How to use the Radial filter to save your photo

Isaac took photos of me the other day because… head shots! I’m not always the best at remembering to update photos of myself but I’m determined to get in front of the camera and change that this year.

I want my little ones to have photos of our family from this time in our life and that means that I need to let someone else be behind the camera every now and then!

I just wanted some photos of me sitting on the couch: a few with the kids and a few without. Here are a few photos that we came up with…

That last one of me holding my two babes? Be still my heart.

Okay. Moving on. ;)

The best Lightroom filter for Light & Airy photos

Use this filter in Lightroom and make your photo light and airy

We shot these at the very end of a very rainy day in our living room. It’s an open floor plan and there are windows on the opposite side of the house, but when it’s raining like that, you really only get natural light from the window.

I knew it was going to be a stretch to shoot, but I needed to go ahead and get the images up. So we made it work and this photo was the before…

How to save your light and airy photos in Lightroom

Haha! Yeah, not exactly what you think of when you’re wanting a new light and airy head shot, right? But you’ve got to do what you've got to do and I’m going to walk you through exactly what I did to turn this one around using a Lightroom filter that I only pull out every now and then!

Step One: apply the 10 second edit

When I’m dealing with a tricky image, I go through and do a 10 second edit with the Light and Airy Preset Suite. This gives me the cleanest edit while still giving me a really great starting point for a really bad image. If you don’t have the preset suite, you can just go through and apply your normal edits.

The 10 second editing system lets you mix and match presets from different groups inside the suite. On low-lit images like this where the shadows are underexposed and tend to look a bit grungy, I like to use the L&A cool skin tones preset from step 7. It helps level the playing field between the highlights and the shadows when you’re dealing with the color.

Save your light and airy photo with this Lightroom filter

Light and Airy Photo Recipe

Edited with the Light & Airy Preset Suite

LA 1: Light & Airy Basic
LA 2: Fuji Film
LA 3: Restore Whites Max
LA 4: Brightest
LA 5: Contrast - Medium
LA 6: Temp - Cool
LA 7: Skin Tone - Cool
LA 8 Saturation - Muted
LA 9: Low Grain

Because you can mix and match the different groups, you just click each of the presets to get the look. This helps me so much when I need a customized look for a client or event. And if I’m dealing with tricky images? Well, well. This system is my go-to.

Step Two: Make minor adjustments

Before I tell you about this filter that I use on extremely tricky images, we’ve got to tackle the fact that my exposure and temperature are still way off! The exposure, temperature, and tint will make or break the entire edit. 

You can have a great image, but if these areas are off, then it won’t work. You can even have the best presets ever (ahem, L&A all the way, ahem) and if these three areas aren’t right, then your edit won’t be either.

So the first thing I did was go in and and brighten the image.

Save your light and airy photo with this filter_0003.jpg

Then I brought up the temperature and then the tint. If my image feels off, I always tackle the exposure first and then dive into the temp and tint. 


I’m looking at my histogram the whole time so that I can read it and really understand what’s going on in the image. 

Step 03: Apply the game-changing filter

We are going to flip the lighting… literally. I don’t use this edit very often because I think a little bit of work in advance — shooting in well-lit areas, etc — can go a long way. I also don’t want to be stuck fiddling with adjustments and wishing that I had just changed that one thing to make the edit a little cleaner.

I would still suggest getting it right in camera. But for those times when it’s been raining all day and you have one window and you’re dealing with a space that is the exact opposite of illuminated, navigate over to the develop module (where you just did your 10 second edit), and then right above the “basic” editing section, you will see this…

If you still can’t find it, it’s right below the histogram and right above the temp and tint sliders. 

Step 04: Draw a circle

Click the “Radial Filter” or hold down “Shift” and “M” at the same time. This will open the secret filter that will turn your light around.

Use this Lightroom filter to make your photos light and airy

Next, you’re going to “draw” a circle. You can just put your mouse on the image and click + drag. Once you release your click, you’ll have your circle. If you need to draw a perfect circle, you can hold down shift while you click + drag on the image.

Step 05: Size the filter

In the original photo, my face was really the only thing that was illuminated. Thanks to my lack of tanning, and fair complexion, I can really get this look anytime I want! Haha! 

Go ahead and size the radial filter to fit around your subject. Because I was going to use this image as a head shot, I tilted the filter so that the adjustments would be precise.

L&A Pro Tip: Make sure that the radial filter has a little “white space” around your subject. This will make sure that the hair on your subject doesn’t start to fade out (which would look totally off and unnatural). This is what my filter ended up looking like...


Step 06: Apply your adjustments

The adjustments that you make with the radial filter will only effect what is on the outside of the circle you drew. 

I needed a brighter space since the window light was only affecting my face. I also needed to increase the highlights, lower the contrast, and lower the blacks. I like to bring the contrast down and trade them out for richer blacks when I can. It creates a softer image with richer color. 

The possibilities with this filter are really endless. If you had a flash issue during a reception, this would be so helpful. Basically any time that you have “pin lighting” and you need lighting that’s a little more even, this Lightroom filter is your BFF.

Save your light and airy photo with this filter_0015.jpg

Step 07: Adjust the temp, tint and exposure again

I don’t like an image that looks overly warm, but I still like warm skin tones. Again, I just looked at my histogram to see how warm I could make the image without yellow or “warmth” taking over. I do the same thing with the tint!

Save your light and airy photo with this filter_0016.jpg

Step 08: Check your before and after

Go ahead and pat yourself on the back! Photos like this can be so hard to edit and they definitely take a little bit of practice. You don’t want to go overboard with your adjustments or it the image will look strange, but even small adjustments will make a big impact when you’re starting out with a tricky image!

Click the before and after view, breathe deep and share away!

Save your light and airy photo with this filter_0017.jpg
Use this filter in Lightroom and make your photo light and airy.jpg

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