luminar 3 review

Luminar 3 Review

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If you’re looking for the best photo editing software and wondering whether Luminar 3 is the right choice for you, this helpful guide should have all the answers for you! We at Cultured Kiwi reviewed Luminar for you, so you can see whether it’s the ideal software for your specific needs. Read on to find out more about Luminar 3’s features and how it compares to the top photo editing software around.

If you want to download a Luminar 3 trial you can click here. We also have partnered to make a deal for you to purchase the software at a discount, click below for a full Luminar 3 download and try it for yourself.

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What Exactly is Luminar 3?

Luminar 3 is the latest edition of the photo editing and digital asset management software created by Skylum Software and launched in December 2018. If you already owned Luminar 2018, you will have received Luminar 3 as a free upgrade. Otherwise, it costs a very reasonable one-time fee of $69.99.

So what’s included, I hear you saying? Well, Skylum designed Luminar 3 to be a stand-alone program incorporating photo-editing software with a digital asset management program – almost a cross between Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. You can use Luminar 3 on both Mac and Windows systems. We’ll dig deeper into the features included in Luminar 3 in the next section.

Luminar Review: The Features

There’s been a lot of hype around Luminar 3, so in this Luminar 3 review, we’re going to show you exactly what you get for your money!

Libraries : The New Digital Asset Management Feature

Libraries, Luminar’s digital asset management system, is an all-new feature that has been long-awaited. But does it live up to the hype? Firstly, Luminar’s library will automatically sync all your folders across all your external and internal hard drives, so you don’t need to go and add them in manually. It makes it a lot easier to sort your photos by date, star rating, color label, favorites, and virtual albums.

One thing that is missing in Luminar’s Libraries is the ability to import all the metadata when you bring your photos in from another DAM like Lightroom. Luminar doesn’t yet let you import or use geotags, IPTC data, keywords, or captions, which is frustrating if you’re used to organizing your images by keyword, for example.

Another minor annoyance when using Luminar’s Libraries function is that you can’t see thumbnails alongside the file name. The mosaic display of the thumbnails itself can feel crowded and be hard on the eye when you’re scanning through your images.

Quick Shortcuts

You can easily find photos you’re looking for in Libraries by using the great shortcuts Luminar 3 has. Choose from Recently Edited, Recently Added, and Quick Edits, or search by the day, month, or year that the photo was taken.

‘Looks’ and Workspaces

Luminar 3 has an impressive and extensive selection of one-click presets that you can use to edit your images. Simple sliders make it really easy for beginners to get a perfect image. You can also take your editing much further too with layers, layer masking, pixel editing and more, all with the powerful tools Luminar gives you. With 45 presets and 67 filters, including Looks such as Street, Essentials, and Landscape, you can create any style of image that you can imagine.

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Artificial Intelligence Features

Skylum has been touting the new AI features that come with Luminar 3, but what exactly do they do? There are two AI functions you can use in Luminar 3, the Accent AI Filter and the AI Sky Enhancer. The Accent AI Filter is a great way to fix your images with just one click. If you’re a beginner who is still learning to manually edit your photos, or you’re just short on time with lots of images to edit, this is a brilliant option to have.

The Accent AI Filter can identify issues even if you’re not sure what the problem with. It can lift shadows, add clarity and boost the contrast. The AI Sky Enhancer does just what its name suggests – it pulls out more of the sky detail automatically to make a visually pleasing photo. These two features are handy little additions to the Luminar app, especially for beginners who need a helping hand while they’re mastering the other features.

While I wouldn’t recommend relying on them to do all the heavy photo-editing for you, it does give you a starting point to work from. Combine the AI features with your own creative editing for the best results.

Sync Adjustment

You’ll love the Sync Adjustment feature if you have hundreds of photos to get through – say, from an event, where you don’t need to painstakingly adjust the slider on each individual photo. What Sync Adjustment allows you to do, is to perfect one image, creating just the look you want by editing it in a certain way. Then you can apply these edits to all the other photos you’ve selected, and Luminar 3 will do the job for you – without applying selective edits such as cropping or erasing. You’ll have your images ready to go in a much shorter time!

Labelling/Star Ratings

You can label your photos with different colors for different categories, to make them easy to sort through and find. You can also assign your best images with the ‘Favorites’ label, or add a star rating, too.

