In this review, we take a look at the latest version of Skylum Software’s Luminar AI – a fantastic, affordable, and fun-to-use photo editor. Powered by artificial intelligence, Luminar AI effectively dissolves traditionally complex editing processes into just a few clicks. As a result, Luminar AI is the best photo editor for beginners and experts in a rush.
Since my earlier review, Skylum has released Luminar AI v1.5.1 and its newest headline-grabbing feature, Portrait Bokeh AI. Yet despite the additional functionality, some rough edges remain. But if you are new to photo editing or are a keen landscape or portrait photographer, Luminar AI might just be your ticket. Jump to Conclusion
Be quick – deals expire November 29, 2021
Table of Contents
- What is Luminar AI
- How much does Luminar AI Cost?
- Best Features of Luminar AI
- What’s missing in Luminar AI?
- Who is Luminar AI for?
- Who is Luminar AI NOT for?
- Luminar AI vs Luminar 4 vs Luminar Neo
- Luminar AI discounts
- Frequently asked questions
What is Luminar AI
Skylum Software’s Luminar AI is a powerful photo editing application that uses Artificial Intelligence to boil down complex editing techniques into just a few clicks.
For instance, upon loading up your photo, Luminar AI’s machine-learned algorithms analyze your photo to recommend which of its many Templates best suits your photo. Once you select a Template, Luminar AI does the rest leaving you with a processed photo and time on your hands.
Yet none of this is to say you can’t get hands-on with Luminar AI. Indeed, you will find all the usual tools and adjustments such as tone curves, white balance, and exposure. And if you make a series of adjustments worth keeping, you can write them back to a Template of your own.
Nevertheless, making your adjustments is not what Luminar AI is about. Whilst most photo editors give you the tools to create effects, Luminar AI skips to the chase and offers you the effect right away.
For instance, you can use Structure AI to add contrast to your photo and Enhance AI to make your photo brighter and more vivid. If you are looking for something a little more specific, you can slide in a little Golden Hour glow or boost those greens with the Foliage Enhancer.
In other words, you don’t need to know much about photo editing to manually process your photo with Luminar AI.
AI Special Effects
So far, you might think Luminar AI is shaping up to be another sensible photo editing platform but at its heart, it’s pure box-office. For instance, Sky AI automatically replaces your photo’s sky, and Augmented Sky AI allows you to add the sort of effects that would make Michael Bay blush.
Apart from being a lot of fun, these features are incredibly useful and replace traditionally long and tiresome editing processes with a simple click and slide.
Overall, Skylum Luminar AI is an outstanding photo editor, particularly for beginners. Yet, even expert photo editors will enjoy Luminar AI and find utility in what it does.
How much does Luminar AI Cost?
Luminar AI costs approximately US$80 for a single lifetime license. Furthermore, you can buy a second license for just a few dollars more. In comparison to other products, it’s a steal.
Best Features of Luminar AI
Luminar AI is packed with great features. Here are 6 of the best.
Templates are the beating heart of Luminar AI and enable you to process your image with a single click. What’s more, Luminar AI automatically analyzes your image and recommends which Templates might suit your photo best.
Whilst most photo editors offer one-click filters or presets, I’ve yet to see any quite as effective as those in Luminar AI. And since Luminar AI’s Templates take advantage of Luminar’s more exotic functionality such as Sky AI it can produce results like those below.
Whenever you apply a template, you can reduce or increase its effect to suit your taste. Furthermore, you can apply the Template then switch into edit mode to make additional adjustments. Once you’re happy with your edit, you can save the sum of your adjustment into a Template of your own making.
Sky AI is a sky replacement tool that enables you to turn a dull overcast landscape photo into a sunset masterpiece. Of course, there’s nothing new about sky replacement but never before has it been so easy and accessible.
To replace your photo’s sky, select Sky AI and choose a sky from the selection provided. Depending on the complexity of your photo, Sky AI will either work right away or require some simple adjustment. For instance, you may need to adjust the sky’s position and how it blends with the foreground but it’s all rather simple.
Best of all, Luminar AI’s Sky AI automatically reconfigures the lighting of the scene so the old foreground matches the new sky. Whilst Sky AI falls short of being fool-proof, it is damn good and I guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun digging through your collection and giving your overcast landscapes a boost.
