Skylum Luminar Review

Selma Citakovic
Selma Citakovic

Updated · Aug 03, 2022

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Skylum Luminar AI is a photo editing app with an innovative, AI-fueled approach. It’s aimed at both professionals and total novices. Find out if it’s a good fit for your creative needs in this Skylum Luminar review!

AI Templates

Yes

Lifetime License

Yes

RAW File Support

Yes

Third-party Plugins

No

Free Trial

Seven days

Color Space

sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB

Export as

JPEG, PNG, TIFF, JPEG 2000, PDF, and PSD

Editing Tools

Sky AI, Atmosphere AI, Face AI, Body AI, Portrait Bokeh AI, and more

WORKS ON:

mac-os windows
Skylum Luminar logo

MINIMUM PRICE $47

Visit Website
Visit Website

Best for: Effortless texture replacements

Strengths
Strengths Amazing ease of use
Strengths Practical templates
Strengths Excellent AI tools
Strengths Works as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, and macOS Photos
Weaknesses
Weaknesses No layers
Weaknesses No advanced export options
Weaknesses No third-party plugin support

What Is Skylum Luminar?

Skylum Luminar is a popular image editing software aimed at both hobbyists and creative professionals. The latest iteration (Luminar AI) was released in December 2020. It’s an entirely different beast compared to its predecessors and peers!

Here’s why.

It’s powered by artificial intelligence. That makes it an exciting alternative to classic photo editors.

The AI automates routine tasks to get professional results fairly swiftly. You can replace skies, enhance faces, add atmospheric mist, and more with just a couple of sliders.

You can run Luminar AI on Mac and Windows. Apart from being a standalone editor, it also works as a plugin for:

It supports multiple languages, including English, German, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, etc.

Now, all that sounds amazing on paper!

But, the AI tech could easily prove to be nothing more than a gimmick, as it often turns out. It all depends on how well the features are implemented.

This review aims to answer the big question:

Is Luminar AI worth it

Skylum Luminar Features

The app’s website boasts of an astonishing array of AI-powered tools. Let’s see how valid that claim is!

Catalog 

Luminar’s catalog keeps all your photos in one handy place. You can access your Single Image Edits, Recently Added, and Recently Edited pics.

There’s also a Trash folder. If you delete something, you can find it there and restore it or permanently delete it. Naturally, you can create your Folders and Albums, as well.

Overall, the catalog is well designed and keeps things organized.

It’s also worth noting that this Skylum photo editing software supports:

  • PNG
  • JPEG
  • TIFF (8-bit and 16-bit)
  • PSD
  • HEIC
  • Raw formats, such as CR2, CR3, NEF, ORF, RAF, etc. 

Templates

The Luminar AI templates truly set it apart from similar apps. It’s not a one-trick pony — it adapts to your photos.

Here’s how it works, in a nutshell.

The AI uses semantic segmentation to identify and adjust individual elements in a photo. That means it can recognize objects like water, sky, skin, faces, and more. Based on its observations, it can then propose fixes to your pic.

So, every time you load an image, the Luminar app will offer you several templates. You can use them for instant edits and control their intensity with sliders. Then you can save and export your pics — and your work is done!

But, you can also make direct adjustments and fine-tune them. To do so, you’ll need to access the toolset by clicking the Edit button. This is great if you want more control over your creative process.

Best of all, Luminar lets you create your templates and even sync them with multiple photos. This means you can transfer the same visual style to as many pictures as you want.

Editing Tools

The Luminar photo editing settings are grouped into four sections: 

  • Essentials 
  • Creative 
  • Portraits 
  • And Professional. 

Obviously, you can do the basic stuff like fixing the contrast, color balance, and depth of field.

But thanks to the AI-fueled tools and lack of layers, you can also effortlessly mask and make advanced edits.

However, that simplicity is a double-edged sword. Professionals will probably find the whole creative process too simplified!

Still, here are some of Luminar’s standout features.

Face AI 

This option is an Instagram influencer’s dream. It lets you retouch faces and make them social media-ready. You can slim the face, whiten the teeth, emphasize the lips, and more. 

Iris AI

The Luminar photo editor allows you to change your eye color with only a click. It looks pretty realistic too!

Body AI

You can add and subtract weight to bodies. You can also focus on the abdomen and make the waist thinner. The whole process is incredibly streamlined compared to Photoshop.

Skin AI

Luminar analyzes skin and removes imperfections like scars, wrinkles, moles, acne, and freckles. It does so without losing the general level of detail and texture, which is awesome! There’s also a dedicated Shine Removal tool to reduce cheek and forehead highlights.

