How many different uses are there for Lightroom’s Radial Filter?  I certainly don’t know but decided to share 5 Cool Adjustments using Lightroom’s Radial Filter today. For anyone who has never used Lightroom’s Radial Filter, be sure to also check out myIntro to Lightroom’s Radial Filter.

1.  Classic Vignette Exposure Adjustment with the Radial Filter:

 This adjustment is likely the most popular use for the radial filter and applies the filter in a manner that darkens the edges of an image. What makes the radial filter such a great tool for creating classic vignettes is the user’s capability to change it’s shape to suit the needs of a particular image. 

In this photo of a waterlily an off center vignette was employed instead of the typical center focused vignette to darken all areas outside the lily. 

 

2.  Image Exposure Adjustment by Inverting the Radial Filter

Unlike the first example, the Radial Filter is now inverted so that all adjustments impact areas inside the filter.

Ducks:

This redheaded duck needed a slight bit of light on his head and neck.  The following adjustments were made:

Look closely at his head and neck and you will see how the above adjustment brightened the shadows. Oh, I also slightly darkened the surrounding waters.

Before and After

Redhead ducks are a diving bird with a cinnamon colored head, a black chest and a grey body. The bird is also called a Red-headed duck.

Trees

Next again an inverted Radial Filter was applied to brighten a small section of a cypress tree close to it’s base.  The result of the adjustment has the front trees standing out a bit from the surrounding trees to add a bit of mystic to the image.  

3. Blur the Background Filter Adjustments:

Now let’s look at what happens when the above image of the trees receives a different radial filter adjustment.  Note that this time filter is applied without being inverted so as to impact the edges of the image. 

Adjustment that:

    • Reduces contrast substantially
    • Removes all sharpening
    • Reduces Clarity substantially

Let’s look at another example of using the Radial Filter to blur a background.

Horseshoe Bend

Below is the classic image of a desert southwest iconic location.

Now let’s assume we want to focus the viewer’s eye into the bend in the Colorado River. Because this image is perfectly sharp from foreground to background, the texture in the rocky ledges distracts the viewer from the river bend a bit.  

Yes, I have done something unconventional with the radial filter by blurring the background of a landscape. I also lowered exposure a bit and realize some  viewers will not like the following image due to the blurry background. However it illustrates a good but often overlooked use of the radial filter to alter sharpness in an image in the same manner as changing aperture in the field would accomplish. It also transforms the image into a bit of a dreamscape.

4. Selective Temperature Adjustments:

Mr. Bison

There are times when targeted temperature adjustments to select areas of a photo can transform the feeling of an image.  In the following image, the setting sun was so low in the sky that Mr. Bison no longer received any direct sunlight. In fact the poor old bison looked like he was out in the cold.  Since it was the dead of summer that did not work.  It was time to warm up Mr. Bison. 

Factors for my adjustment:

  • I wanted to keep the feeling of the setting sun and impending cool light of night on the background.
  • The sunlight should only shine on the grasses and bison. 

A radial filter was applied to everything but the sky areas and inverted.  A temperature adjustment of 11 was made to the areas.  Also another adjustment was made to the trees and background using a slight bit of dehaze. 

 

Change the Time of Day

I was driving in rural Idaho on my way to run an errand when I encountered this barn. There was just one problem, it was the middle of the day and the light was terrible.  So I took the shoot hoping for the best but had to revert to plan B.

Plan B- I applied two radial filters to the barn photo; the first filter simply darkened the areas surrounding the barn.  However, the second radial filter was applied as inverted to affect mainly the barn and foreground grasses by substantially warming the temperature to replicate a time of day closer to sunrise or sunset. 

5. Turn the Lights On

In the next image I literally needed to turn a light on to help a vertigree lantern standout from a building on Jekyll Island.  To accomplish this, I created a radial filter inside the lantern and increased the exposure by 1 1/2 stops and also warmed the temperature up by 6.

Before and After

Combining Adjustments

Columbine

When I took the following columbine photo I underexposed the background and used fill flash to illuminate the flower.   A few leaves, however, were so close to the flower that the effects of the flash reached them which I found to be distracting.

To reduce the impact of these distracting leaves, I made the following combination of adjustments. Note that all my adjustments were made outside the elliptical shape. 

      • The exposure was reduced by 1.1
      • The sharpness was reduced by 9 to blur the leaves
      • The clarity was reduced by 12 to blur the leaves

Before and After Comparison

Cattle Egret

In the following image a cattle egret was perched on a cluster of branches and surrounded by other nesting birds.  Although the branch provided a reference point for the egret’s habitat, I found it to be too busy and brightly colored.  Also directly behind the egret’s head was a light orange streak from another bird. Despite all it’s issues, I liked the way the egret was posed and wanted to try and salvage the image.  

To fix the problems I applied a radial filter with the following combination of adjustments to the area outside the shape.

  •  Desaturated everything but the egret by 30.  
  •  Darkened the area outside the bird by 1 stop
  •  Blurred the foreground foliage by reducing clarity and sharpness.

Before:

After 

A Cattle Egret on a tree limb where hundreds of birds were nesting at Wakadochatee Wetlands.

Well I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to employ the power of the radial filter in your workflow besides the simply vignette. So my challenge to each of you is to find your own creative ways to use the wonderful capabilities of Lightroom’s Radial Filter to enhance your images.  I look forward to seeing what uses you come up with.

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