Artificial intelligence has changed the way we edit our pictures. Today, we can get professional-looking results in just a few seconds and even achieve things that would have been unthinkable some years ago. That infinity of possibilities is exactly what Luminar AI wants to offer.
That is why, in this review, we will take a closer look at Luminar AI’s features to see everything it can do— and how it compares to other software.
Let’s get started!
What is Luminar AI?
Luminar AI is a powerful yet easy-to-use photo editor powered by artificial intelligence. Its main objective is to simplify and improve your editing process by automatizing time-consuming tasks while giving you plenty of options to explore your creativity. What’s more, you can use Luminar AI as a standalone app or plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom.
If you are familiar with Skylum software, you probably remember some AI-assisted functions in Luminar 4, such as AI Sky Replacement or AI Skin & Portrait Enhancer. Now, for Luminar AI, the company has developed a complete AI-based toolkit that includes all of these features plus new and more compelling tools to take your photography to the next level.
However, this is not a successor to Luminar 4 nor an updated version of the software. Luminar AI is a different product.
What’s the difference between Luminar 4 and Luminar AI?
Although some people think of Luminar AI as an update to Luminar 4, they are two different programs. Luminar AI has replaced Luminar 4 and includes a lot of the same interfaces and features.
Luminar 4 included all the essential editing tools you might find in Lightroom, along with AI-powered tools for quick edits, layer support, and an image management system.
On the other side, Luminar AI is an AI image editor designed mainly for automatic adjustments and creative editing. It has powerful, sophisticated functions for speeding up your workflow, it also includes the organizational tools needed to store your photos.
Luminar AI Review – Key Features
For this review, I took the time to test the program for a few days and see for myself what it can do. Overall, Luminar AI is quite fun to use and has a lot of tools that are worth trying out. Here are its main features:
First of all, the user interface is straightforward and intuitive, perfect for beginners. When you open the app, you will see four tabs at the top menu bar so you can navigate easily through the primary workspaces:
- Catalog. It displays all your photos organized in different categories: All Photos, Single Image Edits, Favorites, Recently Added, Recently Edited, and Trash. It also shows Folders and Albums.
- Templates. It shows several presets divided into themed collections for different photography styles.
- Edit— or where the magic happens. It comprises standard photo editing tools plus AI features separated into four sections: Essentials, Creative, Portrait, and Professional. You will also see three buttons at the top right sidebar to navigate among Tools, Local Masking, and History.
- Export. Here, you can save your images to your local disk, mail SmugMug, or 500px. You also get varied exporting options and formats.
Adding images to Luminar AI is super easy and fast as well. You can import single images or folders by clicking on the + button at the top menu bar. The program supports RAW files and is compatible with an extensive selection of camera models.
In general, Luminar AI ensures a very efficient workflow. The streamlined interface and easy-to-access options make the whole process pretty smooth regardless of your level of expertise. In this aspect, the software gets a solid 10/10.
AI-powered tools for quick editing
Luminar AI offers a versatile toolset to boost your photography and explore new possibilities with it.
As I mentioned earlier, the strength of this software lies in its AI-based tools that automate many laborious tasks. Even so, Luminar AI also includes plenty of features for manually editing your images— for example, a handy tool for color correction or a denoising function that separates color noise from luminosity noise.
Luminar AI tools are separated into four big categories:
In this panel, you will see all the traditional tools you can find in any other photo editor, plus a few bonuses. Here you can adjust exposure and contrast, reduce noise, improve composition, sharpen and highlight details, edit color, convert to black and white, and more. You can also add vignettes, edit curves, enhance the foliage of your landscapes, or use the Erase tool to remove distractions easily.
However, for this Luminar AI review, I want to focus on the tools that use AI technology:
- Enhance AI
This tool comprises two adjustments to make your pictures stand out more: Accent AI and Sky Enhancer AI. The first one is a fast track to adjust exposure, contrast, tone, saturation, and detail using a single slider.
On the other hand, the Sky Enhancer AI tool analyzes the sky in an image to improve texture, contrast, tone, and colors automatically. It can distinguish between water and other elements and detect objects in the foreground for accurate masking.
- Composition AI
Composition AI is a simple yet super helpful tool. It analyzes your photo and suggests the best crop to improve composition for a more impactful frame. Moreover, it has regular tools for cropping, aligning, and fixing perspective distortion in your images.
- Structure AI
This tool allows you to adjust the amount of detail to get a sharper or smoother image. It is content- and human-aware, so it can modify areas variably based on the subject to get realistic results. That way, you can increase contrast and clarity without overprocessing people or objects.
This is one of the most enjoyable parts of the software. This section includes a bunch of tools to experiment with color and special effects. Among all its functions, here are the ones that I would like to highlight:
- Sky AI
This is the well-known sky replacement tool in Luminar AI. It offers a rich selection of skies to turn a dull sky into a beautiful, breathtaking scene in a single click. No masking, no manual tasks; everything is automatic.
