Luminar NEO Tutorial for Beginners and Pros in 2023

Luminar NEO from Skylum is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered software that aims to take the photo-editing process to a whole new level of convenience. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran photographer/editor, you will appreciate how powerful yet easy-to-use the software is.

Luminar NEO Tutorial

If you are acquainted with using other photo-editing tools like Lightroom or Photoshop, you will quickly realize that the options you get in Luminar are quite similar. It’s the AI-assisted features where Luminar has a greater advantage. And even if you are a beginner, there’s no need to worry. The controls are easy to understand and you can get a hang of it.

We have put together this article to help you get started with using Luminar and transform your images in a way you’d never imagined before.


1. Download Luminar NEO

If you do not have a copy of Luminar NEO yet, you can download a trial or buy a copy of the software by heading over to Skylum’s website. You can get the fully-unlocked trial version for 7 days. Also, if after purchasing the software you feel that it is not the one for you, Skylum promises a 30 days money-back guarantee. How convenient is that?

Another thing that you might want to consider is that Luminar is not subscription-based. You buy it once (see the updated Luminar NEO price here) and you own a copy of the software. It’s that convenient.

2. Importing Images in Luminar

Once you’ve downloaded Luminar, the next step is to fire it up and start importing images. There are two ways you can add images in Luminar. You can either add a folder with images or a single image. Simply click on the ‘+’ sign on the top-left and you can see these two options.

Importing Images in Luminar

If you have a folder wherein you have all the images you want to work with, use the “Add Folder with images…” option. This will add the folder to the Luminar library. But, in case you just need to work with a single file, go with the latter option.

3. Organizing Files in Luminar Library

Luminar is not just photo-editing software. It has a photo management module built into it that allows you to organize your photos according to date, ratings, and favorites. You can also flag or reject an image, and Luminar also lets you set a color label to images to help you categorize your images better.

Organizing Files in Luminar Library

4. Editing Images in Luminar

Now, this is where things get really interesting. Editing images is where Luminar is not shy to flex its muscles. To start editing your images in Luminar, make sure that you first head on to the Edit module. Here, you’ll get to see a plethora of modules and adjustment tools that you can use to make changes, ranging from simple adjustments to complex edits to your images.

Editing Images in Luminar

a. Looks

If you are a user of other photo editing software, you must be acquainted with Presets. Well, in Luminar’s case, they are called Looks. Essentially, they apply a predetermined set of adjustments to an image and give you a base from where you can fine-tune the adjustments to get a particular result. This way, you can get a consistent look in all of your images while being efficient with your edits.

Luminar comes with various sets of Looks that are suitable for different kinds of images and that help you achieve gorgeous looking results in a matter of a few clicks. To apply Looks to your image, first, click on the Looks button on the top-left while on the Edit module. This will bring the filmstrip view of the previews of different Luminar Looks right below the image.

To apply a certain look, simply click on one of the previews. You can then adjust the strength/opacity of the applied preview by adjusting the slider that comes up on the thumbnail preview.

For the best Luminar Presets check out our post here.


And like when using presets, remember that you can fine-tune the parameters such as exposure, contrast, white balance, and others to your liking. Just head on over to the adjustment sliders on the right in the essential module.

b. Layers

One interesting thing about Luminar is that it supports working in layers just like in Photoshop. This way, you can make different adjustments, and also add-in various elements in different layers. This makes the workflow so much easier as it takes all the guesswork away when you want to revisit any adjustment that you’d made earlier.

To make the best use of layers in Luminar, make sure that you add a new adjustment layer before making any adjustments. You can do so by clicking on the ‘+’ sign in the Layers module and by selecting Add New Adjustment Layer. For instance, you can have different adjustment layers for exposure, contrast, sharpness, masks, and so on.


c. Canvas

The Canvas module in Luminar is where you can find the Erase, Clone & Stamp, Lens & Geometry, and the Crop & Rotate tools. The Erase tool helps you get rid of any distracting elements that might have crept into your composition. The Clone & Stamp tool is useful to replicate certain textures or areas on the image and use it to cover up any flaws or distractions. Using the Lens Geometry tool, you can correct the lens aberrations and distortions. The Crop & Rotate tool comes in handy when you want to set a certain aspect ratio to your canvas, and

d. Essentials

The Essentials module is where you will find most of the adjustment sliders for basic photo editing. If you’re looking to quickly adjust the exposure, contrast, highlight, shadows, and details, you will find it in the essential module of Luminar.


