Going Circular With The Lightroom Radial Filter
August 6, 2013
2 comment

In the land of Lightroom 5, somewhere between the mountains of the graduated filter and the shores of the adjustment brush, lies the fresh fields of the radial filter.

In previous versions of Lightroom, the main tools for applying localized adjustments were the graduated filter, which was useful for applying adjustments linearly, and the adjustment brush, which provided a way to free-hand adjustments. What has always been missing was a way to apply a circular adjustment with a gradient. You could apply a graduated vignette radially, but without the ability to set where the center should be; the center was always the center of your image. For other adjustments, you had to either hand-paint the effect with the adjustment brush or jump over to Photoshop.

The concept of a radial filter isn’t radical or new: define a circular shape and ease an adjustment from the center of the shape out.

Lightroom Fanatic - Radial Filter

Lightroom Fanatic – Radial Filter

In the image above, the X is the origin of the effect. The green circle represents the bounds of the effect, inside of which the effect can be feathered outward to the edges. The blue represents the areas of the image to which the effect is completely applied.

Let’s see what that looks like inside of Lightroom. First, select the Radial Filter tool by clicking on the tool icon or by using the shortcut ⇧+M. The familiar adjustment panel will appear that allows you to select what effect you want to apply.

Lightroom Fanatic - Radial Filter Tool

Lightroom Fanatic – Radial Filter Tool

For the purpose of illustration, I’m going to apply a heavy exposure adjustment to this image. To start, I drew the bounds of my adjustment by clicking where I wanted the center of my circle to be and dragging outward. You can tweak the shape by grabbing one of the boxes on the outline, and you can rotate the shape by placing your mouse pointer just outside the line and clicking and dragging your mouse.

Hold the shift key to keep the shape constrained to a circle.

 

Lightroom Fanatic - Exposure Radial Filter

Lightroom Fanatic – Exposure Radial Filter

With the filter applied, you can see that inside the circle the effect is graduated towards the bounds of the shape, and everything outside the shape has the effect applied. By default, Lightroom uses a feather value of 50 to ease the effect outward.

Using the Feather slider, you can tweak how Lightroom eases the effect, or whether it eases it at all. In the image below, a feather value of 0 causes a harsh transition of the effect at the border of the shape.

Lightroom Fanatic - Radial Filter - No Feathering

Lightroom Fanatic – Radial Filter – No Feathering

Changing the feather value to 100 starts easing the transition from closer to the center of the shape.

Lightroom Fanatic - Radial Filter - Max Feathering

Lightroom Fanatic – Radial Filter – Max Feathering

You can also invert the effect of the mask. So instead of applying an effect from the center of the circle outward, you can apply an effect from the outside in. To invert the mask, click on the Invert Mask checkbox or hit .

Lightroom Fanatic - Radial Filter - Invert Mask

Lightroom Fanatic – Radial Filter – Invert Mask

Of course, just like the graduated filter and the adjustment brush, you have full control over the adjustment you want to apply, and you can tweak the adjustment afterward by selecting the pin for the adjustment and changing the settings in the panel.

Lightroom Fanatic - Radial Filter

Lightroom Fanatic – Radial Filter

Whether to blur a background or highlight a subject, radial filters have always been a key component to my creative workflow. With radial filters now in Lightroom, there is one less reason to need to switch to another tool to achieve my vision.

 

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There are 2 comments

  • Dolores says:

    Sorry, I put NA in Website box and the question didn’t post. My question is this: Whether I check the checkbox for invert filter, or not, changes I make to the radial filter affects the entire image. This didn’t happen at first, but is a recent development. What is wrong?

    • dave says:

      Hi, Dolores. I’m assuming you mean the “Invert Mask” checkbox? I just went in to LR 5, clicked the radial filter, and drew a circle with an exposure drop and everything outside the circle was dark, everything inside the circle was normal. I clicked “Invert Mask” and everything inside the circle was dark, everything outside was normal. I did the same on a few additional filters and the behavior repeated. Are you sure you have the filter selected when you’re changing the sliders, and that the sliders are the filter sliders and not the Basic tab sliders?