copy of a vintage print that you'd like tidied up, that can be done, too.
Now that everyone has got over their shock that Apple will be consolidating its image editing and organisation features later this year, with the result that its top-end programme Aperture will be closing up completely, people are probably beginning to think about alternatives. I've pulled together ten Aperture alternatives and sought out their positive and negative features. They're all Raw compatible, but do double-check their non-destructive capability. A standard gripe for the majority of these programmes is that they're tricky to get to learn, or that the interfaces aren't intuitive. While it is entirely possible that some of these programmes do have seriously unfriendly workflows and interfaces, it might also a case of them being different to what you know. I remember opening Lightroom for the first time and wondering if it controlled the International Space Station, too. It's all a learning curve. Still, it's probably worth bearing in mind that the open-source options don't have such pretty interfaces as the paid-for programmes.
And finally, we really don't know what Apple's plans are for its photo management and editing programmes. It's possible that Aperture's features will be integrated into whatever comes next. Or maybe they won't, if Apple is looking for a simpler, more consumer-friendly package. But it remains to be seen.
Lightroom is probably the most obvious option for people looking for an Aperture replacement. It's a comprehensive editing suite that sets the standard in its field. In addition to the expected functions, Lightroom includes advanced features such as brushes, gradient tools and specific lens corrections. It's my editing suite of choice that I feel offers me almost everything I want in an image editor.
However, some photographers—me included—are concerned that the option to purchase Lightroom as a stand-alone editor will be subsumed into the subscription model Creative Cloud and we'll find ourselves beholden to Adobe in perpetuity. If the potential for that bothers you, you might wish to look elsewhere.
- Regarded as the market-leader in its class
- Feature-laden interface can be overwhelming
- Some people unhappy with Adobe
Corel AfterShot Pro
If anyone doubted that Corel were still in business, yes, it is. And if you're wondering what happened to image editing software Bibble, it was bought by Corel... and became AfterShot Pro. The first version met with significant criticism for lack of basic features such as red eye correction and a reset button. This has been corrected for version 2, together with improved batch editing features and new noise reduction features. By all accounts, it's a pretty nippy piece of kit.
Corel has also stated that it is looking to make life as easy as possible for Aperture users who are looking for a alternative programme. It's reasonable price together with its comprehensive feature set makes AfterShot Pro a compelling option. And you can check it out for free before buying, too.
- Quick and responsive
- Comprehensive feature set
- Supports layers
- Batch processing options
- Enjoys local editing features
- Idiosyncratic lay-out
- Limited plug-in selection
- No web or email sharing capability
Corel After Shot Pro: £57.99 (usually $79.99, currently $59.99)
Cyberlink PhotoDirector Suite
PhotoDirector claims itself to be 'a unique application that combines all the features you need for photography in a single workflow – efficient photo management, complete adjustment and creative editing.' It comes with some serious editing firepower—from body-slimming tools to content aware object removal—and some sparkling reviews. You can try before you buy with a 30 day free trial. If the PhotoDirector Suite is a bit too pricey for you, have a look at PhotoDirector Ultra, instead.
- Intuitive interface
- Comprehensive feature set
- Facial recognition
- No batch processing
- Inconsistent import times
- No geo-tagging capability
- Limited lens correction profiles
Cyberlink PhotoDirector: £114.99 (currently £89.99)
PhaseOne Capture One Pro
You might think of Capture One as being a medium format image processor, but it's capable of handling dSLR- and EVIL-created files, too. It's history of medium format processing means that many of the features that you're accustomed to seeing in places such as Photoshop as well as Aperture and Lightroom come as standard in Capture One. You might need to take a deep breath when you look at the price, but there is a free trial to test it out first.
- Comprehensive feature set
- Supports layers
- Local adjustment tools
- Clean and customisable interface
- Can be sluggish
Phase One Capture One: €229 (currently €114)
Darktable is a free, open-source image editing suite that does seem to offer the most comprehensive and user-friendly experience without having to pay for anything. While one should never judge a book by its cover, the Darktable website is the most professional looking one in the open-source category.
- It's free
- Impressive range of functions, including split toning, film emulation, watermarking
- Tethered shooting support
- Interface requires refinement
- Clumsy and confusing image filing system
- Undo system could be better
The digiKam website does give me a mild headache, but plenty of people seem to like the software. In particular it includes some features that aren't available in places such as Lightroom yet, for example fuzzy search and facial recognition.
