How to Use the Radial Filter in Lightroom

The radial filter in Lightroom and Camera Raw is a powerful tool if you know how to use it.

In the latest video from Nigel Danson, he gives us five creative ways to use the radial filter in Lightroom. In case you use Photoshop and Camera Raw, these tips apply there too.

The first tip is to use the radial filter to emulate and emphasize light coming in from the side of your photo.  You can play around with the brightness, highlights, shadows and black sliders, but the key is to reduce the clarity. When you reduce the clarity, you essentially create a local Orton-effect, which softens the local contrast of the area. On top of that, you can add a bit of warmth to the filter too. When you have the wished-for effect, you just place it in a way that looks realistic and adjust the filter to fit the photo. When you have placed the filter, you might have to turn the overall brightness of the photo slightly down.

Another way to use the radial filter is to combine it with the range mask. In one example, Danson applies the radial filter to a photo of himself standing on a rock overlooking a huge vista. In this case, he wants to make himself darker and more of a silhouette figure. By adding the radial filter on top of the figure and reducing the brightness, he also reduces the brightness of the surrounding area. However, by applying a range mask and only target the luminosity range of the silhouette figure, which in this case is the darker tones, he removes the part of the radial filter he does not need.

Check out the video above, and let me know down in the comments if you have more tips for using the radial filter.

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5 Comments

Domeyko Photography's picture

Fantastic. Thank you Nigel.

Alwyn McCalla's picture

Thanks. Very helpful.

Mark Smith's picture

Nigel Danson is always worth watching. Great tips.

EDWIN GENAUX's picture

Nigel more ideas and ways to use. I have been using it with Milky Way edits even for rainbow ones. After using the Graduated filter for the sky temp (a little bluer) the Milky Way colors go away. But encircling the Milky Way you can make the temp a little warmer BUT the kicker is then lower shadows and darks but increase whites and highlights and some plus exposure to pop it more. It is the only way to bring out a Milky Way center even in ground glow lit sky. Milky ways are the hardest due to the magenta on the left but blue on the right of the dark horse nebula with the legs, wings and head of Pegasus needing to be darker and with the snake/shaft streaming to the left needing the stars to be bright but the area around a little dark. Better than using a lot of brushes here and there. And with a pano rainbow Milky Way just duplicate and move and again then use the negative brush for overflow. Just a 30 minute edit vs a couple hours.

David Pavlich's picture

Good video! I thought I knew the uses for the radial filter, but did not know the luminosity mask feature. Gotta' give it a go!