When I started digital photography, I thought Lightroom 2s Vignette tool was the greatest thing. It allowed me to darken the edges of my images and draw attention toward my subject in the center. Trouble was, my subject wasn’t always in the center, and I wanted to be able to place the bright center of the vignette over my subject. Lightroom 5 came along, and finally enabled me to do this with the new Radial Filter. Lets do a vignette, and lets do some other tricks, too.

This article is adapted from our book, Develop Great Images Adobe Photoshop Lightroom available on iTunes and PDF for all devices.


The greatest power of the Radial Filter lies in its subtlety. This image is very simple, so any changes should also be simple and subtle.

Step 1: Open the Radial Filter by pressing SHIFT + M, or click on the icon under the Histogram.

Step 2: Add a gentle emphasis to the light post by clicking on the light post and dragging outward, making an oval (If you hold the shift key while you drag, it will make a perfect circle).

Step 3: Now drag the shadow slider to the left a little bit, maybe -18.


Step 4: Right click on the button for the filter and choose Duplicate. This creates a second filter directly on top of the first, multiplying its effect. In this case, though, I just want a second filter, not the extra shadows intensity.

Radial_fig1cStep 5: If you click on the button and drag a little to one side, you’ll see that there is a second filter button here. set the shadows back to zero by double clicking on the Shadows slider, and increase the Highlights to about 40.


Weve brightened the center of the Radial Filter slightly and darkened the surrounding areas a little bit, leaving a subtle focus on the light post.

Step 6: Click the light switch at the bottom left of the tool palette to toggle the Radial Filter on/off to see the gentle effect.

Spotlight the Details

I led Scott Kelbys World Wide Photo Walk in Lake Oswego, Oregon last year and this is a picture I shot at that time. This auto shop reminded me of my grandpas basement workshop which I would sneak into and explore as a boy, and I thought I might finish the image with that kind of feeling.

Trouble is, this was shot in an open garage on a sunny day, and my grandpas basement just has a few windows letting scattered indirect light through. Ill show you how I used the Radial Filter to make spotlights of detail, as well as the other finishing touches I used to turn a bright garage into a nine year olds memory of grandpas basement shop.


Step 1: First, I use the White Balance dropper on the wall, and darkened the overall exposure in the Basic tab (-1.30) to help the dark basement feeling.


Step 2: Now were ready for the Radial Filter. The filters default setting affects the area outside the drawn circle, but this time well click the Invert Mask button at the bottom of the panel. The filter now affects the inside of the circle you draw, like shining a flash light into your picture.

Step 3: Lets feature the tools and components on this workbench. Click and drag a filter circle or oval onto one of the tools, like the blue machine on the left.

Step 4: Now increase the highlights, shadows, and clarity sliders (35, 35, and 53, respectively). Im not trying to make the whole tool brighter, like the exposure slider would do; I just wanted a little more sheen and glow so it catches the eye.

Step 5: Now, right click on the filter button and choose duplicate. Click on the button and drag it over to another tool or area; you’ll see that you left the original behind, and the same settings are now in the new place.

Radial_fig2bStep 6: Resize the filter to fit, and duplicate it again for each of the tools on the bench. Some get a little more Highlights, some get more shadows. Adjust each filter placement to taste. Im not concerned with them looking the same. I even did an additional filter just for the label on the blue machine.

Step 7: I think its looking pretty good, but Id like to add the feeling that the picture was made long ago, like a memory. Id like to feel like a large format camera made the picture with a selective focus and kind of dark lens on grainy film.

Step 8: Make a new oval shaped filter in the center of the image, this time with the Invert Mask box unchecked. Ive made mine wider than tall. Now set the sharpness down to -100, making a blur on the outside of the oval. This looks good, but its not enough for the nostalgic feel Im after.

Step 9: Right click on the button and choose duplicate to double up the action. Heck, right click again and duplicate once more. Now youve got three buttons stacked on top of each other. If you wanted to adjust them individually, you can click and drag one button a little ways off to reveal the others underneath.


Step 10: Now lets finish off the look of oldness. In the Basic tab, drop saturation to -31.


Step 11: In Split Toning, set the Highlights to Hue 231 and Saturation 29, Balance 28, Shadows to Hue 33 and Saturation 46.


Step 12: Go the Effects tab and set the Grain to Amount 35, Size 71, and Roughness 59.


Step 13: Id like more vignetting right close to the edges, so in Effects set the Post-Crop Vignette to Amount -33, Midpoint 18, Roundness -100, Feather 100.


Step 14: Id like still a little more vignette in a very gentle way. Go to the Lens Corrections tab, in the Manual tab set the Lens Vignetting to -33.


Step 15: Press the backslash key, \ , see a before and after to appreciate the full effect.

Evaluating the Results

If youre like me, youre thinking to yourself, Can’t I just use the Adjustment Brush? Yes, you could do the vignetting and the spot lighting with the Adjustment Brush, and you could get very good results. But it would take more time. Youd have to get the feather set just so, and the flow down to the right setting so that the effect blended well, and then do it again for each area.

Its really much simpler to use the Radial Filter. Combine the vignette and the spot light techniques, and your portraits and landscapes will begin to have a much more masterfully finished appearance.