Last Updated: November 6, 2013
Introduced in Lightroom 5, the Radial Filter is a important new addition to the processing tools available from within Lightroom’s develop module. A great way to create localised enhancements, it offers precise control over specific areas of your images. In this tutorial we’re going to look at how you can get the most out of it.
Below are before and after shots of the image I’m working with, I took this photo in an area popular with skaters on the South Bank in London. You can see the after shot has drawn emphasis on the main subject of the image, so let’s look at how I achieved this.
Working with the radial filter
Once you have an image open in Lightroom’s develop module, select the Radial Filter by pressing Shift M on your keyboard. This brings up the controls shown below.
The settings above are the exact ones I used on this shot, they are mostly self-explanatory if you’re already familiar with Lightroom, but I’ll explain the adjustments I made a little later in this tutorial.
Creating the ellipse
To get started, with the Radial Filter active, simply click and drag on the image to create a rough elliptical shape, this is easily refined afterwards so it doesn’t have to be precise to start with. If you want a perfect circular shape, hold down the shift key whilst dragging.
I want to make the main subject in this image have a little more emphasis, so I need the ellipse to be slightly resized, and moved over the face and centre of the body. To rotate the ellipse just click outside of it and drag, to move the ellipse, you need to click and drag the black centre pin.
Once it’s positioned in place, it’s time to make some adjustments. Note that by default the outside area of the ellipse is affected by the controls, if you want to reverse this and have the interior of your shape affected then check the Invert Mask option at the bottom of the control panel shown earlier. To control the smoothness between the affected/non-affected areas you can use the Transition slider.
To place a little more emphasis on the main subject, I wanted to darken and slightly soften the exterior of my ellipse, so as per the settings I shared earlier, I reduced the exposure and sharpness, brought the shadows right down, and also reduced saturation, this last change makes the shirt colour inside the ellipse pop a little more.
Above you can see the effects of the adjustments I made. I’ve opted for relatively subtle adjustments, you can of course create much more dramatic vignettes by reducing the exposure a lot more. Below is the final shot.
The Radial Filter is a very welcome addition to Lightroom, even if you just used it for off-centre vignettes it’s a great tool, but with the wide range of fine adjustments available it is capable of much more. I should also point out that you can have more than one ellipse per image, so you can be creative with multiple areas of localised adjustments.