Using the Radial Filter Tool in Lightroom

What is the Radial Filter tool?

The Radial Filter Tool is yet another one of Lightroom’s powerful editing tools. This tool enables you to create multiple, off-centre, vignetted areas to highlight specific portions of a photograph by applying a gradual change to an image that radiates out from a point of your choosing.

With the radial filter tool, you will make local adjustments with an elliptical mask. You will draw an elliptical mask around your subject, and then you can choose to change the exposure, saturation, and sharpness of the portions of the image either inside or outside the mask, depending on the effect you want and the areas you want to highlight.

Why use the Radial Filter?

In certain photos, you may find that there are elements in the background that distract the viewer from your subject. Maybe there are bright spots in the background of your image that you want to tone down in order to draw attention back to your subject, or you want to subtly lighten the centre of your photo where your subject is to draw the viewer’s eyes there. The radial filter tool is the best solution for this.

You may be thinking that the radial filter tool sounds very similar to the adjustment brush tool, and that is a fair judgment. However, the radial filter tools does offer some advantages over the adjustment brush tool. The radial filter tool allows you to apply adjustments much faster than the adjustment brush does, especially if you need to apply the adjustments to a large portion of your image, as it applies the edits to everything inside the mask, rather than having you paint on the edits by hand. The radial filter tool also applies the effects more evenly and gradually than the adjustment brush, as it applies to edits softly from the centre point of your mask.

How to Use the Radial Filter Tool

The radial filter tool can be found in the Develop Module, in the toolbar on the far right side of the screen, next to the adjustment brush tool. To create one, select the tool, and then click and drag on the area of your photo where you want the radial filter to be applied. This will draw an elliptical shape on your photo, which determines the area that is either affected or excluded from the adjustments you perform.

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Once you have created a radial filter that is roughly the size and shape you want, you can make more precise adjustments to the size. If you click and drag in the centre of the circle, you can move the overall position of the filter. On the outside of the filter, there will be four square handles that you can use to change the size and width of the filter. The filter can also be rotated by hovering our cursor near the edge of the circle until your cursor turns into an arrow, so that it is applied on an angle. If you want your radial filter to be a perfect circle, you can hold “Shift” as you are drawing it.

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By default, Lightroom will make it so that the radial filter affects the area of your photo that is outside the mask. If you want to apply the adjustments to the area inside the mask instead, select “Invert Mask”, which can be found below the sliders in the panel on the right side of your screen. If you are not sure which area of your photo is going to be affected, selected “Show Selected Mask Overlay.” This will highlight the area you are editing in red, showing you quickly and clearly which parts of your photo will be affected by the changes you make!

radial filter

Once you have determined the size, shape, and orientation of your radial filter, you should set the feather. Lightroom has a default feather setting of 50, which is quite a lot, so it may not be the right setting for the edits you want to make. Feathering makes it easy to mask in a subtle vignette that does not look corny, so play around with the settings to find the ones that are best for the end result you want to produce.

After all of your settings are in place, you are ready to start making adjustments using your radial filter. You can adjust the white balance, clarity, saturation, sharpness, and more using the sliders in the panel.

Erasing Certain Areas of the Filter

In Lightroom 6 and Lightroom Creative Cloud, you have the ability to brush on more of the effect beyond the circle constraints of the filter, or you can remove some of the filter from where it is being applied. With your radial filter selected, choose the “Brush” option from the top of the tool panel. This will give you a brush with the same settings as your radial filter, and allow you to apply the effect freely, without the constraints of the elliptical mask you drew at the beginning.

See Also:
Quick Tips to Make Your Workflow More Efficient in Lightroom Classic
How To Make a Background White in Photoshop
How to Achieve Bokeh Effect

radial filter

By default, the brush will be set to add more of the effect. If you want to remove the effect, choose the “Erase” option, which can be found just above the “Size” sliders in the tool panel.

radial filter

If you are looking to apply effects to a circular or oval part of your image, or only outside of that, and want the effect applied quickly and evenly, then the radial filter tool should be you go-to tool. It is the perfect way to add a subtle vignette and make sure you draw attention to your subject, without having your edits look corny!