Lightroom Ultimate Guide – Radial Filter

The selective adjustment tools in Lightroom are a powerful collection of editing capabilities. They set Lightroom apart from many of the other photo processing platforms on the market. The Lightroom Radial Filters form part of the selective adjustment arsenal.

This article will walk through how to use Radial Filters in your photo post-processing workflow, as well as a quick look at how to take Radial Filters to the next level using Radial Masks.

Lightroom Radial Filters

Lightroom Radial Filters

Lightroom Radial Filter Panel

You select the Lightroom Radial Filter either by using the short-code SHIFT+M or by clicking on the circular symbol near to the top of the Develop Module window.

By default, when you open the window, it shows the settings that were used for whatever the previous edit you did. As in the example on the left. You can quickly reset the panel by double left-clicking on the text “Effect” at the top of the Radial Filter panel.

To apply a Radial Filter to your image, you left-click and drag directly on your image. You can then start to apply the effects you want.

One of the great features of Radial Filters is that you can apply the full range of edits within the filter, and can stack them. This includes:

  • Temperature
  • White Balance
  • Hue, Saturation & Luminance
  • Sharpness & Noise Reduction

Mode of Application

The other great feature, is that you can apply multiple radial filters to your image. So you can target different areas with multiple effects. When you do apply a Radial Filter to an image, by default, the mode of application is that everything inside the ring is untouched, and everything outside has the effect applied on a gradient moving outwards from the ring. See below.

Lightroom Radial Filters

This is great if for example you want to apply a custom vignette. Or if you want to mask areas towards the edges of the image. However, for many applications you probably want to target the areas inside the circle.

Lightroom allows you to do this using a little radio button at the very bottom of the Radial Filter panel. Its called called “Invert“. Here is the same filter with the invert radio button checked.

Lightroom Radial Filters

The other effect that is worth pointing out is the slider called Feather. It is located right at the bottom of the panel. As its name suggests, changing this, alters the hardness of the gradient towards the edge of the circle. Moving the slider to the right of datum increases the feathering, and to the left decreases it.

Once you have added a Radial Filter to an image, as well as applying effects, you still have the option to move the filter or changing its shape. You can click and drag from the centre pin to move the entire filter position. Additionally, you can click and drag any of the 4 pins around the circumference of the filter to change its shape.

That is pretty much it in terms of adding filters to your image. Once you have changed the effects you want using the sliders in the panel, you click done. Of course, as with all edits in Lightroom, everything is non-destructive. So you can always go back in, and edit or delete the filters should you choose.

Lightroom Radial Filter – Worked Examples

Let’s look at a couple of worked examples. Firstly, a sunset picture. Then, an urban landscape.

Sunset Enhancement using Lightroom Radial Filters

The image illustrated below as a before/after comparison was photographed on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland using a drone. Because the picture was photographed without an ND graduated filter, the drone has done a relatively good job at balancing the exposure, but the sky lacks some of the colour in the highlights that was present.


To achieve this, I applied two separate Radial Filters. Both on the horizon line, and one directly inside the other; around the suns position on the horizon.

Sunset Enhancement
Sunset Enhancement

I applied the same effect to both of the Radial Filters.

Firstly, I raised the Temperature slightly to give a warmer feel. Secondly, I raised the Saturation.

You can see from the before/after, that the resultant effect is quite subtle. It has given a warmer glow to the horizon line, and adds a little more interest to the scene.

In terms of feathering of the effect, I left the Feather slider at its datum. However, I generally tend to set this to 100 to really make the effect subtle, and to avoid over-saturating/processing an image.

Radial Filter Panel

Urban Enhancement using Lightroom Radial Filters

The image illustrated below is a before/after view of Madrid during sunset. The eye is naturally drawn to the left of the image and the brightest building. We can add more interest to the image by brightening some of the other buildings towards the centre of the image, and will help draw the eye in.


To achieve this I applied two Radial Filters. One on the building to the left of centre, and the second on the building to the right of centre. I added 100% feathering to the effect, and raised the Exposure by half a stop.

Urban Enhancement
Urban Enhancement

The resultant effect is very subtle, but just lifts the aesthetics of the image very slightly.

The above two examples only really scratch the surface of some of the creative applications of Lightroom Radial Filters, but has hopefully given a taster of what can be achieved.

Radial Masking

The final section in this article is the use of Radial Masks with a Radial Filter. I will cover this very briefly as we already have an in-depth article on Linear Gradient Masks, the principles of which are exactly the same as Radial Masks.

Lightroom Radial Mask

At the very bottom of the Radial Filter panel, you will see the words Range Mask. Clicking on this brings up the Range Mask options, whereby you can tailor the application of the Radial Filter Effects by either:

  • Color
  • Luminance
  • Depth*

*Noting that Depth is currently (at time of writing) only available on certain iPhone models.

In short, you can apply the Radial Filter effects by selecting specific colours, or by selecting the darkness/brightness (Luminance) areas in your image. Again, for a detailed run-down on these effects, see our article on Linear Gradient Masks.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out some more of our Lightroom Ultimate Guide. Here are some related articles which you may find useful:

Lightroom Graduated Filters
Lightroom Graduated Filters

This article explains the use of Graduated Filters into your digital image workflow.

Lightroom Gradient Masks
Lightroom Gradient Masks

This article explains how to apply a Gradient Mask to your Graduated Filter Effects.

Mastering HSL & Color

The HSL & Color Panels allow you to perform targeted adjustments to specific areas in your photograph for Hue, Saturation & Color optimisation.


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