Vignetting – What Is It?

What is Vignetting? What does the term mean? How does vignetting impact photography? Is it a good thing or something to be avoided?

First, the technical details. Vignetting as a word comes from the French and it has to do with light. In essence, a camera lens is an imperfect creation. It’s really good at focusing light toward the center of the image. On the edges, though, it’s less great. Often that can cause a darkness on the edges. A fall-off of light. Some people think this looks really cool. But if the aim was for a uniformly lit image, that edge of darkness is suddenly less than wonderful.

Vignetting is a built-in feature of the Holga 120 medium-format camera. It’s just the way the lens tends to work. The edges darken while the center stays light. You can see that in this image I took on a cruise around the Caribbean.

As it so happens, I took this photo with cross processed film. That is, I had 120 slide film loaded into my Holga 120. When I finished with the photos, I had them developed with standard print chemicals. That let the colors kick up and the contrast darken. In my experience, though, that doesn’t impact the vignetting at all. Photos still have about the same amount of vignetting as they normally would have had.

It’s funny that Instagram now has filters which let digital cameras mimic the Holga vignetting. People should just go out and get Holga cameras!

I took this with Fuji Fujichrome 64T Type II Slide Film. So, again, I used slide film – but instead of making slides I made prints out of it. I used and developed the film in 2016 – the film had expired back in September 2003.

Photographer: Lisa Shea

This film was developed at

Ask with any questions!

To learn more about creating cross processed images with your Holga medium format camera, visit:

Holga Cross Process How-To