Skylum has created some of the top image editing programs around right now, including Aurora HDR, Luminar 2019, Luminar 3, and the new Luminar 4. Luminar Flex is their new and streamlined plugin for use with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Photos for macOS.
We couldn’t wait to find out how Luminar Flex compares to the popular Luminar, plus whether it really does improve your workflow within Photoshop and Lightroom. So here’s our detailed Luminar Flex review! If you’ve been unsure whether you should invest in Luminar Flex, read on to find out if it’s worth it!
See our full Luminar 4 review here if you’re looking to make the comparison.
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What is Luminar Flex?
Luminar Flex is a plugin developed by Skylum to enhance your workflow and make it easy to edit your photos within Lightroom or Photoshop. Smooth, fast, and simple, Flex should make editing your photos very easy.
Skylum has harnessed the latest technology to create intelligent one-click Looks, powerful AI filters, and advanced post processing tools. Using Artificial Intelligence, anyone from beginners to pros can make their photos look outstanding. Gone are the days when you had to spend hours watching tutorials and mastering complicated manual techniques.
The idea for this Skylum software is that you use it within Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, or Photos for macOS. It isn’t a standalone editing program – if that’s what you’re after, opt for the Luminar 3 or Luminar 4 software instead. What it does do – incredibly well – is add some exciting, unique features to Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, without slowing down the software.
Luminar Flex has no cataloguing capability, but this is actually an advantage. The reason being is that you use Flex within another program, so there’s no need to duplicate the cataloguing function and potentially slow down your program. Running a full catalog takes time and creates lags, so this sleek plugin speeds things up.
If you’re familiar with Luminar 3, you’ll know that it has to update the entire library each time you power it up, causing considerable delays. You get none of this with Flex, making it fast and streamlined. Instead, you get the benefit of the full range of powerful filters, Looks, AI tools, and more.
What is the difference between Luminar and Luminar Flex?
Skylum first created Luminar 2018 as a standalone image editing program. With the Luminar 3 update, they introduced the exciting new Library feature that many users had been waiting for. This made Luminar 3 into a fully functional Digital Asset Management program, combined with the amazing array of editing tools and features already included in the software.
As a result, Luminar 3 become a one-stop software for every need a photographer could possibly have. In essence, it is an incredible combination of both Lightroom and Photoshop in one intuitive, impressive package.
Skylum has further improved Luminar with the latest update, Luminar 4. Currently available for pre-order at a low, discounted price, Luminar 4 will be officially released in November 2019. If you’re looking for one program to organise, catalogue, and edit your photos, Luminar 3 and the all-new Luminar 4 tick all the boxes.
However, Skylum realised that not everyone wants to use an alternative editing program. Lightroom and Photoshop have long been the industry standard, and many established photographers are not interested in switching programs or learning a new workflow. So, Skylum created the Luminar Flex plugin to allow Photoshop and Lightroom users to harness the cool technology and exciting features Luminar has to offer.
Luminar Flex combines some of the best features of Luminar 3, such as the striking one-set ‘Looks’ (aka presets), the advanced AI functions, and more. However, there’s no asset management or library of files to slow things down. Every time you power up Luminar 3, the entire catalogue of images needs to refresh, causing considerable wait time. In contrast, Flex is speedy, responsive, and easy to use within your favourite Adobe editing program.
What is Luminar Flex best for?
Here, we’ve summed up the advantages of using the Flex Skylum software in our Luminar Flex review. Luminar Flex has many of the great features we’ve come to expect from Skylum – any photographer could benefit from using this superb post-processing technology. But it really excels at landscape photography.
If you’re a landscape photographer, the incredible AI tools such as Sky Enhancer and Foliage Enhancer will take your shots to the next level. It’s possible to make impactful changes with just a click or by using a simple slider – no tricky manual configurations here (unless you want to!). And that’s another massive advantage of Flex: you can make quick changes to your shots – perfect if you’re in a rush!
