Learn the Full Power of Lightroom's Radial Filter Tool

Lightroom's Radial Filter Tool is one of the most useful local adjustment features in the program, allowing you to easily mask in a wide range of changes. While most of us are aware of its utility, this great video provides a few tips and subtler features you might not be aware of.

I personally love the Radial Filter tool. I use it to draw attention to the subject in environmental portraits or event and wedding shots, the feathering making it easy to subtly mask in a light vignette that doesn't look corny. It turns out that the Radial Filter tool is far more useful and versatile than just adding exposure-based vignettes. In addition to using it to mask in white balance adjustments, clarity, saturation, sharpness, and more, you can create any elliptical shape, extend beyond the boundaries of the canvas, create a full-size vignette with one click, and even use it in tandem with the Brush Tool to erase away areas of undesired adjustment. I'll frequently use this trick with musician portraits by using a small radial filter to draw attention to their face and instrument, then erasing away the borders of their instrument to keep it nice and bright. 

[via Shutter Bug]

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Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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One thing that irks me about masking in LR is that only the radial filter has the option to invert the mask. This pisses me off to no end. ALL of the masking tools, and ESPECIALLY the adjustment brush, need the option to invert. I once posted about this glaring omission in the Adobe forum, and not only did an Adobe rep not respond, but I got was a bunch of lackeys defending Adobe and telling me all I have to do is paint the entire live area and then erase the spot I want unaffected. Unbelievable.

Interesting thought, but I can't think of any instance where I thought I wish I could do that. Can you provide an example of how you would use that?

Anytime you want to affect everything except certain areas. You can do this anytime in Photoshop with any mask or selection, which I have been doing so for years in Photoshop. In LR for instance, you could paint an irregular surface area, perhaps even using the auto mask feature if it is helpful. Now flip it to affect everything around it. This is standard operational procedure in Photoshop.

100% agree, you need to be able to invert the selection.

It's crazy this feature isn't in photoshop. Sure we have vector masks, but I haven't found a way to easily adjust them like in LR.

I'm not sure if they have added it to Photoshop but another original LR only feature is the real time preview when using the spot removal tool. I only wish the selections could be rotated and mirrored, like you could do in Apple's Aperture Patch(?) tool.

You can make various gradient masks in Photoshop. Simply go into Quickmask mode (hotkey Q) and choose the gradient tool (hotkey G) and make a gradient. The Gradient tool shares it's place on the Toolbar with the Bucket tool, so you may have to click and hold on you Bucket tool icon to switch over to the Gradient tool. You can make a linear, radial, angle, mirrored, and diamond shaped gradient. You can see your gradient options in the screen grab I made below.

To modify the gradient once made, you can use the Transform tool (Control/Command-T) to scale, skew, rotate, distort, and warp your gradient (or any) mask. You can use your brushes to add or subtract areas fully or partially, and you can use your clone, lasso, marquee and magic wand tools to add or subtract from your mask. You can also Control/Command-I to invert the entire mask, a glaring omission in masking in Lightroom in other than the gradient tool.

Masking in Photoshop is a far more sophisticated and superior process than the crude masking tools in Lightroom and Capture One.

I definitely gradient mask it up, but I'm talking about creating a dedicated VECTOR mask tool that has all the convenience of LR's radial filter.

Considering the masking capabilities you have in Photoshop, I personally don't see a need for it. It's quite crude actually.

It's faster, requires fewer inputs, and doesn't bloat up the file with a layer mask. That's enough reason, even if it doesn't suit your purposes.

It wouldn't be faster at all, and data still needs to be processed and rendered through it, so no less bloat. I can make a radial mask in Photoshop faster than I can in Lightroom. However although Adobe might just ignore you, and they tend to do to most end-users, you can put it in as a feature request.

Agreed; it was marginally interesting, although I don't think I learned '...the Full Power of Lightroom's Radial Filter Tool' as suggested in the title. In fact this only illustrated how to set and modify the mask.

Actually, that's all there is. Everything is simply a matter of what you want to do with the mask once you've made it. That's your choice, and why you made it in the first place. Masking in Raw processors like Lightroom and Capture One is a very crude process.

...except, for example, duplicating the mask and inverting it - giving you three 'layers' of adjustment i) master ii) inner and iii) outer. I could go on... :-)

Well then, go on. :-)

...Using the alt-drag to adjust the radial handles independently...

Maybe you should make a tutorial video then. ;-)

Now therein lies a plan. :-)