How to use the Radial Filter Tool

How to use the Radial Filter Tool

Learning Adobe ® Lightroom – The Develop Module

Last month we continued our explorations of the Graduated Filter Tool with some practical examples. Today we will look at the Radial Filter Tool, the last one of the Local Adjustment Tools.

Radial Filter and its Settings

The starting point of the Radial Filter is an elliptical selection. You can change the ellipse’s form into a circle or an almost straight line by dragging on one of the four handles accordingly. However, you cannot create your own shapes with it.

Radial Filter Tool Marked in the Local Adjustments Selection
Radial Filter Tool Marked in the Local Adjustments Selection

Its settings are very similar to the Graduated Filter Tool and only differ by the Inverse Checkbox at the bottom of the Radial Filter Settings, as you can see in the figure below.

Radial Filter Settings
Radial Filter Settings

Initially, Adobe ® Lightbox will not activate this checkbox, so that the area that your other settings are affecting is outside of your ellipse. This behavior may sound counterintuitive at first. However, the Radial Filter Tool is mainly used by Portrait photographers to create a vignette around their subject. So in its primary form, you would want to draw the ellipse around your subject and have the outside fade into a vignette.

Inital Radial Filter Overlay - outside the filter
Inital Radial Filter Overlay – outside the filter

If you, however, activate the Invert checkbox, Adobe ® Lightroom applies your settings to the inside of the ellipse instead. You can see this in the figure below.

Inversed Radial Filter Overlay
Inversed Radial Filter Overlay

Using the Radial Filter Tool in an Example

I rarely take portrait photographs. However, I found a landscape photo that I can improve with the Radial Filter.

Original Photo without using the Radial Filter
Original Photo without using the Radial Filter

In this photo from the South Coast of Iceland near Vík, I would like to brighten the ice on the mountainside without brightening its surroundings.

Unless I would like to erase-brush myself into stupidity, the Graduated Filter won’t help this quest. I could, of course, use the Adjustment Brush to get this done. However, I don’t want to have a visible transition line from the brightened ice to the unchanged sky/sea. This aim is where the feathering of these tools comes in handy. Overall the Radial Filter seems to be a better choice than the Brush Tool, so let’s see how we get on with that.

Creating the initial mask

First, I will draw my ellipse roughly in the area where I am going to need it.

Initial Radial Filter Selection
Initial Radial Filter Selection

As my second step, I adjust the size and shape of the ellipse. My goal is a selection of the mountainside that barely touches the sky and sea.

Adjusted Radial Filter
Adjusted Radial Filter

Turning on the Overlay, by pressing the -key on my keyboard, I can see which areas are affected. Right now, the Overlay covers everything but the mountainside. I already turned the overlay on in the examples above to make it a little easier for you to see where I am drawing my ellipse.

Ups, I better check the Invert checkbox too.

Inverted Radial Filter
Inverted Radial Filter

Selection Mask adjustments

As you can see in the figure above, I am still affecting the sky somewhat with my Overlay. I could use the Range Masks again to change that, but I am instead using the Feathering settings of the Radial Filter Tool. By increasing the feathering a little bit, the sky will be less affected, and the change I will make to the exposure will be less evident as a change made by post-processing.

Radial Filter with more feathering
Radial Filter with more feathering

Settings that will affect the image

Now it is finally time to make the change to the exposure. I am changing the Exposure Slider to +0.22 EV and the Highlights’ Slider to +31. These changes are just brightening the ice slightly, but not so much that it would introduce noise or become noticeable.

Final adjustments to the Selection

As you possibly have seen already, my Overlay is still covering parts of the sky above the mountain range. Since my Settings only make subtle changes to the overall image, I could leave it as is. However, for the sake of this article, I am going to remove the sky from the Selection.

We have looked into using the Range Mask for this purpose before. However, neither the color nor the luminance of that particular area is so distinctively different from those of the ice that I would expect them to be helpful.

That leaves us with using an Erase Brush to deselect these areas. I am therefore clicking on the Brush button in the upper right of the Radial Filter’s Settings Panel to enable the Adjustment Brush.

Brush Tool of the Radial Filter
Brush Tool of the Radial Filter

Note that this is a button in the Settings Panel of the Radial Filter, which also exists for the Graduated Filter, not the Adjustment Brush Tool itself.

If you were to click on the Adjustment Brush Tool instead, you would not be able to modify the Radial Filter’s Overlay. You would only be able to add new modifications and alter these. Therefore, it is crucial to use the Brush button, which can change the Overlay’s shape of the Radial Filter.

Once I have clicked on the Brush button, my Settings Panel looks like the Adjustment’s Brush Settings Panel – to make matters slightly more confusing. However, I can still see the Overlay that I created with the Radial Filter Tool on top of my photograph.

Radial Filter with Brush Tool activated
Radial Filter with Brush Tool activated

Since I want to remove areas from the Overlay, I am enabling an Erase brush and activate the Auto Mask checkbox to avoid too many errors.

How to recover from errors with the erase brush

I use a slightly feathered Erase brush to ensure that it won’t make a significant impact if I delete a little too much from my Selection. Additionally, I will use the 100% view and only create smaller brush strokes, so that I can easily recover from errors.

First brush stroke

Now I just add more and more brush strokes to erase the changes that the Radial Filter would make to the sky.

Let’s assume that I accidentally added a final erase brush right through the ice. Of course, it will be visible in the final image. The History Panel on the left side of Adobe ® Lightroom gives me a chance to undo such changes efficiently. However, to make good use of it, I prefer using shorter brush strokes so that a recovery will not set me back too far.

Photo with a glitch in the edit
Photo with a glitch in the edit

Whenever I drag the brush too far into the mountainside, I stop and click on the second History step from the top to undo my changes. If I start brushing over an area again, the former top level in the History gets replaced with the new stroke, and the error vanishes. Should it have been the final step that went too far, I activate the second last step in the History and open the context menu, from which I will then chose “Clear History Above this Step” to undo my changes. Of course, you could also use / from your keyboard for this last option.

History Panel with the last "correct" step marked
History Panel with the last “correct” step marked
Final version of the image
Final version of the image

You can, of course, also use the History Panel to check your photo from before and after you made some changes. However, we’ll dive deeper into the History Panel and its options in a later article of this series.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Next time we’ll use all three of the Local Adjustment Tools to create and enhance a Black and White Image in Adobe ® Lightroom.



All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

I am in no way affiliated with any of the products used in this post-processing process. I do not receive any kind of compensation for this article, it was neither offered or asked for.

THIS BLOG ARTICLE “Welcome to September 2021″ IS NOT AUTHORIZED, ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY ADOBE SYSTEMS INCORPORATED, PUBLISHER OF ADOBE ® LIGHTROOM

All photos taken by Lille Ulven Photography/Wiebke Schröder.

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