Luminar 4 Review

Luminar 4 review - Post Thumbnail

In this Luminar 4 review, you will learn everything you need to know before you purchase this award-winning photo editor.

I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and I simply love it.

To be fair, I cannot imagine my workflow without Luminar 4 anymore.

You don’t believe me?

Keep reading.

Plus: you will also find a $25 discount I prepared for you.

What is Luminar 4?

Luminar 4 is a non-destructive photo-editing software, capable of photo post-processing and management, designed by Skylum, tailored to the needs of either a beginner or a professional photographer. It offers a complete tool-set to edit, enhance, and manipulate images.

Luminar 4 is available for PC and Mac and can be used as a standalone photo editing software, a plugin, or an external editor. Everyone can benefit from its innovative tools, which come with easy-to-learn controls and rich features.

Along with spectacular AI tools, exclusive filters, instant Looks, and a photo organizer, Luminar 4 contains dozens of essentials packed into an innovative and intuitive interface, which resembles Lightroom’s develop and library module.

By this point, you must be wondering whether is it worth upgrading from Luminar 3 or buying anew? In short: “Yes! Yes, it is.”

You should read the rest of the review to find out what makes Luminar 4 arguably the best photo-editing software available.


Why Luminar 4?

For this Luminar 4 review, I made a collection of pros and cons, which are based on my experience and opinion, and are a comparison to some other photo editors, like Lightroom or Capture One.

Pros

  • Intuitive workspace
  • Super-quick edits with Looks
  • Stand-alone or a plug-in
  • One-time purchase
  • Unique tools that cannot be found in other photo editors

Cons

  • Slow on low spec devices
  • Needs a mobile version
  • The library needs some polishing
  • Masking can be laggy and lacks more options

By upgrading from Luminar 3 to Luminar 4 you get access to dramatically improved AI tools, which will elevate your photo editing workflow on another level.

Luminar 4 Review - AI Tools
Luminar’s promotional photo for Portrait tools (Source: Luminar 4 review)

Within this Luminar 4 review, you will also find all updates to the Luminar 4. For now, the two big patches have been the Luminar 4.2 and Luminar 4.3, consecutively.

Update: Luminar 4.3

Luminar 4.3 is free for those who have Luminar 4 license, so make sure you download the patch.

With this free update for all current Luminar 4 users, this Skylum software received several new features such as the ability to search photos, improvement to Looks, 500px integration, a new crop interface, and performance improvements.  Those who enjoy Luminar’s AI Augmented Sky a new space shuttle object will be available.

How to update

Being a free update, it’s easily accessible directly from the Luminar interface.

Click in the Top Menu Bar and choose Luminar 4 > Check for updates.

If you purchased it via the Mac App Store, open the App Store and go to the Updates tab.

Photo search

Now you can more easily find images in your library.

You can find photos by folder, date, name, or extension, giving Luminar 4’s library a much-needed update.

500px integration

500px is a global online photo-sharing platform for photographers to test their work, gain world-wide exposure, and earn money through licensing and brand partnership opportunities.

Now, you can share your photos on 500px directly from Luminar 4.

Stability and performance improvements

This is a big one for those who run Luminar 4 on weaker machines.

With the 4.3 updates, RAW files open faster, Luminar tools use less computer memory, resulting in a smoother, snappier, and an overall more enjoying photo-editing experience.

Faster Looks tools

Looks are an extremely powerful part of Luminar, but they can quickly add up as you bring in more packs and create your own.

This creates a lot of data, which slows down the tool.

Luminar 4.3 Update solves this issue by introducing instant previews to Looks, making it much easier for you to browse through them and choose the right one before applying it.

Improved Cropping tool

I’ve never like Luminar’s cropping tool. It was slow, often buggy, and sometimes it just didn’t work.

This has now been fixed.

Crop & Rotate tool has been moved to the right panel underneath Lens & Geometry. You’ll notice a significant performance boost.

A new object for AI Augmented Sky

Luminar’s AI Augmented Sky has always been a black sheep for me; it just does not fit in.

However, a new object has been added to its repertoire – a space shuttle. Because what makes photos look more realistic than a project, which was aborted almost a decade ago? 🙂

Nonetheless, AI Augmented Sky has also received several; you can easily flip and position objects.

A marketplace section for objects has been added to Luminar website, so you can buy more featuring objects.

Custom skies and sky objects

An option to easily access a custom folder of locally stored skies and sky objects has been added to AI Sky Replacement and AI Augmented Sky tools.

Camera support

Luminar has finally added support for a few recently released cameras.

