Luminar 4 Review – Our Skylum Luminar Review (vs. Lightroom)
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While Photoshop and Lightroom have always been the go-to image editing programs for photographers, times are changing. Adobe’s costly subscription model has pushed photographers to look for other options, and Skylum has been quick to respond and create an impressive alternative – their flagship program, Luminar 4.
Luminar 4, the latest edition, is currently for order at a discounted price. It was released on November 18th, 2019, so now is the right time to buy it and save some money!
If you’re considering switching from Lightroom to Luminar 4, or you’re wondering whether to upgrade from Luminar 3 to the latest edition, read on. Skylum was kind enough to send me an advance copy of the software so I could review it out and share my thoughts with you all! Here’s everything you need to know about this unique software in our in-depth Luminar 4 Review.
What is Luminar 4?
Luminar 4 is a superb photo editor that allows you to edit your images manually and with clever new AI tools, too. You can use it as a standalone program for all your image post-processing needs, or you can run it as a plugin within Photoshop or Lightroom. It’s suitable for both Mac and Windows.
The people at Skylum have worked hard to make Luminar 4 a competitive standalone photo editor, including a full digital asset management system and extensive tools. But what draws most users to this software are the amazing Artificial Intelligence tools and features included that make image manipulating quick and easy, with breathtaking results.
While Luminar 3 did have some AI features, they has really levelled up with the latest edition (especially the sky AI). Now, you can harness fantastic tools to create beautiful landscapes, portraits with flawless skin, and even switch out the sky – all with the touch of a button.
Luminar 4 usually costs $89, with a bundle of instant looks. Right now, however, you can get this brilliant software at a special low price and a $10 discount using the code “KIWI” at checkout.
Luminar 4 Review: Features and Benefits
So what does this software have to offer exactly? Here’s a review on all the tools and features included in Skylum’s latest edition, so you can decide whether to invest or not.
In Luminar 4, the interface and window is much tidier and easier to navigate. You’ll see 6 different toolbars, including:
- Canvas: Here, you’ll find your basic editing functions like erasing, cropping, and transforming.
- Essentials: This toolbar holds all your colour and tone correction tools as well as AI Structure, Denoise, Details Enhancer, and Landscape Enhancer.
- Creative: If you like to get creative with your shots, you’ll love this toolbar. Here’s where the AI Sky Replacement is located, as well as the Sunrays tool, Texture Overlay, and Color Styles.
- Layers: If you want to edit in layers, you’ll need to use this toolbar.
- Portrait: For all your portrait processing needs, including the AI Skin Enhancer and Portrait Enhancer.
- Pro: This toolbar includes the most advanced editing tools, from gradient tools and split toning to advanced colour and contrast controls.
As well as rearranging the tools and making them easier to find depending on what adjustments you want to make, these people have made some small but essential changes. They have increased the font size, added more white space between buttons, and made the sliders larger. The result is a simple interface and a smooth workflow, reducing clutter and visual distractions for an improved user experience.
Just like Lightroom, Luminar is a non-destructive image editor. This means that it will save all your changes within the program, allowing you to go back to a previous version if you don’t like the results of your edits. A great time saver.
Another advantage is that you can make some changes and close down Luminar, safe in the knowledge that it will save your edits. Then, you can come back and continue at a later date.
A lot of users rave about the AI tools, but that’s not all that this software has to offer. You can edit in layers within Luminar 4, allowing you to take control and really get granular in your photography. It’s possible to apply several layers on top of each other to achieve exactly the look you’re after.
One layer for the skin adjustments, one for the sky, then you can combine and layer the images before making any masking adjustments to the fine details.
Lightroom doesn’t offer this function, so it’s a big positive for Luminar. You can also use it within Lightroom to allow you to edit in layers, which isn’t ordinarily possible. This feature alone makes it worth investing in Luminar version 4!
When taking images, there’s always the risk of lens distortion, no matter what camera or lens you use. It’s almost impossible to completely remove the risk of vignetting, chromatic distortion, or bevel effects, but you can fix them in the post-processing stage.
While this tool isn’t ready just yet, Skylum will launch a Lens Auto-Correction tool in their upcoming free upgrades to Luminar 4. We can’t wait to see how well this handy tool will reduce lens issues automatically and improve your shots as a result.