  • Within the Light panel of the essential module is where you can make adjustments to your picture profile, exposure, color temperature, highlights and shadows, and contrast.
  • If you want Luminar to assist you in making quick adjustments, head on over to the AI Enhance panel and slide the AI Accent slider towards the right. If your image has a sky in it, you can try doing the same with the AI Sky Enhancer. The results will not be fantastic immediately, but you will get a good base to start with.
  • Similarly, the AI Structure looks for objects like people, their faces, skin texture, sky, buildings and so on and improves the details on them selectively rather than applying a global adjustment. If you want granular control over the details, you can do so from within the Details Enhancer panel.
  • The Color panel offers you to adjust the saturation and vibrance in the image. Also, if there’s some sort of color cast in your image, you can easily get rid of it by using the Remove Color Cast slider.
  • You can convert your images to black and white from within the B&W Conversion panel. The panel allows you to have control over luminance and saturation of the major color channels and lets you fine-tune your black and white images.
  • Handle the luminance and color noise in your images from the Denoise panel.
  • The Landscape Enhancer helps in improving your landscape images by removing haze with the Dehaze adjustment tool, adding a warm touch with the Golden Hour adjustment tool, and enhancing the greens with the Foliage Enhancer tool. For selective adjustments, you can use the masking option that’s available.
  • The Vignette panel is quite simple. You can add either a dark or a bright frame around the corners of the image to draw the attention towards the subject using this tool.

e. Creative

As the name suggests, the Creative module comes in handy when you want to go beyond the regular adjustments and apply some creative looks to the image. This module has an array of tools that you can use to add in different creative elements or give an artistic look to the image. Let’s have a look at them one by one.


  • The AI Sky Replacement tool has to be the highlight of Luminar. Chances are that most of you came to know about Luminar solely due to this feature. Anyways, with this tool, replacing skies is a piece of cake as the masking algorithm it applies is insanely good. The software has a bundle of skies that you can easily use in your image with a single click. Simply click on the Sky Selection dropdown menu and choose the sky that best suits your scene. Play around with the adjustment sliders to fine tune the image to your liking.
  • AI Augment Sky is another quite interesting creative tool that allows you to add creative elements in the sky. With the help of this tool, you can add objects like balloons, birds, clouds, moon, and aurora amongst others. If you have an image of something that you’d want to add to the sky, you can do that too.
  • Sunrays can add a beautiful mood to your image. Especially if you are taking woodland photos, landscapes, portraits, or architecture photos, the sun rays peeping through the corner, or from against the branches can make the overall mood so magical. If you were not lucky with such sunlight when taking the photos, thanks to the power of AI in Luminar, you can easily add them.
  • Here again, you get the options to decide the size of the sun, the length of the sunrays, the penetration, and even the intensity of the glow. Use it right and you can conveniently take your images to the next level.


  • If you dig images with a punch, you can try your hand with the Dramatic adjustments. It adds contrast and takes away some of the colors to give a grungy look to the image. Be careful with this tool though as it is quite easy to get carried away.
  • Remember the faded yet contrasty look of the film photos? You can replicate that look in your images with the Matte Look panel. It works great for portraits if you want to give them a classic look.
  • Add a soft, dreamy touch to your images in a tasteful way using the Mystical panel. You get a glow that’s not overdone along with richer colors.
  • Color Styles (LUT) or simply known as Look Up Tables (LUTs) are a series of color combinations that you can apply to your images to give them various looks and feels. They help you get a consistent look and feel. While there are a couple of LUTs available in Luminar, you can also add your own favourite LUT to Luminar to apply to your images.
  • With Texture overlay you can blend two images together. This can be used for a fine art look, to create vintage-style photos, create double exposures and more. You can also change the amount of the texture effect, zoom and use blend modes for more options.
  • The Glow tool in Luminar allows you to create a lighting effect in your images. When applied, the brighter areas in your images (highlights) give out a faded glow and give a dreamy effect to the image.
  • You can emulate the grain structure of analog film stocks in Luminar using the Film Grain tool. With this tool, you can add the amount of grain, their size, and the roughness.
  • The Fog filter lets you introduce a hazy fog by simply choosing the type (light or dark) and then the amount that is introduced to your image. You can also add it selectively using gradient masking or via a brush.

