- The Accent AI Filter - Using one simple filter, you can drastically alter how your images look.
- A Huge Collection of Presets - Luminar's presets make quick work of editing images in a way that enhances their look. There are tons of filters you can use as well.
- Customizable Panels - If you're a portrait photographer, you can customize the workspace so that only the portrait panels are on-screen. You can do the same for landscapes. It creates a much less cluttered and easy-to-use space.
- Room for Growth - Luminar manages to cater to every type of photographer from those that are brand-new to those that are grizzled veterans. It's truly a program that can grow with you as your skills expand and your needs change.
- Lifetime License - Who doesn't like to save money?!
- Opening new images and batches of images
- Redo and revert (as well as a list of changes in the History)
- Zoom-in and out buttons with drop-down presets of common zoom levels
- Before and after, show and hide, and split-screen tools for making image comparisons
- Common tools like transform, clone stamp, eraser, and crop
- Exporting options
- Essential Filters - Basic adjustment tools like Tone, Structure, Saturation, Vignette, and Black and White. Also included is the excellent Accent AI filter that applies about a dozen different effects to the shot at the same time.
- Issue Fixers - These filters seek to address problems related to things like sharpness, haze, and noise. Tools include Denoise, Clarity, Sharpening, Dehaze, and Foliage Enhancer, just to name a few.
- Creative Filters - The most robust set of filters in Luminar, these tools are designed to let your creativity run wild. Included in the Creative Filters are adjustments for Cross Processing, Split Toning, Hue Shift, Warmth, and Brilliance, among others. Also included are special effects like Soft Glow, Fog, Radiance, Sun Rays, and Soft Focus.
- Professional Filters - As you'd expect, these tools cater to pros that need to adjust color balance, HSL, curves, mix channels, dodge and burn, and so forth.
- Utility Filters - These filters give you further ability to enhance your images with things like adjustable gradients, top and bottom lighting adjustments, bi-color toning, and brightness/contrast adjustments.
If you're not familiar with Skylum's Luminar software, you need to be.
I've been using Luminar for a few months now, and I honestly can't imagine my workflow without it.
In short, it's an intuitive image editor with powerful, innovative tools that have allowed me to take my photos to the next level.
Below, I offer the results of my months-long, real-world test of Luminar 2018.
What is Luminar?
The Luminar editing screen. At the bottom, you can see just a few of the presets that are available. To the right is the editing workspace.
Luminar is a high-powered RAW photo editor that was first introduced a couple of years ago by Macphun (which is now called Skylum).
Skylum is responsible for the much-loved Aurora HDR, an app for HDR imaging that has received its fair share of accolades.
Like Aurora HDR, Luminar was originally released for the MacOS ecosystem but is now available for Windows machines as well.
Luminar has a beautiful UI with a workspace that's smartly organized and intuitive to use.
The Luminar interface is clean and well-organized, with an intuitive layout that makes editing images a faster, easier process.
It has all the basic tools you'd expect for cropping, adjusting colors, exposure controls, saturation, vibrance, and so on. But for me, Luminar's value is in its easy-to-use filters (more on that later).
It's also important to note that unlike other products, Luminar has no monthly fees.
What are the Best Features of Luminar?
The Accent AI Filter gives you the power to apply about a dozen quick edits to your image at once.
If I had to break it down into the top five best features of Luminar, I'd have to go with the following:
Is Luminar Easy to Use?
Using Luminar is a breeze, particularly if you utilize the presets. My favorite preset? For me, “Abandoned Place” just rocks and brings such a healthy blend of grit, sharpness, and all that other cool post-processing magic with it.
In a word, yes, Luminar is easy to use.
This program can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be.
On the one hand, if you need to tackle a few quick edits, just pop your image into the program, apply one of the awesome presets, save and export the image, and you're done. You can literally edit a photo in a couple of minutes. The crazy thing is that your photos won't look like they were edited in short order.
You can apply presets to a single image or to multiple images all at the same time, and adding filters and presets is non-destructive, too.
Using customizable panels like the Landscape workspace helps keep things uncluttered.
But don't think that Luminar isn't capable of being a high-powered editor.
There are dozens of filters you can use to enhance your image, each of which has multiple sliders to fine-tune how the filter is applied to the image.
You can add layers, use masking tools, work on contrast, highlights, shadows, and make other detailed edits as well.
What's more, as noted above, using customizable panels helps keep the workspace uncluttered.
Above, you can see the Landscape workspace with just a few of the tools available for enhancing your landscape photos. There's workspaces for portraits, black and white, and street photography as well.
Regardless of which approach you take - quick and easy with presets or a deep-dive into detailed photo editing - Luminar manages to keep itself uncluttered, intuitive, and easy to use.
In short, it's fun to use, easy to be productive, and never confusing.
Can You Customize the Luminar Workspace?
For the ultimate control over your edits, you can create a custom Luminar workspace.