These have been added:

  • Canon EOS-1D X Mark III (uncompressed only),
  • FUJIFILM X100V,
  • FUJIFILM X-T200,
  • FUJIFILM X-T4,
  • Leica SL2,
  • Nikon Coolpix P950,
  • Nikon D780,
  • Nikon Z50,
  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III,
  • Olympus E-PL10,
  • Panasonic DC-S1H, and
  • Sony A9 Mark II.

I hope Luminar has your model covered now.

Improved masking brush workflow

Now, a red transparent mask helps you see which parts of the images have been masked yet.

Languages

Luminar 4.3 includes improvements to translations for all supported languages, and better understands German, Japanese, Korean, Italian, French, and Spanish


Update: Luminar 4.2

By updating from Luminar 3 to Luminar 4 you get access to powerful new exciting, most notable of which are powerful AI tools and drastically improved portrait tools.

Luminar 4.2 update is free for Luminar 4 owners.

Redesigned Edit Module

A completely redesigned experience that improves the discoverability of tools and simplifies the editing process.

AI Enhance

This tool automatically analyzes your image and instantly corrects it while still offering control over the final amount.

This tool is composed of two sliders: AI Accent and AI Sky Enhancer.

AI Accent makes photos more HDR and reduces noise. This tool usually brings down highlights, increases the shadows, boosts saturation, and fixes exposure, resulting in a naturally beautiful result.

What is great about this, that it takes only one slider to achieve all this, whereas you’d have to manually juggle with up to 6 sliders otherwise.

This tool makes photo editing very easy for beginners! Before and after AI Accent applied at 100%

AI Sky Enhancer makes skies beautiful without much effort from you. It works similarly to the polarizing filter.

Manually editing the sky is complicated, and often very time-consuming. To improve the sky manually a lot of time has to be spent masking, and the final result depends on the skill of the user and the time they are willing to invest in it.

AI Sky Enhancer changes that. It takes away all unnecessary steps from your workflow and delivers an improved sky almost instantly, with only a swipe of a slider.

This tool automatically detects sky and recognizes objects with the help of Skylum’s deep neural network, which has been trained using hundreds of thousands of images.

Verdict: 10/10
Great tools for beginners trying to grasp the concept of every slider. Can easily introduce noise in low-quality images

AI Structure

Boosts details where needed without damaging the rest of the photo — without selections, layers, or masks.

AI Structure seems like a mix of Lightroom’s Texture and Clarity sliders combined, but it does a better job adding texture to your image due to its content-aware AI. It can differentiate between almost every significant object in your image.

It is also human-aware, meaning it won’t affect the skin and leave you with over-processed faces and skin.

Luminar 4 Review - AI Structure tool
Luminar’s promotional photo for AI Structure tool (Source: Luminar 4 review)

Adding some punch to your photos can seem like a great idea and it usually is, but you can easily overdo it. What is more, some photos do not need any structure added to them and are better left slightly soft.

Try experimenting with the AI Structure slider and zoom in on photos to check for any noise or halo, which are characteristic for “Clarity” and “Texture” sliders in Lightroom.

I have had no issues with AI Structure so far, however, I did use it selectively and sparingly. It also works very well in combination with AI Accent.

Verdict: 9/10
AI Structure is a very powerful tool when used properly. It is very easy to over-do but can be a total game-changer with some images.

Smart Contrast

Easily improve contrast where needed without destroying key details.

Adjusts the contrast of the image. Contrast is the difference in luminance or colour that makes an object in an image distinguishable from another. Practically speaking, contrast is determined by the difference in the colour and brightness of an object in relation to other objects within the same field of view. The Smart abilities of this correction limit the shifts in colour and prevent the details from becoming blocked up.

Verdict: 10/10
It does exactly what it says and exactly what it should do.

AI Sky Replacement

Using Skylum’s machine learning technology, Luminar 4 is the first photo editor to offer fully automated sky replacement technology.

An interesting sky is one of the most important features of a good landscape photo (for those where the sky is visible, of course). Way too often you find perfect scenery, but the sky is rather plain, which makes your photo average.

Here comes Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement in play. If you don’t have any moral hang-ups with photo manipulation, it solves your problem almost instantly. All you need is a press of a button.

Before I started using Luminar 4 most of my edits had been done in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you’ve ever tried replacing anything in Photoshop you know it is a superb tool, but masking is painfully time-consuming.

Everyone was hyping up the Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement tool, so I had to give it a try – and I was mind-blown.

This tool does an amazing job automatically masking out skies and blending in the substitute. It also comes with a few sliders with which you can manually refine masking.

