Radial Filter for your Wildlife Photography
The new radial filter was a great addition to Lightroom and can be used to enhance your wildlife photographs. However, be sure not to overuse it: it is a tool, not an effect!
Lightroom 5 was actually a decent jump from Lightroom 4. This was due to some improvements made under the hood. But on the interface side – not all that much has changed. However, there is one significant new tool which is worth talking about: The Radial Filter.
Similar to the gradient tool (the post version of a Graduated ND), the radial tool allows you to select a region and apply graduated adjustments based on your selection. However, instead of it being across the screen, it resonates from a central point which you select. This can be very handy for wildlife photography as you generally want to draw your viewers eye to a certain point.
How to Radial Filter
Observe the image of a cheetah. It’s nice but not great. There are many distracting elements like the grass in the foreground, the bush and even the vegetation in the background. When you are shooting at F5.6 – you don’t have much control over this. (Unless you get a better lens!) What you want to do is draw your viewer’s eye to the most important part of your shot and not detract from it.
Enter radial filter. This is how we draw our viewer’s eye to the heart of the image – in wildlife photography, this is generally the eye/s. In Lightroom click on the indicated tool to activate the radial filter.
Now make your selection. You want to select in such a way that whatever you want to stand out is completely illuminated. The keyword there was “completely.” This may mean that you have to make a fairly large selection but so be it. You don’t want any important details near the edge of the selection. Now use the sliders to adjust your settings. We will talk about these adjustments a little later.
Tip: Making the Right SelectionWhen making your selection, bear in mind that you are using an ellipse tool – not a circle. This means that you can elongate it (turn it into an oval) and even rotate it – something that works with animals with long faces – eg. Zebras and Horses.
The final image should look similar but have a slightly different feel to it. This is because your adjustments must be subtle – you are drawing your viewers’ eye: not forcing it! This image is still not great but is better than before. In fact, looking at it now – I think I should have brought down the effects a little more in this one. However, for demonstration purposes, it works!
Radial Filter Adjustments
Let’s try another instance. Here we have another distracting image. Not because it has distracting elements, but because there is too much in the scene to absorb. Especially with that hippo’s butt in the background =P
Enter radial filter. Now this time let’s talk about what you want to adjust:
- Exposure, darken what you don’t want very subtly so that the central focus is illuminated, almost as if by a ray of stray light
- Sometimes increasing exposure can work better, but not as often as the converse
- Unsharpen very slightly – don’t overkill this, you are only softening the image: not creating background blur
- That’s it!
You can also decrease clarity and saturation (very slightly) to get the desired look.
Warning: RelianceDon’t become reliant on this tool. It doesn’t work for everything and can detract from an image. This applies to the original graduated filter too.
This image has been overdone and it looks unnatural – generally not what you want with a wildlife shot. If you can see the change in exposure, you have messed it up.
it is a tool, not an effect!
And so, the final image may look the same but is very subtly different. And this difference is what draws your eye to the calf and away from other elements in your shot.
When to Radial Filter
How should you include the radial filter in your workflow? Well initially make it first and play with it. But as you get used to it, push it to the end. Once you have changed your exposure and other local adjustments, you are now looking to perfect the image. This is where you use the filter and make your subject stand out. Additionally, you will notice if your scene gets too underexposed due to the filter.
Tip: Expose for the faceIf your subject is too harshly lit and you want to make the image look more natural then expose for the face. After that use the radial filter in combination with the adjustment brush to fix the rest of the image.
So that’s Adobe Lightroom’s new radial filter for wildlife photography. What are your thoughts on this filter and the new lightroom?