- It's free
- Map integration for geo-tagged images
- Facial recognition and fuzzy search capabilities
- Can be buggy
- Idiosyncratic workflow
Once upon a time, Lightzone was a commercial enterprise under the aegis of the now-defunct Light Craft company. It went off-line unexpectedly in Sepember 2011, but resurfaced as an open-source initiative tentatively in December 2012 and then more fully in June 2013. Given it was once a commercial product, Lightzone does benefit from better-than-average-for-anope-source-project documentation.
- It's free
- Extensive functionality
- Well documented for an open-source project
- Intuitive layout
- Previews effects in miniature
- Supports layers
- Localised adjustments
- Users need to register before downloading the software
- Weak image management tools
Hasselblad's Phocus might have started out for Hasselblad cameras, but it now supports a wide range of manufacturers' devices.
- It's free
- Mobile app
- Intuitive, attractive interface
- Not that many people know about it or use it (maybe that's a good thing?)
Most of what I've read about Photivo suggests that it's a powerful piece of kit, but that it isn't necessarily easy to leap into it and get started. It doesn't offer any management features, just development functions, and is open about it not being for beginners.
- It's free
- Localised adjustments
- Extensive control
- GIMP integration
- Not necessarily intuitive
- Not designed for image management
Raw Therapee seems to offer a peculiar mix of some incredibly advanced editing capability with some serious oversights. While its demosaicing feature is super for low noise images, it's reported that it doesn't cope well with noisier photos. With today's strospheric ISOs, it might be a dciding factor.
- It's free
- Demosaicing feature
- RL Deconvolution sharpening tool
- Complicated workflow
- No batch processing option
- No localised adjustments
- Wobbly image management interface
Multiplicity, or the art of creating images containing several yous, or anyone elses for that matter, isn’t a digital discovery. It’s something that people have been doing for decades: it's remarkably easy to achieve with film. You set up your shot and either you don’t wind on your film before re-exposing the frame with your subject positioned anew in the scene; or you wind on your film and then wind it back again in between shots. The important thing here is to slightly under-expose all of your shots in the sequence to ensure that your final image isn’t an over-exposed white mass.
If you don't happen to have a Holga lying about (they're great for creating multiple exposures), you can do it with a digital camera, too. Depending on the camera you have, you've a few options for creating a multiplicitous image. Quite a few come with a multiple exposure setting now: you determine how many exposures you want to make and the camera will re-expose the same 'frame' in-camera and adjust your expose settings accordingly to ensure that you don't end up with a too-dark or too-light image. Marvellous... if you have a camera that can do that. If not, you'll need to make friends with Photoshop, or a Photoshop-esque editing package.
Before we go any further, it’s important to remind you that achieving a great final image relies on producing a good image in-camera first. It doesn’t matter how ginormous the barrage of editing you’re going to subject your photo to, it’s got to be good from the get-go. This is just the same for a multiplicity image as any other.
When you set out to create a multiplicitous image, your starting point is your concept. Think of the story that you're trying to tell and what you need to tell it. Having a clear plan makes it so much easier when you're shooting the images because—unless it's a distinct element of the story—you need consistency in your images: furniture can't move between shots, the light needs to be coming from the same direction, and you don't want to be flapping around.
When the scene's arranged, set your camera on a tripod, adjust it's exposure settings and focal point, and shoot a 'plate' image. This is a base photo, devoid of the story's characters, onto which you'll build your final creation.
Now you can shoot your series of images containing your subject in as many different positions as your composition merits. I've found it useful to go for more rather than fewer photos; it gives you more flexibility when you compile your final image.
When you've shot your images, import those you think you might want to use into Photoshop using the Load Files in Stacks option (File>Scripts>Load Files in Stack), which should import your images so that they are perfectly layered one on top of the other.
Next apply a layer mask to each of the layers, barring the background image, which should be the ‘empty’ plate.
Using the eye icon on the Layers Palette, toggle off all of the layers from view except Layer 1. Now brush your subject, along with anything like indentations in the chair where she or he is sitting or shadows, out of the image. It's those small details which add credibility to the unbelievable, which is what makes them important to the final composition. And while it might seem counter-intuitive to brush your subject out of the image, it isn't really.
When you’ve disappeared your subject from the scene and you’re happy with the refinement of the edges, invert your selection by pressing Cmd+I on a Mac or Ctrl+I on a Windows machine. The subject will miraculously reappear and the superfluous background will disappear.
Do take care when you're areas where overlapping occurs, because it's here where your image will succeed or fail in its realism.