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Skylum Luminar 3 Review: Pros and Cons

The Pros

Now we’ve explored what Luminar has to offer, let’s go over some of the positives and some minor Luminar 3 problems that are worth taking note of. Here’s a quick summary for you:


  • Good all-rounder
  • Quick one-click fixes and automation features
  • Affordable one time payment
  • Powerful editing tools – perfect for professionals who want to create high-quality images
  • Easy to master and pretty intuitive
  • Speedy uploads – even for thousands of files


  • When you open a photo file from the thumbnail, it can take up to 10 seconds to focus – annoying if you have a lot to get through!
  • There are still some Luminar 3 problems and bugs – Skylum is working on improvements for the next update.
  • Luminar adds a new copy of every edit you make to the cache, which can cause space issues if you have a smaller size hard drive.
  • You won’t find any video editing tools in Luminar – it can’t even play video files
  • Unfortunately, you’ll lose all your geotags, captions, and other data such as keywords if you import an existing catalog in from another app.

luminar 3 vs lightroom

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Luminar 3 VS Lightroom

If you’re thinking of investing in a photo editing software, you might be confused about whether to go for Lightroom or Luminar 3. Or maybe you already have Lightroom but you’re tempted to switch to Luminar 3 so you can drop those monthly subscription payments! Let’s explore the differences between these two apps.

Photo Editing: Luminar 3 VS Lightroom

As far as the photo editing capabilities go, Luminar 3 is much more advanced than Lightroom. With Luminar 3, you can make edits on many more areas of your photos to create a unique image, suited to your style. Luminar 3 gives you the power to create multiple layers for any image and change the slider however you like, so you really can do anything you want with your images.

When you use Lightroom, you’ll find that the editing capabilities are more limited. In fact, you’ll probably want to swap over to Photoshop to create your desired look, whereas with Luminar, you can do everything right there in the one program.

Luminar’s Libraries VS Lightroom’s Catalogs

Let’s get on to the Digital Asset Management each program offers. Here, Lightroom trumps Luminar 3 with the sophistication and the intuitive design of their catalogs. With Lightroom, you can add and search by geotags, captions, IPTC data and more, an option you just don’t have with Luminar 3. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re already using a great DAM system. It’s quicker and easier to find your items in Lightroom compared to Luminar 3.

When it comes to organization, I prefer Lightroom. With features like collections which will automatically update according to rules you set, it’s so easy and stress-free to use. You can automate your photo organization to save you precious time. I personally find that the Lightroom thumbnail display is better than the mosaic display that Luminar 3 has.

In Lightroom, you’ll find that there is space around each thumbnail and column, making it easier on the eye. I find that Luminar’s mosaic thumbnail display is harder on the eye, making it harder to focus and find the image you want. In my opinion, changing this display design would be one of the best improvements Skylum could bring in.

Exporting Images: Luminar 3 VS Lightroom

Lightroom also offers better options for exporting your images, such as creating and saving export presets to save you time – for example, if you need to send lots of photos to your clients. Exporting your items can take longer with Luminar 3 and be a slightly more laborious process.


While Lightroom is a subscription service which requires you to pay $9.99 every single month, you can buy Luminar for one affordable fee of $69.99 and then the software is yours forever. This is definitely an attractive offer when you consider how quickly that subscription fee builds up over the years.

Luminar Vs Photoshop

So how dos Luminar 3 compare with Photoshop, then? Photoshop has long been considered the best photo-editing program around, although with many cheaper editions arriving on the market recently, Photoshop has had some fierce competition.

Ease of Use

Photoshop is an advanced, powerful editing program that allows you to edit at pixel details, apply masks, layers, and much more. While it’s pretty amazing what you can do in Photoshop, it does have a very steep learning curve that will have you referring to tutorials and how-to videos for a long time. This is where Luminar 3 is better than Photoshop! Although Luminar can do most of what Photoshop offers, it’s much easier for you to get your head around. You can jump in and get started much quicker than with Photoshop, and it’s a great option for beginners. You don’t have to be an expert to apply an Orton Effect in Luminar 3, for example, and it takes just seconds.

Raw Files

With Photoshop, you have to use another program like Adobe Camera Raw to open and convert your raw files into a format that Photoshop can read. On the other hand, you can do this all quickly and simply within Luminar 3, making the process much smoother.


We’ve mentioned how Luminar 3 has a one-off fee of $69.99, whereas Photoshop is a monthly subscription model. While it does include Lightroom in the deal, you’ll be paying $9.99 every month which soon adds up. If you’re on a budget, Luminar 3 is the obvious choice.

