The Lightroom Radial Filter tool is new in Lightroom 5, and it can quickly transform the appearance of your pictures.

You use it to create an elliptical shape which protects the centre of the image and changes the appearance of the outer areas. It might sound like a glorified vignette tool for drawing attention to the focal point of your picture, but that’s just a simple example. You can be a lot more creative than this, and I’m going to use it to change the whole feel of this picture.

Lightroom Radial Filter tool

This is the ‘before’ shot. I’ve already boosted the saturation and clarity of this harbour scene, but the lighting is boringly neutral and lacks character.

01 The Radial Filter tool

Lightroom Radial Filter tool

You’ll find this at the top of the tools panel in the Develop module – I’ve circled it in red. You select the tool and drag on the image to create an elliptical shape. At first it’ll be horizontal or vertical, depending on how you’ve drawn the ellipse, but there are control handles for adjusting the shape – and if you move the mouse pointer just outside the edge you can change the angle. I’ve rotated it slightly here so that the filter slants across the image at an angle.

02 Reducing the exposure

Lightroom Radial Filter tool

I want the Radial Filter shape to be longer still, so I’ve dragged both edge handles as far as I can out of the frame.

When a Radial Filter is selected, its adjustment settings are displayed in the filter panel in the right sidebar. I’ve dragged the Exposure value right down to near zero, and you can see how the edges of the picture have become darker while the centre is protected.

This is a nice vignette effect, but I want to modify the colours too…

03 Adding a colour

Lightroom Radial Filter tool

Down at the bottom of the filter adjustment panel is a colour swatch – you can click this to bring up a colour picker where you can select a tint from the five buttons along the top or choose a colour manually with the colour picker below. I’ve gone for a solid red (circled), and you can see how this has added a warm red tinge to the outer areas of the picture.

This is much closer to the warm sunset effect I’m trying to achieve, but there’s another little trick which will help me finish it off.

04 Changing the colours globally

Lightroom Radial Filter tool

I’ve closed the filter tools panel and I’ve gone back to the Basic adjustment tab to adjust the while balance, pushing the Temperature slider to the right to warm up the image as a whole. This gives a nice ‘sunset glow’ to the whole picture.

05 The finished picture

Lightroom Radial Filter tool

This is only one example of what you can do with the Radial Filter when you start using the controls a little more imaginatively. It can be used to add a controllable vignette to your pictures, but it can also be used to re-light and re-colour the whole scene.

See also

More Lightroom tutorials