Luminar 4 Review - AI Sky Replacement
AI Sky Replacement scheme (Source: Luminar 4 review)
Verdict: 8/10
AI Sky Replacement is simply fantastic, considering it does everything automatically. It doesn’t always mask properly – fixing it is almost impossible due to the automation of the process.

AI Augmented Sky

With Luminar 4.2 update came a new tool, which can be found in the Creative tab.

I am not entirely sure how AI Augmented Sky fits in the whole photo editing setting. I guess Skylum tried to make photo manipulation even easier for beginners, and maybe even show a little bit.

AI Augmented Sky lets you choose various objects to overlay on your photos, such as birds, planets, aurora, moon, clouds, mountains, fireworks, giraffe (?!), etc. You can also add custom objects.

For this example, I masked in Aurora, which in my opinion the most interesting of all objects. As you can see, Luminar did an excellent job masking it in.

Luminar 4 Review - AI Augmented Sky
Before and After of adding aurora to an image with Augmented Sky tools (Source: Luminar 4 review)

Although I criticized this tool heavily, I still think it is a nice addition for some who wants their photo to look out of this world and would like to do it automatically.

Verdict: 7/10
Similarly to AI Sky Replacement has trouble properly masking sometimes. I don’t think Luminar 4 is the proper place for such a tool – it seems redundant and out of place.

AI Skin & Portrait Enhancer

Automatically remove skin imperfections like acne, freckles, and moles in addition to smoothing skin.

These set of tools were created to make enhancing portraits easy.

AI Skin Enhancer & Portrait Enhancer make improving skin a simple task accessible to anyone.

It works very similarly to Photoshop’s “Spot Healing Brush Tool”, however, with Luminar 4 all you have to do is move the slider and check a box.

By automatically analyzing a person’s skin, AI Skin Enhancer can get rid of various skin imperfections like acne, freckles, and moles. Its content-aware technology can smoothen the skin, but still recognizes details like hair and eyelashes, and leaves them sharp as they are.

Luminar 4 Review - Portrait tool Before and After
Before (left) and After (right) of using Portrait tools (Source: Luminar 4 review)

If you need to boost an adjustment to a higher value (such as Dark Circles Removal or Teeth Whitening) just add an adjustment layer and use a second instance of the tool.

Golden Hour

This tool brings the warmth typical for the Golden hour to your photos. This means pushing yellows and oranges into the highlights.

This tool works very similarly to “Split toning” > “Highlights” > “Pick an orange-ish colour”.

According to Skylum, the Golden Hour filter work best with portraits taken outdoors. Luminar 4’s content-aware technology recognizes people, making them look warmer and more illuminated, with golden accents in their hair.

Additionally, even eyes can pop with this filter, especially those with light-coloured irises.

Golden Hour filter isn’t all-powerful. The image taken in poor lighting conditions, or during the day when the shadows are harsh, will not be improved by this filter – it may even ruin the photo, making it look unnatural.

Verdict: 8/10
Its content-aware feature is amazing. The hue of the yellow tones does not seem accurate enough.

Color Styles Library (LUT Mapping)

Look-Up Table (LUT) is a little-known technique that transforms the colour and tone of your image. It converts colours and details in a source file to a new destination state.

You can think of LUT as a colour style presets, that can be masked and have their contrast, saturation, and the amount increased or decreased.

Luminar 4 comes with a handful of pre-prepared LUTs, however, more can be loaded in .cube format.

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Looks

Give all your photos the look you want in seconds. Make edits to a single image. Then instantly sync all those adjustments to hundreds of other images with just a click

To save time when developing your image, you’ll find an extensive collection of Luminar Looks. Professional photographers from around the world have helped us create a comprehensive group of Luminar Looks that give your images amazing enhancements in a single click.

To apply a Luminar Look make sure an image is open in Luminar 4. If the Luminar Looks Panel isn’t visible, click its icon in the Top Toolbar. The Luminar Looks Panel will open at the bottom edge of the screen. You can click the Luminar Looks Panel button in the Top Toolbar to toggle displaying and hiding the Luminar Looks bar on the bottom of the window.

Luminar 4 Review - Looks
Looks panel (Source: Luminar 4 review)

Examine the Luminar Looks available by exploring their thumbnails at the bottom of the page.  Each offers a live preview as to what the image would look like with the Luminar Look applied.

Click on a Luminar Look thumbnail to apply it. You can quickly switch Luminar Looks by clicking on a new thumbnail.

To view all the Luminar Looks in a given category, simply use the horizontal scrollbar located at the bottom of the Luminar 4 window.

If you hover your mouse over a Luminar Look, an Amount slider is revealed, with the default set to 100% opacity. By moving the Amount slider located within the Luminar Look name you can lower the intensity that the effect has on your image.