Augmented Sky AI
If you find Luminar AI’s Sky AI a little too subtle, head over to Augmented Sky AI and add a point-of-interest or two. Whether you want to add a moon, some fireworks, or a little Aurora; Augmented Sky AI has you covered.
Whilst it sounds a little tacky, it works very well and like Sky AI, Luminar AI automatically relights the scene to accommodate the new object. As a result, the final result can look pretty impressive.
In the example below, I’ve blended Sky AI and Augmented Sky AI to turn a peaceful, glorious New Zealand landscape into a dystopian hell hole. Although you might notice a few blending errors, it’s only because I didn’t perform any manual adjustments.
Portrait Bokeh AI
Luminar’s Portrait Bokeh AI allows you to add background blur to portraits you have already taken. This is particularly useful if your camera and lens are unable to produce true optical background blur or your smartphone lacks a digital blur effect.
The sample photo below was taken with an iPhone SE which is not capable of optical or digital background blur. It’s also quite a challenging image since the subject’s hair is a little wild.
Nevertheless, Luminar’s Portrait Bokeh AI did a great job automatically identifying the subject and separating her from the rest of the scene. As with the other samples, I refrained from fine-tuning the image to demonstrate Luminar AI’s immediate performance. But even if you do need to make some adjustments, Portrait Bokey AI features several easy-to-use tools to perfect the results.
To be honest, I was not expecting to like Portrait Bokeh AI and I am delighted to be wrong. If you have a lot of nice portraits with distracting background clutter, Luminar AI will rid you of it whilst giving your photo a little depth.
Although Composition AI lacks the appeal of some of Luminar AI’s other features, it’s perhaps the one that will save you the most time.
For instance, Composition AI’s automatic crop mode does a great job reframing the image for the best possible composition. And I liked the automatic straightening tool as a one-click fix for wonky horizons.
Best of all, it can correct for perspective distortions such as those caused by ultra-wide-angle lenses. Handy indeed.
Face AI and Skin AI
I have mixed feelings about this kind of technology. On one hand, Face AI is extremely useful for overcoming the ugly effects of poor lighting. But on the other, it can be used as a sort of visual steroid to enhance a person beyond a reasonable standard.
Nevertheless, it works well and is extremely easy to use. Unlike traditional editing where applicable areas such as eyes and teeth need to be carefully masked and brushed, Luminar’s artificial intelligence identifies such areas automatically. Thus, all you have to do is slide in the effect.
As for effects, there’s plenty. There’s an Iris enhancer, eye whitener, eye enlarger, dark circle remover, and that’s before we get onto teeth, mouth, and skin. I’m still waiting for grey hair removal.
In the sample below, I’ve used multiple effects and 16-cores of processing power to clean myself up. I’ve also added a little Portrait Bokeh AI. Best of all, the whole process cost me barely a minute and only an ounce of self-esteem.
I’m particularly fond of the Face Light adjustment which offers good compensation for portraits taken under bad lighting. Plus, I found out that Cats’ eyes suit me better than Owl’s eyes. Overall, it’s impressive stuff and simple enough for anybody to use.
What’s missing in Luminar AI?
I’ve yet to use a perfect photo editor and here is where Luminar AI falls a little short.
Basic Photo management
Photo management in Luminar AI is functional but incredibly basic. You can assign photos to albums and rate them as either ‘discard’, ‘favorite’, or ‘unmarked’.
This won’t matter to you if you are using Luminar AI as a Photoshop Plugin but if you have a large photo collection, Luminar AI lacks the tools to tame it.
Limited photo export tool
Luminar AI’s export tool can export your photos to 500px, Smugmug, and email. However, exporting and converting your processed files is a little basic.
For example, you cannot create presets so you must set your export parameters (size, quality, file type, etc) every time. And whilst you can batch export multiple images, you can’t set up an automatic file naming convention or automatically apply enhancements to the files being converted.
But if you just want to export the occasional file, it works. Furthermore, it supports JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PDF, and JPEG 2000 with various resizing and compression settings.
How fast is Luminar AI?
Luminar AI is moderately fast. But crucially, it does react to and preview your adjustments instantly. There is a delay between moving from one image to another but zooming in seems vastly improved compared to older versions.