Also, something nice about this tool is that it relights the scene and detects water. So, it can blend the new sky with the elements in the photo and create water reflections when necessary. You can even make a daylight landscape look like a sunset landscape without masking or adjusting the lighting yourself.
For the most part, this is a pretty fun tool to use and it can provide impressive results in seconds. However, sometimes the photo can look fake, and Luminar AI doesn’t offer enough means to adjust the effect and correct the sloppy details.
- Augmented Sky AI
With the Augmented Sky AI tool, you can add objects to create more eye-catching scenes. Luminar AI automatically analyzes the image and integrates the item into the composition as naturally as possible— although I must confess I’m not 100% convinced of the results. Still, you can change the position, size, lighting, and amount of the object if you prefer.
Use this tool to add hot air balloons, birds, clouds, mountains, fireworks, lightings, auroras, and more. You can import more objects directly from your computer or buy them from the Skylum marketplace. Unfortunately, you can’t add multiple things in the same picture.
- Atmosphere AI
The Atmosphere AI tool allows you to add fog, layered fog, mist, or haze to the photo. Besides, you can control the amount, depth, and lightness.
This tool lets you apply LUTs to change the appearance of your photo. You can choose among a large number of built-in looks or create your own LUTs and load them to Luminar AI.
This category has pretty impressive features that will help you retouch your portraits much faster using Luminar AI. If you are interested in fashion photography, portraiture, and beauty shots, you will most likely love this toolset.
Let’s talk a bit about each tool:
- Portrait Bokeh AI
The Portrait Bokeh AI tool automatically masks your subject and blurs the background to create a smooth bokeh effect in your portraits. You can edit and refine the mask and control the amount of blur in the picture for a more realistic finish.
- Face AI
This tool allows you to retouch faces using intuitive sliders. With it, you can slim the face, improve the appearance of lips and teeth, change eye color, and remove dark circles. In addition, Iris AI sliders will help you create more expressive and brighter eyes to give more life to your portraits.
- Skin AI
It will get rid of unwanted blemishes or excessive shine on the skin without affecting texture and hair.
- Body AI
This tool will help you shape your subject’s body instantly. The Shape slider slims or adds volume to your subject while the Abdomen slider reduces the volume in the abdominal area.
Besides all the AI-powered functions, Luminar AI offers a set of tools designed for more precise adjustments to please professional users. This panel includes the following features:
- Optics. It corrects lens distortion, chromatic aberration, fringing, vignetting, and more.
- Supercontrast. It adjusts tonal contrast to add depth and detail to a photo.
- Color Harmony. It provides several options for precise color editing.
- Dodge & Burn. It allows you to lighten or darken specific areas of a photo.
- Clone. It replaces unwanted pixels with pixels you choose from another part of the image.
Batch editing capabilities
Luminar AI allows you to do batch processing with the Sync Adjustments option. This function is perfect for photographers who usually handle large groups of photos. The best part of it is that you can also sync AI-based edits to save more time in your retouching workflow.
Here is the step-by-step process:
- Open the first photo in a series and edit it until you are satisfied with the result.
- Go back to Catalog and select the picture you just edited. It must show a blue border around it.
- Select the group of images you want to apply the same adjustments to— they should show a white border around them.
- Go to Image > Adjustments > Sync Adjustments or press Shift+Cmd+S (macOS) or Shift+Ctrl+S (Windows).
And that’s it! Now, you can batch export the group of images by selecting them all and clicking Export or pressing Shift+Cmd+E (macOS) or Shift+Ctrl+E (Windows). The only drawback here is that you can’t batch rename the photos or continue to edit while exporting.
The Templates panel allows you to make one-click adjustments to spice up your images and experiment with new looks. It offers many preset collections organized into different categories: Essentials, Landscapes, Mother Nature, Portrait, Macro, Cinematic, Lifestyle, and Aerial. Moreover, it has the handy For This Photo feature, which analyzes your image and suggests the best templates for it.
Luminar AI already encompasses a varied selection of presets to suit all kinds of photographers. Yet, you can buy more at the Skylum marketplace or create your own by saving all the adjustments you have applied to an image as a new template. On top of that, you can modify templates and select your favorites to find them faster the next time you want to use them.
You can also apply the same template to multiple images at once using the Sync Adjustments function as I described before. That is the easiest way to achieve a unified style within a group of pictures.
Masking tools for selective editing
In addition to the versatile editing tools, Luminar AI offers local masking with three types of masks to make selective adjustments:
- Paint Mask
- Radial Mask
- Gradient Mask
Masks give you a little more control over the results of your images because you can choose where and how you want to apply a series of tweaks or filters. They are ideal for advanced users that are already familiar with masks in other photo editing software.
