Last updated on June 28th, 2020
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The world of photography gets you outside to capture the most memorable moments. But that’s just one part of the process. The second part is to manage, edit, and then showcase your images. And that’s what this Luminar review is all about. I’ll provide a brief summary of the important features.
What is Luminar?
Luminar is a photography software that helps with image management and photo editing. It’s known for its automatic sky replacement technology, and skin and portrait enhancers. It’s also an alternative to Lightroom and Adobe’s creative cloud monthly membership.
Summary of My Luminar 4 Review
I previously tested the beta version of Luminar 4, but now I have the production version that I’ll continue to review. Skylum is still making updates to the software, so the latest version may look or function differently from this Luminar review.
Luminar 4’s importing process is straightforward:
- Select the folders containing your images.
- The software will scan the folders and add the photos to the library.
The software doesn’t duplicate the images, but rather it points to the images via database.
You can also import images via a SD card by using the Import Images to a Folder option.
Luminar 4 organizes images according to how you organize your files in the backend. All my travel photography that were captured RAW are sorted by country folders.
There are also 3 types of tags that you can apply to your photos:
- favorite or rejected
- star rating
- color label
The tags can be used to sort your images.
Luminar 4 comes with a variety of standard and advanced tools for photographers. I’ll go over some of their advanced tools.
AI Sky Replacement Technology
Photographing landscapes and cityscapes with a dull sky usually doesn’t cut it for many photographers. As a result, sky replacement or sky color grading is a common practice to edit an Instagram-worthy image. But masking can be difficult and time consuming especially when there are detailed objects such as tree branches or city wires.
As a result, Luminar 4 will automatically detect the sky, create a mask, and then you can replace the sky from a list of saved sky photos. Furthermore, relighting is automatically applied: the color of the sky will be applied to the rest of the image.
This feature saves photographers a considerable amount of time because it’s completed in a few seconds.
Of course, the ethics of replacing a sky is up for debate.
AI Augmented Sky
As of version 4.2, Luminar allows photographers to place an object in the sky such as birds or planes. This is a nice-to-have when you want to make your sky look more creative. Read more about the AI Augmented Sky.
AI Skin Enhancer
The skin enhancer automatically detects the blemishes on the face and with one click removes them. It also allows you to adjust the smoothness of the skin using a slider.
Below is an example of the skin enhancer. I simply check marked the AI Skin Defects Removal box for the result without using the skin smoother. If you want to touch-up the face more, then you can adjust the skin smoother slider or use the clone & stamp tool.
This tool allows you to quickly edit your portrait photography. Luminar 4 includes dedicated tools for editing eyes, dark circles, face, eyebrows, lips, and teeth.
Below is an example of the results the portrait enhancer can produce with the above settings. I also used the skin ehancer to smooth out the skin a little bit.
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons:
- combined image management and editing system
- speeds up landscape photography workflow
- speeds up portrait photography workflow
- great for color grading
- supports layers
- spot healing tool is limited
- no straighten tool
- software is still a bit slow
- no customizable interface
Luminar 4 was released on November 18, 2019.
Luminar 4 cost $89. In addition, you can use my Luminar 4 coupon code for a $10 discount: aperlust. The code does not apply to promotions.
I’m a travel photographer and the main hype in this Luminar 4 review is its sky replacement tool. It saves so much time since it doesn’t require any masking.
It’ll also save time for portrait photographers since Luminar 4 has a dedicated section to quickly edit clients’ photos.
But one thing that annoys me is Luminar 4 is a bit slow in showing the preview in real time after I make an adjustment – even a simple adjustment. It’s almost like I’m working with Photoshop filters which is CPU intensive.
Users have also mentioned that Luminar 4 crashes on them. It hasn’t crashed on my Mac, yet. But Skylum does offer a trial version of Luminar 4 in addition to a 30-day money-back guarantee.
You can read some of the Luminar 4 performance issues.
Skylum released Luminar version 4.2.0 on March 19, 2020. It’s supposed to have fixed more bugs and crash issues since the January 4.1.0 update.