When applying compound affects such as Sky AI, there is a brief delay of a second or two. Which, given the size of the task, is pretty impressive.
Overall, when it comes to processing a single photo, Luminar AI is fast enough for anybody. But when it comes to running through a large batch of photos, the minor delay caused by moving from one image to the next adds up.
Ease of Use
Ergonomics are generally very good. For example, there are only four tabs, Catalogue, Templates, Edit, and Export. When it comes to selecting a Template, it’s as easy as it comes. And Skylum has done a great job with the Edit tab. By dividing up the tools into Essential, Creative, Portrait, and Professional categories, it never takes long to find the adjustment you need.
If you make a mistake, you can visit the History tab to step back through each of your previous adjustments towards an earlier version of your edit. And if you’ve wet the bed, you can restore your image to its original state with a single click.
However, Luminar AI’s ergonomics are not optimal for processing large batches of photos. For example, you can’t apply presets to individual adjustments nor customize the screen so your most-used tools and views fall within eyeshot. As a result, there’s more mouse mileage to slow your workflow.
That being said, I often edit a hundred photos at a time so minor delays add up to a genuine problem. But if you are only editing a few photos, Luminar AI’s ergonomics are solid, very friendly, and quick enough.
Who is Luminar AI for?
Despite its well-earned reputation for going easy on beginners, Luminar AI is well suited to enthusiasts and experts alike.
Luminar AI could hardly be easier to use and thanks to Luminar’s powerful templates, you’ll be chugging out great-looking photos almost immediately.
Even if you have an ungodly level of photoshop skill, Luminar AI’s feature set is fast and fun. Sky AI is worth the price of admission then there are tools such as Composition AI, Structure AI, and Enhance AI.
Because Luminar AI automatically locates a person’s features, you may never need to manually select, mask, and brush again. That’s got to be worth something.
Luminar AI is substantially cheaper than Capture One Pro, Lightroom, and ACDSee Professional. See the latest prices here.
Who is Luminar AI NOT for?
Luminar AI is at its best when you’re pouring all your attention into just a few photos at a time. If you are editing a large batch of photos, Luminar AI would be a slow way to do it.
And if you are looking for modern-day photo management, Luminar AI lacks basics such as keywords never mind modern perks such as Geotagging and Face Recognition. That being said, you can always pair Luminar AI with affordable world-class photo management tools such as ACDSee Home
Luminar AI vs Luminar 4 vs Luminar Neo
Like Luminar 4, Luminar Neo is designed for enthusiasts and may lack the Template-driven ease of Luminar AI. Like Luminar 4, Luminar Neo is a layer-based editor and has new features such as automatic dust removal, background replacement, and Relight AI.
Luminar Neo is yet to be released but what is known can be read here. If you can’t decide between Luminar AI and Luminar Neo, Skylum Software is more than happy to sell you both as a discounted bundle.
Luminar AI discounts
If you would like to be notified of deals and discounts on Luminar AI and other Photography software, sign up for my weekly email.
Luminar AI is an excellent photo editor and the more you use it, the more difficult it is to go back to more traditional editors.
If you are a beginner, you will appreciate the instant accessibility of Luminar AI’s Templates and the speed at which you will become comfortable making your adjustments. As an advanced user, you will enjoy the simplicity of its powerful effects and the pure delight of transforming a ‘nearly’ photo into an epic one.
To conclude, Luminar AI manages to be powerful, affordable, and accessible. And thanks to its unique feature set, Luminar AI appeals to the advanced user as much as the beginner. Highly recommended.
Be quick – deals expire November 29, 2021
Frequently asked questions
If you are new to photo editing or tend to shoot portraits and landscapes, Luminar AI delivers a powerful yet easy-to-use feature set for a great price.
Luminar AI is much cheaper and easier to use. Photoshop is an expensive industry-leading photo and graphic design studio. In other words, two very different products for very different audiences.
No. No matter how much you edit your photo, you can restore it to its original out-of-camera state.
Luminar Neo is aimed towards enthusiasts and includes layer-based editing. Luminar AI is designed for those looking to process their photos with minimum effort.
No, but you can try Luminar AI for free for 7 days. No credit card required
You can buy Luminar AI as a one-off purchase.
Luminar AI costs approximately US$80. Check here for the latest pricing.