This article is a part of our series Photo Editing in Lightroom 101. Throughout the series we’ll cover the details of Lightroom’s library and develop modules and how you can use Lightroom to improve your own photos. As new articles are published they will be added to this page. If you don’t want to miss future articles in the series, please subscribe to our RSS feed or our email newsletter.
In the previous article we covered the topic of the graduated filter tool in Lightroom, and in this article we’ll cover another tool, the radial filter. As you go through this article you may notice that the radial filter includes many of the same controls and sliders offered by the graduated filter tool, but it works in a much different way.
Like the graduated filter, the radial filter allows you to make changes that will impact certain areas of a photo without impacting other areas. While the graduated filter does this in linear fashion, the radial filter allows you to create an ellipse and edit the area inside or outside of the ellipse. One of the most common uses of the radial filter is creating custom, off-center vignettes.
The vignette settings in Lightroom are quite easy to use, but this only allows you to create a vignette that is perfectly centered. If, for example, your photo includes a subject that is off-centered, the radial filter allows you to create a vignette that will work perfectly for the placement of that object in your composition.
To use the radial filter tool, click the icon near the top right of the develop module, or use the keyboard shortcut “shift + m”.
Now, to use the radial filter you will click at a location on your photo and drag outwards. (If you want the radial to be a perfect circle, hold shift while you’re dragging.)
The radial filter will have a pin at the center. At any point if you want to move the radial you can drag the center pin.
It will also include 4 squares that control the size and shape of the radial. For example, if I want to widen this radial I could click on the right square and drag it outwards.
If you want to rotate or shift the radial, hover your mouse over the circular line (anywhere except on one of the squares) and you’ll see a curved line with two arrowheads. At that point you can use your mouse to rotate the area.
Once you have your radial area defined you can start to make changes to the sliders. By default, the radial filter tool works by making changes to the area outside of the circle. You can see this being demonstrated by making an extreme change to the exposure slider. In the screenshot below I reduced the exposure all the way, and you can see that it impacted the area outside of my radial filter, but did not impact the subject of the photo that is inside of that ellipse.
One of the sliders is for the feather setting. By default it is set at 50. If you reduce the feather to 0 it will give the filter a hard edge.
If you increase the feather to 100 it will give the filter a soft edge with a very gradual transition.
To apply the custom vignette for this sample photo I am going to widen the ellipse by dragging the right square, and I’ll set the exposure to -0.50 to give it a subtle vignette. I’m also using the default setting of 50 for feather.
Now, I want to add another radial filter, so I’ll click on “new”.
With this radial filter I want to impact the area inside of the ellipse, so I’ll check the box for “invert mask”, and I’ll draw the ellipse with the Lighthouse inside of it.
I want to make the lighthouse pop a little, so I’ll bump up the clarity to 60 and the sharpness to 30.
And here is a look at the end result. We added a subtle off-center vignette and boosted the clarity and the sharpness on the lighthouse.
If you don’t want to miss the other articles in this Photo Editing in Lightroom 101 series, please subscribe to our RSS feed or our email newsletter. As new articles are published they will be added to the series page, which will serve as an index for the entire series.