Repeat this process for each of the layers, toggling them on and off as necessary to decide on which placements you want to keep, and which you wish to discard. I’d recommend saving the image as a PSD file with all the layers intact, which will allow you to revisit it and re-edit as often as your Dr Jeckyll needs to meddle with your Mr Hyde.
When you've settled on a final version, delete the layers that you don't want, save it as a PSD file, and then flatten it and export it as a JPEG image. Ta-dah!
For literary types, a vignette can be either an anecdote or short story, or a illustration—often foliage-inspired—found on chapter headers. For photography types, a vignette is the gradual fall-off of light from the centre towards the edges of the frame of an image. If you enjoy Instagram or play around with Snapseed, you might know a vignette as a cool effect that you can add at will. They are, however, far more than just an effect. Thus we present to you the self-contained, but not necessarily short, Photocritic guide to vignettes, without any vines.
Types of vignette
Photographic vignettes occur because of natural, optical, mechanical, and technical reasons and can appear whether you prefer analogue or digital technology. While we might associate vignetting with vintage, it's hardly stuck in the past. Digital sensors managed to introduce their own form of vignetting, and a great deal of it is down to lenses. What are we looking at, then?
You are most likely to see natural vignetting when you use a wide-angle lens. It's a gradual darkening of the image that happens because light reaches the sensor (or film) at different angles. As the photons need to travel further to reach the edges of the sensor, they lose their strength, hence the darkening.
Lens design is primarily responsible for optical vignetting; the lens' barrel prevents light reaching the sensor evenly, and the lens elements stacked up on top of each other can have an impact, too. Optical vignetting is more pronounced when shooting at wider apertures; stop-down a bit and you can reduce its prevalence.
If anything physical blocks the passage of light to the sensor, for example a lens hood or a filter, it can cause a vignette. This is the easiest vignette to correct: check all of your accessories are properly attached.
The pixels towards the edges of a sensor aren't always able to record light at the same intensity as those closer to its centre, mostly because of the angle at which the light hits them. This can lead to a darkening of the image towards its edges. Sensor manufacturers have caught onto this phenomenon, however, and have introduced compensations to rectify it.
Why add a vignette?
If a vignette is regarded as an aberration, why would you want to add one deliberately to an image? When used reservedly, they can bring focus to your subject and draw your eye into the frame, particularly in portraits. First because they allow for fewer distractions at the edges of the frame, but also because they mimic the natural effect of the eye. We don't see sharply all the way to the edges of our vision, and a vignette's fall-off has a similar impact on our photos. They reproduce a degree of 'normality' that we can find pleasing. The essential factor in applying them is to be subtle, therefore.
Adding a vignette
Lightroom allows you both to add artificial vignettes and to correct those produced as the result of optical or mechanical aberrations. If you need to correct a vignette, reveal the Lens Corrections panel, where you can also adjust various types of lens distortion, and nudge the Lens Vignetting sliders until your photo looks 'right'. (They sit beneath the Manual tab.) Easy!
This is also an easy means of adding a subtle vignette to a largely uncropped photo, too. It doesn't let you over-do it, which is the cardinal sin of adding vignettes, and there aren't too many factors to consider. It's sneaky, but if you're working with a cropped photo, not helpful. For a cropped photo, you need to head to the Post-Crop Vignetting options in the Effects panel.
Here, you have far more control over the vignette that you add to your image.
With three drop-down options and five sliders, it might appear as if adding a vignette is more trouble than it's worth, but it's relatively straightforward. We'll deal with those drop-down options first.
Highlight Priority, Colour Priority, or Paint Overlay?
Highlight Priority, Colour Priority, or Paint Overlay? Highlight Priority allows for highlight corrections and recovery, so is good with images that have specular highlights, but it might have an adverse impact on the colours in the darker areas of your image. If you're working in black and white, colour shifts won't be an issue, so it's an easy choice.
Colour Priority won't produce such a pronounced shift the colours in the darker areas, but it won't let you recover highlights, either. Julieanne Kost, who works for Adobe, reckons it's a more subtle effect. You might want to consider this if your photo is in colour.
As for Paint Overlay, it is supposed to mimic the effects of overlaying your photo with either black or white paint.
To walk through the sliders, I'm using a photo of my nephew Wil for demonstration purposes. It's been cropped, converted to black and white, and had all of its other adjustments made. The last thing on the list is the vignette. That's how you should apply one, too.