Besides the traditional masks, you can apply Texture masks to overlay textures and special effects on your pictures. Also, they are perfect for adding watermarks or signatures. Texture masks work like layers, and you can choose among different blending modes and adjust opacity, brightness, hue, saturation, and contrast.
Using Luminar AI
We cannot finish this Luminar AI review without talking about its performance and the quality of its results. We already know it has a versatile toolkit for creative photographers, but what is it like when in action?
Generally speaking, Luminar AI is pretty fast and provides accurate results in a few seconds. Yet, there are cases where artificial intelligence falls short, and photos might look a bit odd or overprocessed.
For example, the Sky Replacement tool works better than I expected, but it is not suitable for every situation. Sometimes, the masking can look unrealistic and affect the impact of the final image. The same goes for the Augmented Sky tool.
As for speed, Luminar AI works smoothly —most of the time— and it does a great job at simplifying your workflow. Even so, it might crash unexpectedly or get slow after a long session of editing or when importing many RAW files at once.
That aside, in my opinion, Luminar AI offers a good experience overall, especially for beginners. It does what it says it does and has plenty of options to get creative. But, of course, you can’t expect this (or any) software to make magic. Artificial intelligence is powerful, but you must use it judiciously.
Luminar AI is available for both Windows and Mac users. According to the user manual, these are the system requirements to run the program smoothly on your computer:
- Processor: Intel® Core™ i5 or better, AMD Ryzen™ 5 or better, Apple M1 chip
- OS version: Windows 10 (64-bit only); macOS 10.13.6 or higher
- RAM: 8GB or more (they recommend 16+ GB)
- Disk space: 10 GB free space; SSD for best performance
- Display: 1280×768 or higher resolution
Skylum is constantly updating its software to optimize the user experience. In the latest update in October 2021, Luminar AI presented a few improvements:
- For This Photo feature in the Sky AI tool. It analyzes your photo and suggests the best sky to suit the scene.
- New cameras support added— including Canon EOS R5.
- Minor bug fixes.
All updates are free. To check for new software versions, you just have to click on the Luminar AI logo at the top menu bar and look for the Check for Updates option.
What’s missing in Luminar AI?
Although Luminar AI features powerful image editing capabilities, it is not the most comprehensive tool for professionals. It lacks many tools that you can find in other photo editing software, including the previous Luminar 4. Here are some things I would have liked to see— or that bugged me a bit:
- No layer support.
- No advanced image editing tools for more control over the results.
- Few organizational tools. There are no keywords, tags, color labels, or stars.
- You can’t edit metadata.
- You can’t rename a batch of images for exporting.
- You can’t create virtual copies.
Fortunately, all these drawbacks should be no problem if you install the Luminar AI plugin in Photoshop or Lightroom. That way, you can integrate the fun features of the program into your regular workflow without sacrificing functionality.
Is Luminar AI worth buying?
Luminar AI might be a worthwhile investment for everyone looking for a straightforward, time-saving photo editor. If you want to make simple and quick edits, you will enjoy many of the functions and presets in Luminar AI. However, if you prefer a full-featured program that gives you plenty of control to make precise adjustments and high-end retouching, you might want to consider other alternatives.
The decision to buy Luminar AI will depend entirely on your needs and taste. Not all programs fit all photographers equally, so you must reckon whether this software suits your level of experience and photography style to see if it can really help you get where you want to.
Who is this photo editing software for?
Luminar AI is a handy software for beginners and creative photographers looking for a quick editing process. Overall, the results are pretty impressive, but sometimes they fall short or look gimmicky— and you don’t get enough tools to fix that. So, this is not the best photo editor for professionals who like to have absolute control over their images.
If you think you can benefit from its AI-assisted tools, you can buy Luminar AI for $79 or compare other deals at their official website.
And, if you would like to give it a try before buying, you can also download a fully functional 7-days free trial!
To summarize this Luminar AI review, I can say that it looks like the perfect image editing software for novices. It provides excellent results in a couple of seconds, and it is super fun to use! Nevertheless, it is not the most comprehensive option for dedicated photo editors and experienced photographers.
- Impressive AI tools.
- It has a convenient edit panel with a versatile and intuitive toolkit.
- Great photo editing tool for beginners and content creators.
- Fast performance.
- Fun and easy to use.
- It has a wide selection of templates and creative functions.
- Regular updates.
- There are plenty of tutorials and learning resources online.
- It works as a standalone app and plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom.
- Few options for image organization.
- You can’t edit metadata.
- No layers or advanced retouching capabilities.
- Limited control over the images.
- It crashes occasionally.
Luminar AI Review – Final Words
Skylum Luminar AI makes complex editing fun and quick. Even though it lacks advanced features, it definitely gets bonus points for ease of use and creative possibilities. In short, it is a powerful, fast, and intuitive software that it’s worth trying out.
If you want to read more reviews, comparisons, and other helpful articles about photo editing software, check our Photo Editing section here on Cultured Kiwi.
Thank you so much for reading!