#CreativeFriday – A practical use of Lightroom 5’s Radial Filter.

Whilst on a recent Photography trip to India, a good friend of mine Frank Smith showed me how he uses the Lightroom 5 radial filter to edit his photographs, with Frank’s permission, I wanted to share this technique with you.

The original image is a simple scene with a street tea seller in Gujarat. To get this image in to shape there are a few elements I would like to  fix (this is pretty much the standard procedure for most of my images within Lightroom), here are the items that need fixing :-

  • The lens that I used for this image does have a small amount of pin cushioning and may include some vignetting which is typical for most lenses in the market.
  • The image isn’t square to the frame (notice the post on the right hand side).
  • The arm on the right hand side is a little distracting. I’m planning to crop the image using the the original aspect ratio. This crop will also reduce the gap between the top of the tea makers head and the top edge of the frame (I’ll just need to be careful not to crop this to tight). It will also allow area of emptiness on the top right to be reduced as well. I have decided to keep the gap on the left, as I quite like the gap, it helps orient the viewer and gives them more information to where this scene might be (but not too much to distract from the main image). The rest of the scene is of secondary importance , but gives the viewer more information of the work area of the tea seller.
  • The histogram is a little into the shadows, so I’ll just need to re-balance the image.


The lens that i used for this image does have a small amount of pin cushioning and possibly some vignetting.

This problem can be fixed quickly, by using the “Lens Corrections” panel in Lightroom. Under the Basic tab, i’ll turn on the “Enable Profile Corrections” check box. This retrieves the camera and lens combination from the images meta data and applies the correct corrections to the image (within the Red box below). Adobe work with the Camera and Lens manufacturers and profile the lens/body combinations.

The image isn’t square to the frame (notice the post on the left hand side).

To fix the verticals and horizontals I try to just use the AUTO button on the upright tab (within the Red box below). The AUTO button fixes most items, but you may need to experiment with a little. The results will be highly dependent on the contents of the image that you are working with. The Upright technology is helped by a having the “Enable profile corrections turned on”, as this will make sure that any pin cushioning is corrected, but is not mandatory or dependent on this being enabled. Don’t forget that if you need to, you can also fine tune the corrections to the Upright adjustments by using the manual distortion sliders on the manual tab.

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You can see that in the following example, the profile corrections and the upright feature have completely fixed the areas of concern (without any additional work).


The crop tool is available under the histogram (marked Red below), it’s attributes are available within the Yellow marked area.

I tend to use the crop overlay when cropping, I find it helps me position the elements in the right place within the scene for maximum impact and strength. This particular view option suggests that elements on the curve will be in the best position to drive the eye in the scene and if done well will keep the viewer in the frame. There are other options that you can select (i.e. rule of thirds), by choosing the menu item Tools / Crop Guide Overlay or by pressing the O key (shift and O will rotate the overlay).

For this image, my crop will keep the bright area of the scene intact (reducing this area places the image off balance). I just place the right hand side of the crop just to the start of the arm and am careful not to crop into the head and to keep the fingers in the frame.

I have selected the “As shot” aspect ratio and turned the lock on, this ensures that the aspect ratio is kept during the cropping process.

N.B. The upright adjustment will reset the crop, so perform the crop after the Upright adjustments have been made.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 09.37.46

I find hands and fingers particularly important, in this case they are hidden behind the bench, the crop i am employing will show the viewer this is happening, but I’ll try to never intentionally crop into the hand or fingers, if they are in the frame (It’s become a habit after having had so many portfolio reviews with one of my teachers John Isaac (you can see some of John’s work here, )).

The histogram is a little into the shadows, so I’ll just need to re-balance the image.

The image below is exposed correctly for the scene. However, If the image is too dark and underexposed i’ll use the exposure slider.

The Highlights slider is used below to reduce the amount of highlights in the image, or to reconstruct any highlight values that have been partially clipped in the original shot. In this particular image, the bright area may even be to distracting. I feel that once the viewers eye recognises the bright area, all the viewer will see is the bright light. To overcome this, I might use the highlights attribute on the gradient filter to darken it, otherwise, if there isn’t any data left in the white area, I may re-adjust the crop decision.

The shadows slider is used to open up and reveal more shadow detail in the image. In this image, the upper right hand side of the scene has more details to show, these details can be used to give the viewer more information about the environment.

In this image, the white point is almost at the edge of clipping to pure white. I’ll move the white point to the right, and set it to just before the clipping indicators appear in the image. The clipping indicators are turned on by enabling the highlight and shadow clipping on the histogram (marked in red). These can be enabled individually by clicking on the appropriate one (shadows – left, highlights – right) or by pressing the ‘J’ key within the Development module. Once the whites slider is moved to the right, any clipping areas (i.e. pure white has been reached and there is no data to display), will be shown using a red mask. I’ll try not to have any pure white areas in the scene, as it can be quite distracting.

The blacks are a different story, i’ll always clip to pure black, this will add contrast to the image and can be used to keep the viewer into the frame. I will be extra careful to keep additional details unclipped, if it’s needed to provide the viewer with more information about the scene. I’ll use the blacks to keep the viewer in the frame, in this case it’s like an edge burn that will stop the viewer from slipping out of the image. If the crop overlay is anything to go by, the eye will come in from the bottom left, then will come in to the image, and the black area in the top right, will help guide the viewers eye around to the tea seller. Once the viewer’s eye has left the seller, the eye will come around the to dark areas and back to the seller (well that’s the theory anyway 😉 ).

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 09.55.23

There are many ways Ligthroom can be used to darken the area of brightness. In this example I’ll use the Gradient tool (marked Red below), and bring it in from outside of the frame to the cover the area that needs fixing, then add a slight tilt to the filter so that it’ll be  harder to see by the viewer once the image has been published. In this instance the the exposure slider on the gradient filter won’t have any effect as there is no data to modify in the brightest highlight area. However, using the highlights slider will enable me to recover the highlights (utilising the other RGB channels) and allow me to darken the area naturally (within the yellow area).

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.23.29

The light on the persons shirt is good, but maybe need a little more exposure. However, the face is a little dark on both sides (even though the contrast difference between the left and right side is ok).

I could use the adjustment brush, but actually a faster method (and the way that Frank approaches the problem) is to use the radial filter and use an inverted mask.

I select the radial filter (marked Yellow below). and I just draw it over the persons face (marked Red), i’ve then rotated the filter to allow it to cover the area properly. Then adjust the Shadows slider to recover and open up the shadows (it’s not as heavy handed as the exposure adjustment). By default the adjustment will be made outside of the radial filter, by clicking on the “Invert Mask” (Marked green). This will make the changes inside the radial filter, and effect the face only. I also have the feather command to blend the fix into the area.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.39.08

I can also see the before and after effect, by turning off the effect using the switch within the area marked purple (this applies to any panel, expect the Basic panel).

I can apply the same process to the person shirt and adjust the exposure slightly.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.58.38

(You can turn off the shadown/highlight clipping by pressing the ‘J’ key, or by clicking on the highlight shadow indicators within the histogram).

You can now see the before and after images by clicking the Y/Y button (Before/After Left/Right selected from the drop down arrow).

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 11.02.12


This (depending on the split selection) will show the two images. I have reduced the brightness of the hud around the images, but pressing the L key once. Pressing the ‘L’ key once more, will hide the hud of Lightroom completely, pressed once more with reveal the hud. It’s a very slight change, but enough to show the tea maker and inform the viewer of what’s happening.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 11.06.59


You can see the final result in Lightroom by pressing the ‘F’ key


Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 11.01.37



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