Should You Use Photoshop or Switch to Luminar 3?

When it comes to comparing Luminar vs Photoshop, it really depends on what your needs are. If you have advanced editing needs, you already use Photoshop, and the monthly cost is no problem, you’ll probably want to stick with Photoshop. But if you’re looking for a cheaper, faster option that still offers a lot of power and control to edit your images, switching over to Luminar 3 might be a wise choice!

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On1 Vs Luminar

Although On1 began its life as plugin mini-apps such as the Perfect Portrait app, it’s now a well-respected, stand-alone photo editing software with a one-time fee. In this way, it’s pretty similar to Luminar 3 – so what are the differences?

Here’s a comparison of the two apps – On1 vs Luminar. On1 has both RAW file processing capabilities and offers powerful photo editing options. You get 23 filters, a wide range of photo effects, layers, photo resizing, masking tools and more when you buy On1 Photo RAW – all for one payment of $99.99. It does create beautiful photos and gives you a range of tools to use.

In comparison, Luminar 3 comes at a much cheaper price point – just $69.99. It also has the benefits of a simpler interface and a larger range of looks to choose from, including 67 presets and 45 different filters. Although these are similar programs, Luminar 3 has a slight edge because of its variety of editing options, an easier, intuitive interface, and a lower cost.

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Photo edited with Luminar 3

Who Should Use Luminar 3?

Luminar 3 is ideal for amateurs, hobbyists, and beginner photographers who need basic organization for their images. If you don’t already have your photos stored in a catalog like Lightroom or Mylio, Luminar 3 offers a good basic digital asset management service.

However, if you like to rely on geotags, IPTC data, or keywords, Luminar’s DAM just isn’t going to cut it for you. But that doesn’t mean that Luminar doesn’t have anything to offer for professional photographers. It’s definitely among the best photo editing software out there right now, and the amazing thing is that it’s just a one-time purchase, and you’ve got the software for life.

If you’re on a budget, Luminar 3 just makes sense, because you can create gorgeous, high-quality images without breaking the bank or needing to pay out every month for a subscription. The photo editing features in Luminar 3 really are excellent, allowing you to use layers, looks, layer masking, and really take your photo editing to the next level. Superior to anything you can do in Lightroom, you can get really technical in Luminar 3. That’s not to say that it’s not for beginners, though – the AI features offer you a great way to create decent photos with just one click.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How much does Luminar cost?

$69 for Luminar 3 with free signature looks here: Enter code: KIWI at checkout for $10 off!!

Is Luminar 3 Any Good?

Yes, Luminar 3 is a very good RAW editor that provides an extensive range of tools for developing your images. There is a DAM to manage all of your photos (like Lightroom) and it has a number of powerful filters to make great looking images quickly.

Is Luminar 3 non destructive?

Yes Luminar 3 is 100% Non-destructive
At any time you can revert back to the original image. All edits are live and can be tweaked any number of ways.

Is Luminar better than Lightroom?

Depending on your level of experience with photography Luminar can be better than Lightroom. If you have a large Lightroom library and have been using it for years, then you should stick to lightroom. But if you’re new to photography then Luminar is a great way to understand photo editing and create powerful images quickly.

Does Luminar replace Luminar 2018?

Yes, Luminar 3 with a digital asset management system replaced Luminar 2018 and is a free update on Mac and Windows.

What is Skylum Luminar?

Luminar is a full Lightroom replacement with a photo management system, fantastic interface, auto-correction tools, and impressive effect filters.

Can Luminar replace Lightroom?

Yes, Luminar can replace Lightroom. If you have a large library in Lightroom then it may be difficult but as a second photo editing software with a one-time payment option, it is a very strong competitor.


So there you have our guide to Luminar 3 – an excellent photo editing for everyone from beginners to professionals. If you want a simple but powerful software to edit your photos, as well as quick shortcuts such as AI features and preset Looks to use, it’s well worth buying Luminar. It’s also ideal for anyone wanting to get into photo editing on a budget, thanks to the affordable one-time payment. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Luminar 3 review.

Go ahead and share it on social media if you found it helpful! Let us know what you think of Luminar in the comments, or drop us a question and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Also: Check out our reviews of Aurora HDR, Photolemur and Luminar Flex here.

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