How to use the Lightroom Radial Tool- Lightroom Tutorial

Alright, you have just completed a session and uploaded all your images into Lightroom.  The portraits look stunning and you cant wait to dive into the editing process.  As you glide through your photos you may notice parts of an image could use a boost.  You have a ton of Lightroom tools available.  However, you may be missing one that could really give them that wow factor your seeking.  In this Lightroom tutorial, we will go over that odd little circle referred to as the Radial Tool.

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Every so often you will come across an image that needs a little something.  Perhaps your image just needs a little touch to make the subject really pop off the background.  This is when the Lightroom Radial Tool can truly transform your images.  The funny thing is, some photographers don’t even touch this tool.  However, this little feature in Lightroom can have a big impact on your work flow.

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So here we have a cutie pie from a family photo session.  The image is adorable and his smile is genuine.  (He was giggling at the fart noises Dad was making.  Way to go Dad!)  For this workflow, I used my Dreamy Portraits Preset #1 to begin.

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This preset addressed all the lighting, skin and sharpening aspects of the image in an instant.  So nice!  Now, the image looks good even now and I would say I’m happy with it as is.  However, using the radial Lightroom tool, we can make the subject really stand out.


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Simply Click on the funky little circle next to the brush tool.  This will give your cursor the ability to select an area of the image in a circle formation.

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Select an area around the subject or wherever it is you would like to make a change.  For this image, the little boy is looking good and we don’t want to alter his edit.  Therefore, un-check the “Invert Mask” box.  This will prompt the radial tool to only make changes outside your selected circular area.

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Now you have the ability to alter the space around your radial selection.

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For example, here we have two images with exposure altered by the radial tool.  As you can see the exposure is heightened in the areas all around the subject in the first photo.  However, our subject is unchanged.  Same goes for the next image.  The exposure is brought down in areas all around our radial selection.

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As you can see there alone, you have some serious power packing in this little Lightroom Tool.

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For this Lightroom tutorial, the final result is a slight increase in exposure, a hint of contrast, deepening of shadows, decrease in clarity and heightened highlights.   These are simple adjustments and all made on the radius outside of the selected area.  Feel free to play with the temp, tint and other options listed under the Radial Lightroom Tool.

lightroom tutorial and free preset

Once the radial tool has been used, one last adjustment for white balance is made and boom, we have the final image.  Here is a before and after to see the effect this Lightroom tool had.  I have found the Radial Tool to be quite useful in situation where the white balance is off in the background.  While you may have your subject perfectly color corrected, there are instances where the background is too cool or warm compared to the subject.  This is a great opportunity for you to whip out that nifty Radial Lightroom tool and easily adjust the background without affecting your subject.

Now, it’s time to tackle this tool like a boss and dive into Lightroom for yourself.  Open up your Adobe Lightroom Program and see for yourself just how the Radial Lightroom tool can help you transform your own images.



lightroom presets free portraits



How to Use the Lightroom Tool, Radial Filter- Lightroom tutorial and Free Lightroom Preset for portraits. Limited time Lightroom Preset giveaway! Grab yours now!

11 Replies to “How to use the Lightroom Radial Tool- Lightroom Tutorial”

  1. Oh boy, I’ve been thinking of getting lightroom, but have been scared! You broke everything down nice and easy though, so maybe I’ll give it a shot!

    1. Thank you! Glad to hear I’ve inspired some Lightroom play time ;). I just love learning new ways to make our photos pop!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this tip! I am just starting to learn lightroom and all of its amazing capabilities, and I realize how much I have left to learn!

    1. Yes, Lightroom is BIG tool! I remember when I first opened it I was so intimidated. I still learn something new everyday!

    1. Happy to hear its of some use. I was shocked at its potential once I got the knack for it.

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