3 Uses for the Radial Filter Tool in Lightroom


One of the most powerful new tools in Lightroom is the Radial Filter tool. Here are a few examples of how you can use this tool creatively inside your workflow to help draw attention to your subjects. If you don’t have Lightroom, you can use multiple graduated filters to draw attention, but it’s not as easy, and the results can be hit or miss.

#1 – Off-center vignetting (beginner tip)

Let’s face it, Lightroom’s post-crop vignette leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you want your vignetting effect to be applied a bit off-center, allowing you to draw focus towards your subject.

Let’s look at an example and see how the radial filter tool compares to the post crop vignetting effect of old.


Original photo with no effect


Post-crop vignette applied

With the post-crop vignetting tool what you’ll immediately notice is that the effect occurs out from the midpoint of the frame ,and there is no way to off-set this midpoint so that you would be able to have a more customized effect.

Enter the Radial Filter Tool…


To apply a Radial Filter press Shift+M on your keyboard or select the circular icon below the histogram. This will open up a drop down filled with a handful of sliders. If you’re familiar with Lightroom’s other filters this won’t seem all that foreign to you. To add a filter to your image click and drag it into your image. You don’t have to worry about sizing it properly right away as you can always resize, move, and rotate it later within the image.

Applying the vignetting effect is going to depend a lot on your own style and the image you are processing, but the three sliders that you will want to typically play around with are: exposure, highlights and shadows. In the photograph above, a strong vignette was applied by dropping both the exposure and highlight sliders down, but the shadows slider was raised slightly to compensate for the drop in the other two just a bit. With that said, this is something that you’ll want to play around with on your own images and find out what works for them and your own personal taste.

#2 – Adding highlights and brightness to draw attention (mid-level tip)

While adding your standard vignette is all fun and great, there’s more power to this tool than that, so let’s step it up a notch and take a look at another way you can draw attention to your subject with a Radial Filter.

Take this rather boring photograph that I snapped while on a hike through the forest for example.


By applying a Radial Filter and some other Basic Tab modifications I was able to liven the shot up quite a bit and draw attention to the large tree that had caught my eye while on the hike.


To achieve this result you’ll want to once again add a Radial Filter to your image, but this time make sure you check the “Invert Mask” checkbox. This checkbox allows the effect of the filter to be applied from the middle of the filter instead of from the edges of the image.

Again, this is another area where artistic choice is left wide open, but you can see how the tool is more powerful than simply a vignette effect creator. You have the power to control more than just the brightness of the edges of your frame, as seen above, where there are contrast and temperature adjustments happening inside this filter allowing for a more dramatic look.

#3 – Stacking multiple radial filters for more dynamic results (advanced tip)

Finally, once you’ve mastered one radial filter, you might try stacking more than one filter to create even more dynamic results. To add a second filter to an image simply click “New” and then click and drag within your image as you’ve done before. Each filter can be controlled and selected individually by clicking on its respective dot (gray for unselected, black for selected). By having individual control over each radial filter you can really start to draw your viewer’s eye where you want it to go.

As an example, let’s look at where I left off on the hummingbird photograph from earlier.


The original radial filter does a nice job of darkening the sides of the photograph and applying a fairly generic vignetting effect to the photo, but what else can be done?


By applying a second radial filter to the image and using the invert feature that I talked about above, I’m able to add a small bright point right at the meeting of the bird’s beak and the flower.

What creative ways have you used the Radial Filter Tool?

Have you had time to play around with the new Radial Filter tool yet? What other creative ways can you think of using it? Share below in the comments section.

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John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro an online community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. Join today! John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos. This course covers the most important techniques you need to learn when getting started with photography.

  • kso721

    info as succinct as this are exactly why i subscribe to this site. this is up front and relevant insight. worth it’s weight in gold. thumbs up.

  • Barry E Warren

    Light room 5 is tough to get a hang of, Thank for the info. Its been all trial and error for me so far. But I trying to get the hang of LR5

  • Julie

    I love this post!

  • netalexpg

    Used about 10 filters in this image to get the lighting to my liking.

    original uploaded

  • netalexpg

    actually 26 filters now that I count them

  • Dennis Zito

    Hey Barry,

    Drop by Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom Killer Tips blog. All kinds of info and videos on LR 5. Lightroomkillertips.com Also, you might stop by Kelbyone.com and check it out. Lots of good stuff!


  • Barry E Warren

    Thanks Dennis for the info. I’ll check them both out.

  • Phogropathy

    Wow impressive!

  • Mog

    I never even thought of using the radial filter like this. I’m going diving through my photo sets now to see if there’s anything I can use this one. Thanks for the awesome tip!

  • Mog

    That is really impressive. I love how rich the textures are and the way the golds shine. Excellently done.

  • Llaup Ecraep

    ANY body ever use windows photo viewer i use it most of the times thats simple enough for me to use quit fast aswell none of that balava in lightroom or photo shop for me thanks

  • jake

    That is some amazing filters. Really love how you were able to darken the last picture so the focus naturally shift towards the bird.

    I also managed to make a collection of 50 free Lightroom presets like this which you can find right here:

    You can then try to play around with it yourself.

  • Martin Schiffer

    I am a big fan of the radial filter. I use it to put more emphasis on the subject by reducing brightness, sharpness and sometimes even saturation of the background.

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