Portrait Bokeh AI

Thanks to Luminar editing, you can achieve the Bokeh effect regardless of your lighting and lens. It subtly blurs out the background so that the photo’s subject stands out even more. You can even manually refine and soften the masked area. But, in most cases, the AI is spot-on and does all the work for you.

Sky AI

Yup, you can replace whole skies! Luminar also recognizes water surfaces and allows you to blend the horizon, blur reflections, relight the scene, and more. This means you can transform even drab, uninspired vistas into something majestic. 

Best of all, you can capture and create your own skies that you’ll be able to reuse.

Augmented Sky AI

The Luminar AI app also lets you add some extra pizzazz to your skylines. You can seamlessly blend in birds, clouds, moons, hot air balloons, and other custom objects. Use the sliders to adjust the color temperature, lighting, focus, and opacity.

However, there’s a small downside — if your image features water surfaces, these objects won’t reflect in them.

Atmosphere AI

This set of tools is designed to add atmospheric effects like fog, mist, and haze. You can naturally layer them without overpowering the subject of your photo. The sliders let you control the intensity, depth, lightness, and position. 

Composition AI

The Composition AI is one of the essential Luminar editing tools. It will automatically crop your image and fix the perspective. You don’t have to worry about vertical and horizontal alignment.

However, you’re still free to crop your pics manually! You can select your aspect ratio or enter a custom one.

Enhance AI

If you feel that your image could do with a quick fix to make it pop more, this is the option for you. The app analyzes the content and corrects your contrast, tone, saturation, and other details. Furthermore, there’s a separate Sky Enhancer feature that will add vividness to your skies and clouds.

Structure AI

The Luminar photo editor can also improve the clarity of your images. Structure AI will increase the contrast and add more detail. This intelligent feature won’t overprocess human faces — they’ll still look natural!

Apart from sharpening, you can apply a blur effect, as well.

Export

Once you’re done working on an image, click on the Export tab. You can save to:

  • Disk
  • Mail
  • Messages (Mac only)
  • SmugMug
  • 500px.

You can export your pics as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, JPEG 2000, PDF, and Photoshop files. You’re free to tweak the quality, color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB, or ProPhoto RGB), size, and detail level.

However, these options pale in comparison to Photoshop’s and Lightroom’s more extensive settings.

Luminar AI Plugin

Finally, the app also works as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, and macOS Photos. You can use Luminar’s templates and filters and send the adjusted photo back to the other software.

This is a smart option for users who appreciate Luminar’s editing tools but want a more refined app for layers. The downside is Luminar itself doesn’t support third-party plugins.

Skylum Luminar Ease of Use and Interface

This Skylum photo editing software was designed with accessibility in mind. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there’s almost no learning curve here. Anyone could use Luminar AI with ease and proficiency!

It basically gives you a series of editing shortcuts. You don’t have to spend time perfecting masking and curves. The AI does most of the work for you. And for everything else, there are sliders.

The UI follows this theme of simplicity. It looks polished, and everything is available at a glance.

As soon as you open the photo editor, you’ll notice the four main tabs you’ll be working with: Catalog, Templates, Edit, and Export. The main menu is in the upper left corner.

All the Luminar AI templates and tools will appear on the right side of your workspace. It’s all clearly labeled, so you won’t get lost in a forest of tiny icons.

Additionally, you can find in-depth guides and video tutorials on achieving specific effects. There’s also a manual available on the website. It covers everything: from installing and activating the software to using it with Aurora HDR.

Skylum Luminar Pricing

Luminar offers three packages or bundles. Each gets you a lifetime license — no sneaky monthly subscriptions here! And in case you change your mind, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee.

There’s also a 7-day Luminar AI free trial!

The pricing bundles include:

Luminar AI

1-seat license $47/ 2-seat license $59

Think of this as the basic Luminar pricing plan! You get all the AI-powered tools, together with 24/7 tech support. You can get a special discount if you’re affiliated with education or military institutions.

Luminar AI + Aurora HDR

1-seat license $67/ 2-seat license $79

This bundle offers Luminar’s complimentary High Dynamic Range photo editor — Aurora HDR. It has its own toolset for HDR Denoise, color toning, creative LUP mapping, and more. Additionally, there are extra features for pro photographers, such as batch processing, RAW support, plus layers and masking.

Luminar AI + Aurora HDR + Luminar Neo

1-seat license $108/ 2-seat license $138

The last Luminar AI pricing option adds Luminar Neo to the bundle. It’s the latest addition to the family, centered around 3D mapping and AI. It introduces fresh features like Relight AI, Remove Spots, Remove Powerlines, and more.