The Amount slider is the crucial slider when adding a vignette. It determines how strong the darkening or lightening of the edges of the frame will be. Set it at -100 and you'll have deep black edges; conversely, +100 will leave you with bright white edges. Without adjusting this slider, none of the other Post-Crop Vignetting sliders will have any impact on your image.
From now on, we'll look at all the other sliders having an effect with the Amount set to -100. It offers the clearest demonstration of their impact.
The Mid-point slider controls the size of the vignette from the centre of the frame. It naturally sits at 50 points; reduce it to 0 and you'll produce a vignette that encroaches far into the frame.
Set it at 100 points and it'll sit closer to the edges of the frame.
The Roundness slider controls the shape of the vignette. At 50 points, it's elliptical in shape. Push it to 100 points and you'll have a circular vignette. At 0, it's a rectangle with rounded corners. (By pushing all of the Post-crop Vignetting sliders completely to the left, you'll create a rounded-corner rectangular frame effect for your photo.)
To control the strength of the transition between the vignette and the centre of the image, adjust the Feather slider. 100 points ensures a very subtle transition; 0 points is a sharp transition with a hard edge. Its native position is 50 points; I don't often vary far from there.
Finally, we're left with the Highlights slider that starts at 0. Why might you want to increase the highlights slider? It prevents the vignette being applied too heavily to highlights in the image and helps to keep them bright. There's no hard-and-fast rule for this slider; it needs to be adjusted on the merits of each image.
It's important to note that the Post-crop Vignetting panel applies the vignette centred according to the crop. If you want to introduce a vignette that works around an off-centred subject, you'll need to do that using Radial Blur. That's a whole different article, however.
Other vignette options
If you don't use Lightroom, you can add a vignette using plenty of other editing suites. Photoshop, of course. And Pixelmator. Or Pixlr. Under the 'Centre Focus' tab if you're in Google+. In Apple's Aperture.
The end product
This is my final version of Wil, with a vignette Amount of -15 and a Mid-point of 75. That was it. Remember: subtle is better!
A few weeks back, we took a peruse around Lightroom's clarity slider, to see what it does to your photos and how you can get the best out of your photos by giving it a gentle nudge here and there. This week, it's the turn of the vibrance slider—clarity's bed-fellow—to come under the Photocritic microscope.
Much the same as the clarity slider has its most pronounced effect on the mid-tones of your images, the vibrance slider is also a 'smart slider' and applies its effects selectively. Rather than adjusting the contrast in the mid-tones, a la clarity, vibrance takes hold of the more muted tones in your photo and gives them some oompf. It's a selective saturation slider, if you will.
More often than not, vibrance will pick up on the blues and greens in a photo but go easier on the reds and oranges. This is great for bringing out the intensity of a sky or making a lawn look that bit more inviting while not letting your portrait subjects look as if they've been tangoed. I've heard some people refer to vibrance as being like 'fill light for colours'.
With the exception of the sweetpea, I've not been exactly subtle with either the vibrance or the saturation in any of my examples here, but that's to give you a clear illustration of the difference between them. Usually, I'd be far more reserved and I'm sure you would be, too. But at least you know what vibrance does now, and can begin using it to intensify your colours without feeling you've chucked a red wash over your photos.
Google has introduced some Snapseed-like editing tools to its Android version of Google+ today, as well as what it calls 'non-destructive editing in the cloud' and new ways to view your images. The updates to the editing tools themselves are fairly basic: crop, rotate, one-touch filters, and enhancements that are familiar to Snapseed users, for example Retrolux and HDR-scape. They're the sorts of tools that you'd expect in a basic editing suite. 'Non-destructive editing in the cloud' is a touch more exciting, however. While it might be a horribly cumbersome term, 'non-destructive editing in the cloud' should make for a far more integrated photo-editing and sharing experience for Google+ users. It is designed to allow users to edit their images across different devices, and being non-destructive, start over if required. This means you can start to edit a photo on your desktop at home, continue your processing on phone on your way to work, and finish it off at your other-half's on their tablet. If you decide you don't like what you've done at any point, you can revert to the original before sharing on Google+.
As for the new ways to view images, the 'All' view allows you to see all of your photo library, whether on the device that you're using or backed up to the cloud, and you can sort them by date. If you've tens of thousands of images, you won't be seeing all of them in the 'All' view yet, but they're on their way.
Whatever you think of Google+ as a social network, it's always worth keeping it in mind as an image storage solution, especially with this integrated approach to editing and filing. You don't have to share your images there if you don't want to.