When used gently Photoshop Lightroom’s Radial Filter is a fantastic way to highlight important circular elements in your composition and to keep your viewer’s vision focused in on your subject. In this lesson, I demonstrate how to use the Radial Filter to add light to a critical foreground element in a landscape photograph and how to use this tool to add more life into my subject’s face in a portrait.
Lightroom’s Radial Filter controls are very similar to the sliders that I covered in our Graduated Filter Basics Tutorial. The big difference between these tools though is that the Radial Filter creates small circular adjustments whereas the changes that the Graduated Filter creates stretch all the way across your image.
Photoshop Lightroom’s Radial Filter is a three-step tool:
- Once the Radial Filter tool is active make some rough changes to the sliders but do not expect to see any results yet. I generally change the Exposure slider to plus or minus one setting on my first pass. My goal here is not to make the perfect change on this pass but rather to pick some settings that will clearly illustrate where my new Radial Filter is working.
- Click on your image to position a new Radial Filter adjustment. By default, this filter’s changes will happen outside of the gray circle. You can reverse where the filter is working by clicking the Invert Mask option. Click and drag the center pin to reposition the Radial Filter then expand or contract the effected area.
- Return to the Radial Filter controls panel on the right side of the screen to refine the exposure, the saturation, etc., until you are happy with the position, shape, and strength of your new filter.
There are also some secret keyboard shortcuts that make working with Lightroom’s Radial Filter more efficient.
- Hold down the Shift key as you drag out the Radial Filter to create perfectly circular adjustments.
- Hold down the Alt (Windows) / Alt Option (Mac) key to scale one side of the Radial Filter at a time without changing its overall position. This is helpful when you want to cover elliptical area rather than a perfect circle. Holding down the Alt / Option key allows you to scale one side of the filter at a time.
- Hold down Control + Alt (Windows) or Command + Alt Option (Mac) and double click on the pin that marks the center of an existing Radial Filter to duplicate the existing filter. I demonstrate one way to use this trick at the end of today’s full video tutorial.
- Double clicking the mouse with the Command (Mac) / Control (Windows) key held down will create a new Radial Filter that automatically scales itself to fit as close as possible to the edges of your image. This can be a useful starting point when you want to create a soft vignette around the center of the image.
Remember that you should not turn to tools like the Radial Filter, or the Graduated Filter, until you have done everything that you can to improve the overall image using Lightroom’s global image enhancement controls. In our workflow, we always want to make our global changes before turning to more specialized tools like the Radial Filter.