Click the star icon on a Luminar Look thumbnail to add it to your Favorites list for easy access.

Verdict: 9/10
Looks are a great way to quickly edit a photo or try a few different styles to determine which works the best. I discourage you to use looks too often, and rather try to adjust the edit to every photo.

To see the new tools in action, check this video by Anthony Turnham.


How to install Luminar 4?

For those who are upgrading from Luminar 3 – I suggest that you create a backup copy of your Luminar Catalog(s) and save it in a different folder before installing Luminar 4, to avoid any problems with your current Catalog(s).

Then install Luminar 4 by following these 7 steps:

  1. Double-click Luminar_4_setup.exe (Luminar 4 Installer on Mac) to launch the installer application and begin the installation process.
  2. Read the license agreement and click Accept.
  3. Choose a destination for installing the application.
  4. Select which plug-ins you want to install. (I strongly recommend both Lightroom and Photoshop – read more about it in my review of Lightroom vs Luminar).
  5. Click the Install button.
  6. Enter your email and activation ID.
  7. Click the Launch Luminar 4 button.

Luminar 4 as a plug-in or stand-alone

Luminar 4 offers great flexibility. It may be used as a standalone application or as a plug-in for the following applications:

Windows & macOS

  • Adobe Photoshop:
  • Adobe Lightroom Classic CC
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements

macOS-ONLY

  • Apple Aperture
  • Photos for macOS

You can access Luminar 4 from many different applications.

  • Adobe Photoshop:
    • When editing an Image: Filter > Skylum Software > Luminar 4
  • Adobe Lightroom Classic CC:
    • When viewing an image in either Library or Develop modules: Right-click the image > Edit in > Luminar 4
    • From the menu bar: Photo > Edit In > Luminar 4
  • Apple Aperture:
    • Select an image and go to Photos > Edit with Plug-in > Luminar 4
  • Photos for macOS
    • How to activate the extension: YouTube Tutorial
    • Select an image and click Edit > Extension > Luminar 4
Luminar 4 Review - Luminar 4 as PlugIn
How to use Luminar 4 as a plugin (Source: Luminar 4 review)

Luminar 4 offers creative flexibility with the plug-in option, and I am loving this feature.


Interface

Luminar 4 has two primary views. The Library view is for browsing and navigating your photos. The Edit view is for enhancing them. The interface is designed to be intuitive and easy to navigate.

With the update switching between Library and Editing module became very rapid and fluid.

Library module

The library module consists of two side panels that need to be understood to be used effectively.

The first one is the Library toolbar, which automatically groups your photos by year, month, and even day.

Since the update navigating between images is a lot easier and finding the perfect shot you’re looking for is an easy task.

At the right side of the Luminar 4, Library module interface is a Library side panel, that keeps track of all your shortcuts, albums, and folders, which keep your images well-organized.

Luminar 4 offers 3 ways to keep your images organized in the new library.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts offer quick access to your library with a series of predetermined shortcuts, including All Photos, Single Image Edits, Recently Added, Recently Edited, and Trash.

So far, I’ve loved all these shortcuts, especially “Recently Added” and “Recently Edited”, which allow you to quickly find the last photos you were working on. This feature especially comes in handy when you’re dealing with large amounts of photos.

In such cases, I suggest you use Albums but more about those later.

Folders

Luminar 4 folders directly mirror folders on your hard drive. This means that Luminar works with your existing folder structure, making rearranging images a much more straightforward and less confusing task.

If you add an image to your folder on the hard drive it is automatically added to your Luminar Folders.

Albums

Albums work very similarly to Folders, but with one crucial difference – albums are virtual within Luminar 4.

Adding a photo to Album changes nothing on your hard drive, leaving you with more freedom to arrange your photos without messing up your folder structure.

If you’re familiar with Lightroom’s Collections, Albums will be easy to master for you, because they are virtually the same thing.

Verdict: 9/10

Luminar 4’s improved Library provides an easy image handling and overview. I hope they add more options to in it in the future updates.

Edit module

I’ve already covered the edit module’s tools back in the second heading “What is new?”. In this subchapter, I’ll only quickly go over every button available in the edit module.

Similarly to the Library, the Edit module also has 2 panels that need to be understood for effective use of Luminar 4.

The first one is the Editing toolbar, which you can see across the top of the screen when in Editing mode. Here are the buttons from left to right:

On the right side the Editing side panel can be found, where all basic tools are located, such as histogram, layers, canvas, categories, and history.