Update as of January 16, 2020. Professional photographers and their photography community are still having slow performance issues with Luminar 4. The software is running extremely slow with catalogs of over 20,000 photos. This is occurring on both Mac and Windows systems that are fully optimized (32 GB RAM, SSD hard drive, i7 quad-core CPU).
Update as of March 19, 2020. According to Skylum, the new 4.2.0 version is supposed to have fixed crash-related bugs on both Mac and Windows. I don’t have any crash issues myself. Also, I’m not seeing any professional photographers complaining that their students are having problems at the moment. Let me know in the comments below if you are having issues.
Luminar 4 is a great software for beginning photographers or casual hobbyists. The price is great at less than $100 and you can buy it outright.
If you’re a professional photographer, Luminar 4 will be more of a complement photography software than an all-in-one software. You’ll still need other tools for advanced editing. But Luminar does come with a Lightroom and Photoshop plugin.
Skylum Luminar 4 Major Updates Change Log
How to Update Luminar 4
Mac – Go to the top menu bar then Luminar 4 → Check for Updates.
Windows – Go to the top menu bar then Help → Check for Updates.
Luminar 4.2.0 – March 19, 2020
New AI Augmented Sky
The Luminar 4.2 major update has a new major feature. It’s the AI Augment Sky technology.
This feature allows users to easily place objects in the sky from Luminar’s built-in library or allow users to use their own images.
If you want to add planes or birds in the sky, then it’s no problem. Luminar 4 will automatically detect the sky and foreground, and then place the object in the best possible position.
Users will also be able to move the object around and relight the scene with the tool’s settings.
New Face Features Detection Network
Luminar’s neural network for face detection now allows the software to recognize faces in the most difficult situations for a software. Faces that are at different angles, partially covered, with heavy makeup, or in poor light will now be recognized by Luminar’s AI Skin Enhancer and AI Portrait Enhancer.
New Shine Removal Tool
In the AI Skin Enhancer technology, you’ll find a new tool called shine removal. Use its slider to correct incorrect lighting or shiny faces. The shine removal tool will restore skin where there is excessive light or clipping.
New Slim Face 2.0 Technology
The slim face tool in the AI Portrait Enhancer has been improved. Before it only recognized and slimmed the lower part of the face. Now it will slim the entire face.
Updated Relight Scene
The AI Sky Replacement’s relight scene slider has been improved to better retain original colors that were capture by your camera. In prior versions of Luminar, user may have seen a yellow or unrealistic glow on white objects. The relight scene has been improved to correct this problem.
- Increased speed and efficiency due to improving the ML cache system.
- Corrected an issue where some vertical images were being stretched horizontally.
- Better performance with the lens & geometry, erase, and sky enhancer tools.
- Eliminated color fringing produced in some images when using the free transform or lens distortion tools.
- Dark circles removal technology is now more accurate.
- The DCP profile menu is reactivated in the light tool for macOS 10.12 and 10.13.
- Better stability for the light tool and curves.
- Restored undo/redo commands within the Luminar plugin.
- Corrected an error the caused the split toning slider not to move.
- Better access for Aurora HDR and third-party PSD plugins.
- Fixed occasional crashes when backing up a catalog.
- Added tool performance and stability improvements.
- Better history panel view.
- Corrected difference in date between info tab and gallery view.
- Better gallery previews when changing thumbnail size.
- Better compatibility with EXIF date for CR3 files.
- Resolved crash issues related to filling masks or loading photos with different color profiles.
- Better performance when loading Luminar Looks.
- Popular plugins for Aurora HDR, DxO Nik Collection, and Topaz Labs are now supported.
- Multi-core systems have a boost in view previews.
Luminar 4.1.0 – January 6, 2020
New Atmospheric Haze Tool
The atmospheric haze slider is part of the AI Sky Replacement technology which allows better blending with the masked-in sky. It allows photographers to add haze to the new sky and make it match the foreground.
It is best used when the original image has moisture or visible pollution in the air. Think foggy days or large cities with millions of cars.