For Adobe Photoshop users, Luminar Flex adds a whole host of new features that aren’t possible within Photoshop. You get access to the incredible AI filters, over 200 Looks, unique Workspaces, and cool features like Smart Object support.
If you’re a Lightroom fan, the Flex plugin will allow you to edit in layers – previously unheard of within Lightroom. You can streamline your editing process by doing everything within one program, saving you time and achieving breathtaking results.
And if you’re new to Lightroom or Photoshop, you’ll be pleased to hear that Luminar Flex is much easier to master. Rather than spend ages sifting through tutorials and watching videos on the Adobe apps, you can get up and running much quicker by using the Luminar Flex tools.
How do I use Luminar Flex in Lightroom?
Luminar Flex is pretty simple and straightforward to use, especially after you’ve done it once or twice. The installation process is quick and pain-free: The installer should prompt you, asking which Adobe products you want to add Flex to. Then, it should automatically install your new plugin and you’ll be ready to get started!
Flex won’t immediately appear when you power up Lightroom or Photoshop. Instead, you can access it by right-clicking on an image within the Library. You’ll see an option to ‘Edit in’ – all you need to do is choose Flex. The program should open up a duplicate of the image in a new window, with all your Flex toolbars and features at your fingertips.
The Luminar Flex layout is intuitive, simple, and uncluttered. This minimalist interface is another significant advantage, in our opinion, for this Luminar Flex review. Other editing software programs can feel crowded and overwhelming. With every single feature and tool on view, it can be impossible to know where to start first. But that’s not true for Flex.
You should see two toolbars on the editing window. Along the top of the window runs the Filters toolbar, while the Presets Toolbar is located at the bottom of the screen. It’s pretty easy and makes for a smooth workflow, allowing you to access the tools you need most and ignore the rest.
Once you’ve finished editing within Flex, you just need to close the window. You can continue using Lightroom/Photoshop’s tools too, allowing you to combine the best of both programs for some fantastic shots.
Luminar Flex Review: The Features
So let’s get stuck into the detail of this Luminar Flex review. What exactly does Flex offer, and are the features worth the investment? Here’s our detailed guide to the editing tools within Flex.
Within Flex, you get access to more than 70 Looks (more commonly known elsewhere as presets). These Looks are sorted into several different categories, including Portraits, Creative, Black & White, Landscape, Aerial, Analog, and more. You can easily find the Look you’re after, and save the ones you use most often into your favourites.
With simple sliders, you can adjust the intensity of the Looks. Be careful, as the Flex Looks are very powerful – you only need to make a slight adjustment for a big impact! Luminar Flex’s Looks allow you to get creative and save time, for an efficient image editing process.
Related: If you’re interested in creating your own Instagram Filters for Lightroom free then check out this post.
Artificial Intelligence Tools
Skylum’s clever AI technology tools are the masterpiece of this plugin (and all of the Luminar software). They really have taken things to the next level with these super-smart features.
One of our favourite AI tools that Flex offers is the AI Sky Enhancer. This tool really works wonders on all your landscape shots, bringing out detail and adding some oomph to your sky scenes. Likewise, the Foliage Enhancer will really make your woodland scenes pop.
You can use the versatile and potent AI technology to improve your image, whether you shoot street photography, landscapes, portraits, and more.
The Workspaces within Luminar Flex are a very refreshing addition, allowing you to customise your program to the way you work best. Take your pick of the prepared Workspaces, which have been designed to contain only the filters most commonly used within that niche of photography. The available Workspaces include Drone and Aerial, Black and White, Film Lab, Expert, Portrait, Relight & Recolor, and more.
However, you’re not just limited to the default Workspaces Skylum has come up with. It’s also possible to actively select the filters you find yourself returning to again and again, and create your own custom Workspace. This is an awesome feature as you can create a personalised app that suits your style of editing.
Layers and Modes
If you’re a fan of Lightroom, you’ll love that Luminar Flex allows you to edit in layers within the classic Adobe app. You can work on separate areas of the image without altering a different aspect. For example, you could sharpen up the foreground without messing with the sky in the background of your image.
