Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5’s new Radial Filter tool is a great way to create off-center vignettes and spotlight important areas of your image. The Radial Filter behaves much like Photoshop Lightroom’s traditional Graduated Filter but, unlike the Graduated Filter, its effects are circular or elliptical, allowing us to create local adjustments with a circular mask and a feathered falloff zone.
The Radial Filter is a three-step tool:
- Once the 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 is not to make the perfect change on this pass, but just to pick a setting that will clearly illustrate where the 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 this so that the filter is targeted to the area within the elliptical edge marker by clicking the Invert Mask option. Click and drag the center pin to reposition the Radial Filter. Tips: Holding down the Shift key while dragging will keep the Radial Filter’s area perfectly circular. Hold the Alt / Option key to scale the Filter from one side. This is helpful when you want an elliptical shape rather than a circle. Double clicking with the Command (Mac) / Control (PC) key held down will automatically scale the bounding ellipse to fit as close as possible to the edges of your image.
- Return to the Radial Filter controls panel on the right side of the screen to refine exposure, saturation, etc., once you are happy with the position and shape of your new filter.
Using the Radial Filter to spotlight an important element in your composition
The Radial Filter is a great way to draw the viewer’s eye towards your favorite part of the image. It is always worth remembering that our viewer’s eyes will be inherently drawn to the brightest, warmest, sharpest, or most saturated area of our image. When fine tuning an image, use tools like the Radial Filter or Local Adjustment Brush to draw your viewer’s eye towards your subject and push it away from less important elements within the frame.
Using the Radial Filter to create a custom edge vignette
For years, black and white photographers have used vignetted corners to draw their viewer’s attention in towards the center of their frame because the human eye is drawn towards lighter regions and driven away from darker zones. For many years, we have used the Post Crop Vignette tool in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to accomplish this, but the new Radial Filter gives us an even better way to customize and control our vignetted corner effects.
Bonus Trick: Hold the Command + Alt / Option keys (Mac) or Control + Alt keys (PC) and drag the active Radial Filter’s pin to duplicate and reposition.