DevelopLightroom Tips

How to use the Radial Filter to enhance portraits



 Update: I didn’t realize there was a color cast… thanks for the heads up. I am red-green colorblind (Now don’t you feel bad :P) and so I have now converted the images to Black and White which won’t affect the tip, but should make the images easier to handle. I usually have my wife or kids color check things for me… but I forgot to this time. :D 

“When should I use the Radial Filter?”

The answer is as varied as the images you take, but I thought I would give you a tip into how I like to use it to help add punch and drama to a portrait.

The image below is imported into Lightroom with no presets added.

This next image is what it looks like imported with my “Import Sauce” preset from my post last Wednesday. See the difference, if applied during import I am ahead of the game.

import sauce basic settings

Import sauce basic setting

Now the overall image may be just a bit hot in terms of exposure, but I want to add more shadows to shape the image using the Radial Filter and her face is going to be the brightest area, so I like where it is. My first filter is applied as if I am adding a controllable vignette to darken the area around her focusing on her face. I add to that by dropping the Clarity and Sharpness to soften the outer areas as well.

radial tip 1st settings

Notice Sharpness and Clarity are negative to soften the background area

Don’t just think of using the tool for light, but also as a great Shadow tool… darken her upper torso but leave her face alone to give the look as if there is a soft light focusing on her face. With any tool, ask yourself is it faster and more effective to add or subtract from the scene. Since we started with a bright image it makes sense to add shadows… if we start with a dark image we would probably want to add light and highlights. Since you can invert the mask, sometimes you will want to brighten up the face by inverting the mask and increasing the exposure, or as in this case focus on the surrounding areas with the regular mask.

radial tip 2nd settings

Just a little darkening of everything but the face

The final touch I add is using a Radial Filter on each eye to increase the Clarity, Saturation and Sharpness… It helps that she has large round pupils… so I make it easy on myself. I am always looking for the fastest way and if I don’t have to paint I go that route. This is especially true if you are using a mouse or touch pad… radial filters are easier to be precise.

radial tip 3rd settings

Eye tweak settings… flavor to taste

Finally, I want just a touch more vignette to really add drama… no painting, no big fuss… just a couple Radial Filters and finishing touches and I am done in seconds.

When to use Radial Filters? When it is faster and more effective… just need to be creative and understand how it works to get the most out of it.

If you will think of them as lights/shadows and circles of magical editing power, you may come to love them and use them as much as I do. I hope that will give you some ideas of how to play with them more. Have fun!