If you’re looking to sharpen up an out of focus image then we recommend you pick up Topaz Sharpen AI (See our review here). It can restore detail to those shots where you just missed focus.
This is an invaluable feature for Lightroom, allowing you to make more complex adjustments and touch up your shots. You can apply a different filter and experiment, and it’s easy to control and simply remove a layer if you’re not pleased with the result.
There are also a whole host of blending modes, masking options, and more to play around with and create some cool effects.
General Editing Tools
We’ve discussed the advanced photo editing tools, but Flex is also perfect for making minor local adjustments to an image. Whether you need to flip, remove distortion, free transform, erase, or remove chromatic aberrations, it’s all possible within Flex.
Luminar Flex has a cool feature that removes color casts from your shots, and can make up for any lens distortion from your camera. It really is an all-round superb photo editing technology that will meet all your needs!
RAW Processing Capability
Not all editing programs can import and process RAW images from your camera. But you’ll have no issue with RAW file support within Flex, as it’s possible to import, edit, and export all your RAW image files simply and quickly. This is an essential need for most pro photographers, and you won’t be disappointed by Flex’s superior RAW photo editing capabilities.
As we’ve explained, Luminar Flex is a very simple but powerful program that functions smoothly within Lightroom, Photos for macOS, and Photoshop Elements. It adds a whole ream of benefits without creating lags within your app. It’s easy and stress-free to edit your photos, with an uncluttered layout that makes it easy to find the right tools.
Using Luminar Flex should elevate and streamline your workflow, adding in new, helpful tools and bringing no drawbacks. You can work within one program without needing to swap between apps, which is one massive benefit we found for this Luminar Flex review.
We all love a free trial around here! There’s no better way to find out if a program works well for you or not. You can test-run the different features, explore which ones you will actually use, and see just what the software can do for you.
Skylum offers a 14-day free trial so you can have a go at editing your own images. Even (or especially) if you’re not sure about Luminar, or you were put off by the earlier, admittedly buggy version of Luminar 2018, you should give it a whirl. There’s nothing that quite compares to the amazing AI tools and the one-click presets are pretty exciting, too. You can see the impact these tools will have on your image, helping you make the decision of whether to invest in Luminar Flex or give it a miss.
Some photographers might not be convinced as to how many of the features and filters they will make use of alongside the wide range of tools available in Lightroom. And if you give it a try and decide it’s not for you, you haven’t lost anything.
Affordable One-Time Cost
Compared to the more expensive subscription method of the Adobe CC programs, Luminar Flex seems relatively cheap in price. The price does seem to fluctuate, but it comes in well under £100.
While this might seem expensive for photographers on a budget, you get lifetime access to this software. Boasting the most advanced AI technology for photo editing around and many more premium features, it’s a fair price for what you get. In our opinion, it’s well worth the investment for the polished, breathtaking images you’ll create.
Luminar Flex: Pros and Cons
If you don’t have time to read the entire article, here’s what you need to know about the positives and negatives of the Luminar flex plugin.
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The Luminar Flex plugin is an excellent addition to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom Classic, allowing you to make powerful edits with quick, efficient tools. You can harness the powers of their amazing AI technology, plus get creative with the wide range of Looks and filters available. It’s smooth, quick, and responsive, allowing you to combine the tools and features of both Luminar Flex and the Adobe apps.
You’ll need to weigh up how many features and filters you’ll against the cost of the app to decide whether the Luminar Flex plugin is worth the investment for you. Landscape photographers stand to gain the most benefit from using Luminar Flex. However, it has a lot to offer to all types of photographers, no matter how experienced you are or what style of photography you prefer to shoot.
In our opinion, for one affordable price, you’ll get access to some of the best creative, powerful editing tools around today. If anything can improve Photoshop or Lightroom Classic, it’s this clever plugin.
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Also check out Aurora HDR review here.