One-Click Looks (Presets)
Skylum Luminar 4 includes more than 70 free Looks (aka presets), which you can use to enhance your photography for an instant result. Choose from seven different categories covering a range of photographic styles from landscape to portrait photography, and control the intensity with a simple slider. Made to save a lot of time.
There have been a few minor updates to the DAM system within Luminar 4. The library is one area that could do with a bit more work to compete against Lightroom’s photo management system, but the new updates are welcome. The main difference is that the Library looks much tidier and neater than it used to be.
We were also pleased to hear that soon, you will be able to edit your image metadata to add keywords, captions, and more. This update is due to hit in early 2020, and should make it much more straightforward to search for a specific image.
RAW File Processing
As with all the other Luminar editions, you can process RAW files directly in Luminar version 4. You can import and edit all your shots and then easily export them. This is an essential feature for most pro photographers.
Artificial Intelligence Tools
We’ve covered the main features that Luminar 4 has to offer, but I’ve been saving the best until last. Skylum has been spearheading the development of exciting AI technology that is unavailable anywhere else! These powerful skin and sky replacement tools require just a click of a button, with simple sliders allowing you to adjust the edited images and set the intensity of the filters. Saving you a ton of time.
The AI tools rely on smart machine learning technology, so the more photos that Luminar processes, the more advanced the program will become. While the current tools are already incredibly powerful, we expect to see even greater things from them in future updates.
So let’s find out exactly what these AI tools can do for your images:
AI Sky Replacement
The AI Sky Replacement tool is what’s got everyone raving about Luminar 4, from loyal fans to new users. This tool works by completely removing the sky from your image and replacing it with a more attractive sky. The app includes a range of skies to choose from, but a great feature is the possibility to upload your own skies. In this way, you can replicate a certain aesthetic or create an entirely unique photo by just replacing the sky.
The possibilities are endless with this exciting new sky feature. You’re shooting a wedding, but the weather won’t co-operate and you end up with a miserable, grey background? Just swap it out for a beautiful blue sky! If you’re dabbling in nature photography and want to give your image that extra pop, add in a sunset sky scene to liven things up.
The only drawbacks are that the sun needs to be in the right place in the sky to make sure that any shadows in your image match up. Make sure to check this out first, or you’ll end up with an unsettling image. The Sky Replacement tool can’t replace skies reflected in water or buildings yet, either. If you’re replacing the sky in an image that contains a reflection, you’ll need to edit the reflection manually to get a natural-looking result.
This feature is particularly impressive because nothing else on the market can replace skies in such a seamless manner. Every little detail, such as the gaps between trees or around the outline of a person, is filled in a natural and convincing way.
Landscape and portrait photographers will love to use AI Structure for their image edit process! This feature allows you to add sharpness to an image without actually increasing the sharpness. Sounds confusing, but let me explain! The algorithm achieves this by adding more detail in the background and adjusting the contrast, but without any offputting halos or extra noise.
AI Structure works both ways, allowing you to make your shot more in focus or blurry depending on your vision for the image. Just toggle the Boost and Amount sliders up and down until you get the required effect. This tool is particularly useful for shooting nature photography or animals in the wild.
AI Skin & Portrait Enhancer
Portrait photographers will rejoice when they find out about this exciting new feature. Both the Skin Enhancer and Portrait Enhancer are effective and powerful, and you have a lot of control over the end result.
The Skin Enhancer will automatically smooth out skin and remove any skin blemishes in your portrait shots, speeding up the process. You’ll need to make a lot less manual skin adjustments after running this cool feature!
The Portrait Enhancer goes even further. It will take care of issues like teeth whitening, brightening eyes, slimming faces, removing dark skin around the eye and red eye from your image. You have the final say over how polished vs. natural you want your image to be, but it saves you lots of time and energy if you had to do all the work yourself!
If you do a lot of portrait photography, agonising over skin details this is the perfect software to use. You’ll be wowed by the results, and you’ll massively reduce your editing time, too!
AI Vertical Alignment
There’s not a lot we can say about this feature yet, as it’s due to be released in the upcoming free 4.1 upgrade. The idea behind this smart AI tool is that it will automatically fix your horizon sky line for you and make sure they are straight. It’s set to be another fantastic tool that will complement the existing tools and AI functions within the app.