Skylum Luminar vs Lightroom

It’s time for the epic showdown of image editing software. Can Luminar AI rival Lightroom, a well-established name in photo editing circles?

Let’s find out!

First, let’s have a look at the interface. I’ve mentioned earlier that Luminar excels in the area. And to be fair, Lightroom isn’t too far off. The UI does look a bit busier, but it’s nothing too distracting.

But, what about the ease of use

In their Skylum Luminar reviews, most users agree that the app is incredibly easy to use. It’s designed to bring you one-click results. On the other hand, Lightroom isn’t too complicated, but it still has a bit of a learning curve. Admittedly, Luminar is more oriented toward hobbyists, while Lightroom is for more experienced users.

Let’s move on to the main course — the editing capabilities.

The biggest point of difference is the unique AI features I’ve covered earlier in my Skylum Luminar review. For example, you can replace textures with just a click. Meanwhile, Lightroom’s approach is more traditional. You can achieve the same results, but the editing process is more hands-on.

All in all, the apps are effectively tied in this area!

Lightroom is the smarter choice if you want to learn the ropes or if you’re used to working with layers. Luminar, on the other hand, will serve you better if you prefer instant edits and templates.

The export options are the next point of my Luminar AI vs Lightroom comparison.

Luminar’s offer is more modest in this regard. You can’t change the metadata, for example. And even the file size adjustments aren’t refined enough for pro users. 

Lightroom, in comparison, lets you tweak almost every detail. You can limit file sizes, edit the export metadata, select a custom color profile, and more. You can even save your preferred export settings and use them as presets.

Finally, let’s focus on pricing.

Like every Adobe product, Lightroom is subscription-based. The Lightroom plan with 1 TB of cloud storage costs $9.99/month (or $119.88/year). It includes access to the latest updates, Adobe Portfolio, and Adobe Fonts.

On the contrary, the Luminar AI pricing system is license-based. You’ll get the app for a one-time payment of $47 (for one seat) or $59 (for two seats). It’s the cheaper service by far.

Overall, Lightroom is more sophisticated, with better export options. However, it’s pricier! Luminar is budget- and novice-friendly but might be a bit too rough around the edges for advanced users.

Both apps are valid — it all depends on what you prioritize.

Skylum Luminar Verdict

So, what’s the final verdict?

Let’s start with the positives.

I can’t stress enough how straightforward this app is. Countless other users agree on this in their Skylum Luminar reviews. The UI is very intuitive, and the templates help a great deal, too.

Furthermore, the AI tools aren’t just a gimmick. They simplify edits that are usually complex — e.g., atmospheric effects. And if you’re not too happy with the proposed fixes, you can take control and edit away!

Perhaps the most practical feature is using Luminar AI as a plugin. That way, you can combine it with your usual photo editor of choice.

But, here’s the catch.

At a certain point, its simplicity becomes detrimental

For starters, the Luminar app has discontinued layers. A local masking tool is meant to fulfill their role, but it’s still not a perfect replacement. Users who want to add a watermark now have to do it in a more convoluted way or through another app.

Similarly, the export settings are also a bit too dumbed down. Professional photographers who are particular about their files (and how they’re printed) won’t be too pleased.

Not to mention the lack of support for third-party plugins, which is an annoying restriction.

All things considered, I can recommend the Luminar AI app as an excellent standalone editor for hobbyists and novices. Likewise, creative professionals will benefit from it as a cool plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom to balance out its cons.

FAQ.


Is Luminar software any good?

Luminar AI is a competent photo editor packed with unique features like Sky AI, Atmosphere AI, Face AI, and more. Its quick templates can save you a lot of time and effort. Still, it’s not the best option if you’re looking to learn editing from the ground up.

Is Luminar better than Photoshop?

If you’re comparing Luminar vs Photoshop, Luminar is definitely more intuitive! Beginners will have an infinitely easier time editing pics with it. Then again, Photoshop has more elaborate tools that experienced users will appreciate.

Is Luminar worth the money?

Luminar is worth the money both as a standalone editor and a plugin. Novices and pros will appreciate different things about it, but it’s still a well-rounded image editing software.

You can check out the rest of my Skylum Luminar review for an in-depth explanation!

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Selma Citakovic

Selma Citakovic

Selma is a content writer with a love for all things nerdy by day and an internet archaeologist that likes to dig up obscurities by night. Mostly she's trying to balance between many obsessions. Right now, it's bass playing and reading hard sci-fi about vampires in outer space - next week, who knows.

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