For more advanced photographers, Luminar offers the ability to customize the workspace to meet your specific needs.
On the one hand, if you're a landscape photographer and want to add your own filters to the existing Landscape workspace, you can do so quickly and easily.
On the other hand, if you want the ultimate in control, you can also create fully customized workspaces.
Editor's Tip: Luminar 3 with libraries is available for pre-order. Get your copy now and save $10.
A Quick Visual Tour of Luminar
The top toolbar offers quick and easy access to commonly-used features.
At the top of the editing window is a toolbar that houses the bulk of tools and utilities you'll use. That includes:
Luminar allows you to work in non-destructive layers.
On the right side of the screen are the tool panels for processing image files.
That includes buttons for toggling the Histogram, Layers, and Image Information on and off.
The image's layers are displayed below the histogram with options for adding or removing layers, changing blending modes or opacity, merging layers, and so forth.
You can also add Adjustment Layers, Stamped Layers, and apply a Mask to any layer.
The workspace on the right side of the editing screen gives you a quick look at the adjustments you've made to your photos.
The workspace below the Layers Panel is where you'll see all the adjustments you've made to the image.
As noted earlier, there are workspaces for landscapes, portraiture, street photography, and black and white. Also available are Professional, Quick & Awesome, Essentials, and Aerial Photography.
Each workspace has its own filters and tools that make quick work of editing specific types of images.
The Professional Workspace is loaded for bear with all the tools needed to make professional image edits.
For example, the Professional Workspace has, as you might have guessed, all the tools pros need to edit images. This includes curves and HSL, Dehaze and Raw Develop, a Polarizing Filter, among others.
Need to make quick edits? The Quick & Awesome Workspace in Luminar gives you all the tools you need.
If the Professional Workspace is a bit too much for you, the Quick & Awesome workspace offers a more basic - yet still highly effective - set of tools that includes Luminar's excellent Accent AI Filter, saturation and vibrance, and clarity adjustments.
Use pre-defined presets to enhance your images or create your own custom presets for a more personalized touch.
At the bottom of the editing window is a carousel of image presets.
There are tons of different presets that you can use and fine-tune for your images for quick editing.
Luminar also smartly includes the ability to save your own presets by combining different filters, should you desire.
How Good are Luminar's Filters?
With dozens of filters available for use, Luminar maximizes your ability to get creative.
Don't let the word "filters" - which many associate with rubbish Instagram filters - fool you.
Luminar's filters are high-powered adjustments that run the gamut from basic image editing tools to creative adjustments that allow you to experiment and add special effects.
The filters are parceled into five different categories for easier navigation:
Polarizing Filter in Luminar
The polarizing filter in Luminar works beautifully for adding more definition to clouds and minimizing haze.
I wanted to discuss the Polarizing Filter in Luminar separately because it was such a pleasant surprise when I found it in the Issue Fixers set of filters.
I've preached for years that digitizing the effects of a polarizing filter simply doesn't work. Well, that's changed...
In the photo above of my son, you can see the clouds on the right have a more ominous look and depth to them.
What's more, the mountains in the back have more color and tone thanks to the effectiveness of the filter.
It's hard to describe just how well this thing works, but bravo Skylum for finally giving us an effective digital polarizing filter!
Luminar AI Sky Enhancer
The innovative AI Sky Enhancer works like a charm to add drama and detail to the sky without impacting the rest of the image.
Another feature that deserves some recognition on its own is one of the coolest new features in Luminar - the AI Sky Enhancer.
In short, the creative folks over at Skylum created artificial intelligence that identifies and targets only the sky portion of your image, adding drama and detail in a quick and easy-to-use slider.
Seriously how cool is that?!
The best part about this is that it doesn’t touch the rest of the photo, only the sky.
I tested it on the image above because if you look at the top of the battleship, there are canons and wires where the sky is broken up, and it worked like a charm.
Lightroom vs. Luminar
Could Luminar be better than Lightroom?
If you were to ask me this earlier this year, I would have said no because Lightroom has the catalog.
But as of this writing, Luminar 3 is on pre-order, and it has libraries! Holy smokes!!
Luminar has done it - they have created something that is nothing short of extraordinary, and now, in my opinion, it's a better option than Lightroom.
Final Thoughts: Luminar 2018 Review
Luminar has managed to create an editor that is robust, easy-to-use, intuitive, and fun.
I've had a good deal of time to work in Luminar, and I have to say that it's more powerful, more feature-rich, and more responsive than I could have hoped.
It's clean UI, customizable workspaces, and abundance of tools really does give you the ability to enhance and edit your images quickly and easily. It's just plain fun to use as well!
As noted earlier, the presets and filters in Luminar have to be among its best features. Whether you have just minutes for quick edits or you need to really dig deep and fine-tune the image from a macro level, Luminar has the tools to help you do so.
The learning curve is minimal, but the results you can generate are out-of-this-world. That's a great combination if you ask me!