Luminar 4: Pros & Cons
We understand that you might not have time to read through this entire Luminar 4 review, so here’s what you have to know about this new editing software:
Should You Upgrade From Luminar 3 to Luminar 4?
We couldn’t write this Luminar 4 review without considering this question. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth upgrading to the latest edition. It is a smoother, faster program with fewer bugs or issues than Luminar 3.
If you already use Luminar 3, you’ll understand the potential AI has to enhance your photos automatically. But you’ll be amazed by the new AI features contained within Luminar 4. It really takes AI image editing to the next level with the faultless enhancements that look natural and eye-catching. Upgrade to the latest edition, and you’ll spend less time and more time out there taking photos!
What’s more, if you’re already a Luminar user, you can upgrade for a special price. For just $74, you’ll get both Luminar 4 and the latest Inspiration Looks (and sky presets) thrown in too. Plus a discount of $10 using the code “KIWI” at checkout. This is a bargain, considering that normally, this bundle costs a lot more!
AI Tools: A Good or Bad Development for Photographers?
It’s true that there have been mixed responses to the idea of automatic AI tools. Some photographers have voiced their worries that Artificial Intelligence will dumb down image or replace the photographer altogether. But we need to take a closer look at what AI can offer to photographers and what its role should be in the process.
The aim of this software isn’t to replace the photographer at all. In fact, you still need a fair bit of knowledge to be able to get the best out of this program. For example, you need to know how to select the best level of intensity when using the filters and sliders included.
Instead, the goal is to speed up the process, remove laborious and time-consuming tasks, to allow you more creative freedom. You get more time to experiment and take images, which is what any photographer wants! And at the same time, you can still manually edit your images if you prefer. Luminar includes a wide range of extensive, powerful tools for everything from basic to advanced editing, so it really is the best of both worlds.
Have you ever tried to manually replace a sky? It takes forever! Why not just let AI do it and see what you can get in terms of a quick win?
Who Should Buy Luminar 4?
If you’re looking for a complete program that has all the tools and features you need to process your shots, start to finish, Luminar 4 fits the bill. But it’s also suitable for loyal Adobe fans who are curious about the new AI tools Luminar has to offer – just run it as a plugin within Lightroom, and pick and choose which tools you want to use from each program.
Many photographers are short on time and want to spend as much of it as possible out there, taking images. I don’t know anyone who prefers to be sat at their computer, fiddling with lighting, exposure, and filters, to exploring with a camera in their hands. If you want to save more time on post-processing, Luminar is the perfect solution. You’ll be able to achieve stunning shots in just seconds, allowing you to take more images, edit them quickly, and share the results.
Another alternative we recommend is Topaz Studio.
Luminar VS Lightroom
If you’re thinking of investing in a image editing software, you might be confused about whether to go for Lightroom or Luminar 4. Or maybe you already have Lightroom but you’re tempted to switch to this software so you can drop those monthly subscription payments! Let’s explore the differences between these two apps.
Photo Editing: Luminar VS Lightroom
As far as the capabilities go, this software is much more advanced than Lightroom. With this editor, you can make sky edits on many more areas of your images to create a unique image, suited to your style. The editor 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 capabilities are more limited. In fact, you’ll probably want to swap over to the Adobe suite to create your desired look, whereas with this software, 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 4 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 this software. 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 this software.
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 image organization to save you precious time. I personally find that the Lightroom thumbnail display is better than the mosaic display that Luminar 4 has.
In Lightroom, you’ll find that there is space around each thumbnail and column, making it easier on the eye. I find that the software 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 4 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 images to your clients. Exporting your items can take longer with Luminar 4 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 4 for one affordable fee of $89 (plus a $10 discount when you enter “KIWI” at checkout!) 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 does Luminar 4 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 4 is better than Photoshop! Although Luminar can do most of what Adobe 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 4, for example, and it takes just seconds.
With Photoshop, you have to use another program like Adobe Camera Raw to open and convert your raw files into a format that it can read. On the other hand, you can do this all quickly and simply within Luminar 4, making the process much smoother.