The atmospheric haze is different than the dehaze slider which is found in the landscape enhancer technology. Dehaze reduces haze throughout the whole image.
By default, the atmospheric haze slider is set to 0 and is found in the advanced settings of the AI Sky Replacement technology.
Improved Erase Tool Technology
The erase tool has been updated to perform better when removing unwanted objects or spots in an image.
Before the erase tool had a hard time removing an object from an image such as a person without making the image look disfigured. Now the erase tool removes the object without noticeable disfiguration to the surrounding area.
Now you can retouch an image that looks professional and will impress your clients.
The erase tool is found in the canvas tab right between the crop and clone tools.
Improved AI Portrait Enhancer
Now you can edit more images that have faces.
Images where the subject’s face is small or only takes a slight area of the image can still have the face improved with the updated portrait enhancer.
An example of small faces often occurs in group photos, especially group photos that try to get some part of the background into the image. AI Portrait Enhancer will recognize the faces and can be used to boost the group photo.
Updated Adjustments Amount Slider
The adjustments amount slider can be found in the layers tab. It allows photographers to reduce the adjustments to most tools instead of reducing each tool individually.
It works a bit different than the opacity slider since reducing opacity would reveal the erase tool corrections. But the adjustment slider won’t impact the erase tool.
The adjustment slider also doesn’t make any changes to transform options like lens corrections, enlarge eyes, slim face, and the erase tool, which remain unchanged.
Fully Compatible with Photoshop
Luminar 4 can now be fully utilized by Photoshop CC 2020 as a plugin. You can also use the plugin as a smart filter with smart objects. You’ll find the plugin in the Photoshop Filters menu.
Better User Experience with Improved Performance and Stability
Due to user feedback and support requests, the Skylum development team made 17 improvements to the Luminar 4 user experience (UX), stability, and memory management. Furthermore, 53 bugs were fixed which led to crashes or unwanted results.
- Better catalog transfer from Luminar 3 to 4.
- Enhanced histogram which is more compact with a better contrast ratio. It’s easier to view while editing photos.
- History tool is redesigned with an improved interface and larger text.
- Resetting each tool or technology is easier with a larger clickable area for the reset buttons.
- 2 new crop aspect ratio presets have been added: 21:9 and 9:21. These are great for super wide displays or prints.
- Users can cancel the export module while it’s running.
- Better memory management when cycling though edited images.
- Better stability when exiting the clone & stamp or erase tools.
- Users can now re-edit smart objects in Photoshop CC 2020.
- Luminar Looks and previews render faster.
- Better performance while browsing Luminar Looks and switching between image folders.
- Better speed when viewing previews in the gallery view.
- Improved stability when cycling between photos in the filmstrip.
- Preview the black and white clipping while adjusting the black and white sliders by holding down the option key.
- Luminar display handling is improved when a second monitor or projector is connected. Keep in mind Luminar can only run on a single monitor setup or with screen mirroring.
- The sidebar tooltip correctly appears when the mouse hovers over it.
- Corrected SmugMug login issues.
- Better performance of blending modes and layers.
Yes, Luminar 4 is the new version with updated features that are not available in Luminar 3.
Luminar 4 can replace Lightroom for hobbyists and casual photographers. Professional photographers will still require Lightroom.
No, Lightroom is better than Luminar 4. Lightroom is far more superior in performance, image management, image editing, and soft proofing.
The latest version of Luminar costs $89.
No, Luminar 4 is not better than Photoshop. They have some common features but Photoshop is an advanced image editor whereas Luminar 4 is a basic photograph management software with great image editing features.
Right now, the best alternative to Lightroom is Capture One Pro.
Luminar Flex is a plugin between Luminar and other photography software such as Lightroom. It allows photographers to easily make edits in Luminar and re-import the image back to the original host software.
There is not a set date for the release of Luminar 5 at this point. However, Luminar 3 and 4 were released in the fall of 2018 and 2019, respectively. This leads us to believe that Luminar 5 will be released in the fall of 2020.