f. Portrait

Portrait photographers will love the fact that Luminar has a dedicated module for portrait photographers. The options that you will find here are sure to increase your efficiency when editing portraits by many folds. Here, you will find useful options such as skin enhancing tools, portrait enhancing tools, high key effect, and also Orton effect to supercharge your portrait edits.



  • Skin retouching is something that we all need to be very careful when doing. You don’t want your subjects to be appearing plasticy after all. Thankfully, with AI Skin Enhancer in Luminar, you can get rid of any skin defects and shiny surfaces with a matter of a few clicks. And the fun part is that it still retains the skin textures – but be sure not to pull the slider all the way to the right.
  • The AI Portrait Enhancer panel has a long list of adjustments that take care of the intricacies that you need to pay attention to when retouching a portrait. With sliders, you can brighten up your subject’s face, remove red eyes, whiten and enhance their yes, do away with dark circles, retouch their lips and much more. This is by-far my most-used panel in Luminar and I’m sure you’ll love it too.
  • Give a high-end fashion shoot look to your portraits using the High Key feature in Luminar. The high key filter provides a cheery glow and high-contrast look to your images. Simply add the filter and experiment with the sliders to get the look and feel you’re after. A particularly fantastic adjustment is the dynamic high key slider that allows you to brighten the image without washing out the subject’s skin tones or your product’s details if you’re into product photography.
  • Orton Effect gives an interesting look to your images that makes them appear blurry and sharp at the same time. Use Type 1 effect to increase the saturation of the image or Type 2 to create a softer glow. Again, be careful not to go overboard with this effect as it can take away all the details in your image.

f. Pro

The final Pro module has some advanced level filters that Skylum intended for the professionals to use. The filters included in this module are Advanced Contrast, Adjustable Gradient, Dodge and Burn, Color Enhancer, Photo Filter, and Split Toning. Although Luminar packs them under the professional module, they’re not that difficult to understand and use anyways. Also, keep in mind that there aren’t any AI tools that you’ll find here. You’ll need to be the judge of yourself when working around here.


  • The Advanced Contrast tool allows you to manually adjust the amount of contrast to defined regions in the photo. You can minutely control the contrast level in the highlights, shadows, and the midtones independently.
  • The Adjustable Gradient tool comes in handy if you want to control the difference in exposures between two sides of a photo – especially useful in landscape works where the sky is brighter than the ground.
  • Dodge & Burn is something that photographers have been doing since the days of film Dodging means to brighten while burning means to darken. Using the dodge and burn tool in Luminar, you can brighten the highlights and darken the shadows to create a sense of depth in your images.
  • If you want the ultimate control over colors in your images, the Color Enhancer tool is what you want to check out. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to use all these sliders for each image, but it’s worth spending some time getting used to.
  • Brilliance controls the richness of color in a photo.
  • Warmth controls the color temperature.
  • Color contrast lets you choose a color range to apply contrast to.
  • Split Color Warmth lets you selectively enhance cool and warm tones.
  • If you want to overlay a color filter to your image, Photo Filter is exactly where you should be looking at. You can use the sliders to control the hue and saturation of the filter you want to use. If you want to use the photo filter as a local adjustment, you can even do so by using the masking options that are available.
  • Split Toning  is a powerful creative tool that you can use to apply different color tones to the shadows and the highlights. If you are familiar with split toning in Lightroom, it works in the exact same way.

Well, this tutorial for Luminar can seem overwhelming at first but it surely doesn’t cover every aspect of the powerful software in-depth. Take this as a guide to getting to know how the tools work. As you spend more time with the software, you will realize that Luminar is actually quite intuitive and easy to use. The experience with Luminar can surely feel intriguing at first but as you get used to it, you’ll definitely find it fun to use.

All the best for your time with Luminar. We really hope you enjoy using the software.

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