We’ve mentioned how Luminar 4 has a one-off fee of $89, whereas Adobe has 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, Skylum Luminar is the obvious choice.
Should You Use Photoshop or Switch to Skylum Luminar?
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 Adobe. 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 4 might be a wise choice!
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 – 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 4 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 has a slight edge because of its variety of editing options, an easier, intuitive interface, and a lower cost.
Who Should Use Luminar 4?
Luminar 4 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 4 offers a good basic digital asset management service.
Click here for a list of all Luminar 4 Supported Cameras
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 image 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 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 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. 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.
If you’re just looking to do work on HDR images then check out Aurora HDR
Luminar 4 FAQ
Here’s where you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions about Luminar 4!
Is Luminar 3 any good?
Luminar 3 is a great image editing software with a wide range of tools and presets included. However, there were still a few bugs and issues in Luminar 3, which Skylum has worked hard to fix in the this version, Luminar 4.
Luminar 4 will be available from November 18th 2019 and you can currently pre-order it at a discounted price. There’s also the option to buy a bundle that includes both Luminar 3 and Luminar 4 for one low price. We’ve got a full review on Luminar 3 on Cultured Kiwi too, so go check that out if you want to know more.
Is Luminar 4 a free upgrade?
No, this version is not a free upgrade. It’s a new edition of the software and a standalone program in itself, unlike Flex. Flex is the Luminar plugin for Adobe apps and is available for free to Luminar 4 users.
If you already own Luminar 3, you can upgrade to Luminar 4 for a reduced price. It has been since November 2019.
Is Luminar better than Lightroom?
Luminar 4 can certainly give Lightroom a run for its money! With the recent improvements, Luminar compares favourably with Lightroom, and even surpasses it when it comes to the AI tools you get with Luminar 4.
Luminar Library has been improved, but it still has fewer functions than Lightroom. If you need a fast DAM with powerful capabilities, Lightroom is probably still the better option to select.
However, if you want to speed up your editing with potent automatic tools and the ability to edit in layers, Luminar is the right choice for you.
What is the difference between Luminar and Luminar Flex?
While Luminar 2018, Luminar 3, and Luminar 4 are all standalone programs, Luminar Flex is simply a plugin. You can use it within Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photos for macOS, but you cannot use Flex on its own.
If you want to use the Luminar tools within another editor, Flex is the ideal solution. You get all the powerful editing sky and skin editing tools without being slowed down by the Luminar Library.
How much does Luminar 4 cost?
$89 for Luminar 4 with free select signature looks here: https://www.culturedkiwi.com/go/luminar/ Enter code: KIWI at checkout for $10 off!!
Is Luminar 4 non destructive?
Yes Luminar 4 is 100% Non-destructive
At any time you can revert back to the original image. All edits to images are live and can be tweaked any number of ways.
Is Luminar 4 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 this software is a great way to understand image editing and create powerful images quickly. Especially the new AI skin and sky replacement one click edits.
Does Luminar 3 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 4 is a full Lightroom replacement with an image management system, fantastic interface, auto-correction tools, and impressive effect filters. They have an advanced AI masking and adjustments tool that allows you to replace the sky and the ability to make select professional skin adjustment masks to save a ton of time.
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 plugin and a second image editing software with a one-time payment option, it is a very strong competitor.
To sum up our Luminar 4 review, it’s an impressive image editing software that will surely bring image editing into a new era. Never before has it been so easy and quick to edit your photos and achieve such striking results. Using this program, you can automatically add filters, touch up your shots, and correct blemishes. The AI features are incredible, especially when it comes to replacing skies. You can produce natural, eye-catching shots without hours of manual editing.
I love that you can use Luminar as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to streamline your workflow. But it’s also comprehensive and powerful enough to use as a standalone app, editing your photos from start to finish. The interface is uncluttered and simple to navigate for a great user experience.
Luminar 4 would be a brilliant investment for any photographer from beginner to pro. But landscape and portrait photographers stand to gain the most from the awesome AI tools. If you’re looking to escape the Adobe subscription model or buying your first image editing program, Luminar 4 is the ideal option to go for.
I hope you found this Luminar 4 review helpful. Don’t forget to check out our product review section at Cultured Kiwi!
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!