Verdict: 10/10
Edit module is home to many unique tools that can easily help you create your style. Sliders seem rather unbalanced, ranging from hypersensitive and useless at 100 %, to not doing enough even at the max value.

Performance

Luminar’s speed has been improved with the update from Luminar 3 to Luminar 4, however, it still isn’t thrifty when it comes to processing power.

I have tried running it on several different machines and setups, and even the beefiest of them weren’t capable of running Luminar 4 smoothly – in terms of applying edits on large raw files.

That being said, no photo editor I have tried so far has seen perfectly optimized.

Skylum suggests the following tech requirements of Luminar 4 as minimal and recommended:

Windows

Minimal

  • Intel® or AMD® CPU with 2 cores
  • 8 GB of RAM
  • Operating System Windows 7® (only 64-bit OS), Windows 8.1® (only 64-bit OS), Windows 10® (only 64-bit OS)
  • 2 GB free space for installation
  • Monitor with 1280×768 resolution

Recommended

  • Intel® Core™ i7 7th generation or better, AMD Ryzen™ 7 2nd generation or better
  • Discrete GPU with 4GB+ of RAM
  • 16+ GB of RAM
  • SSD as the primary drive
  • Calibrated monitor with at least 1920×1200 resolution

Mac

Minimal

  • Intel® CPU with 2 cores
  • 8 GB of RAM
  • macOS Catalina 10.15, Mojave 10.14.6, High Sierra 10.13.1, Sierra 10.12.6, El Capitan 10.11.6
  • 1 GB free space for installation

Recommended

  • Intel® Core™ i7 CPU with 4+ cores or better
  • 16+ GB of RAM
  • Discrete GPU with 4GB+ of RAM
  • SSD as a primary drive

Since Skylum has proven itself to be listening to its customers, we can expect future updates of Luminar 4 to come with performance optimization, possibly free of charge.


Purchase options

Luminar 4 Review - Purchase options

Luminar 4 is available as a one-time purchase at a very reasonable price, considering what you get for it.

  • New Luminar 4 customers: $89 / €89 / ÂŁ81
  • Upgrading from Luminar 3: $69 / €69 / ÂŁ64

With each purchase, you also get a FREE collection of Sunset skies and/or Planets, worth up to $75.

With each purchase Skylum also guarantees:

  • Instant activation
  • Secure Payment Encryption
  • 30 Days Money Back Guarantee
  • 24/7 Technical and Sales Support
img Order now to save $25 Limited time offer! Get discount

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Luminar 4 worth buying?

Yes, Luminar 4 is definitely worth buying. Its AI tools alone are easily worth the price of the software alone. It’s a perfect tool for both beginners and professional photographers.

Is Luminar 4 any good?

Luminar 4 is an award-winning photo editor, so it just might be the best photo editor available at the moment. It has every tool any photographer would ever need, plus, a lot of creative tools that help you define your style.

Is Luminar 4 better than Lightroom?

Lightroom and Luminar 4 are both excellent photo editors. Lightroom has better organizational features and complex editing tools, whereas Luminar offers extraordinary one-click AI tools.

Is Luminar 4 a free upgrade?

Upgrading from Luminar 3 to Luminar 4 is not free. Luminar 4 is a stand-alone software, a completely new version of Luminar, however, Luminar 3 owners get a discount on Luminar 4 purchases.

Is Luminar 4 worth upgrading?

Considering the AI tools that come with Luminar 4, it certainly is.

Does Luminar 4 do HDR?

No, Luminar can’t do HDR. There’s a fantastic HDR tool, Aurora HDR 2019, from the same developer as Luminar 4 (Skylum), which is also available as a free trial, at the moment.

Check here


Conclusion | Luminar 4 review

Skylum is still rather new to the photo editing scene but has already created an award-winning Luminar 4.

What is even more impressive is that it is a strong competitor to Lightroom, which has been known as the king of photo editors for a long time.

Its unique tools are what give Luminar 4 an edge over the competition. Skylum lab has done an amazing job perfecting AI’s and successfully incorporating them in photo editing. Creative tools and Luminar’s flexibility as both standalone and plug-in were the main reason I fell in love with it.

Writing this review I had to swallow my pride on occasion and admit that its AI’s are in fact useful. Although I choose not to use tools like AI Sky Replacement / Enhancement, because it feels like cheating, these tools are well-developed and priceless to those who are willing to manipulate their photos to such degree.

However, Luminar 4 isn’t almighty. It still runs slowly when you edit large photos, no matter how powerful is your computer. Essential tools could use an update at least, although I would like to see an overhaul in the future. They seem inaccurate and inconsistent, especially when compared to Lightrooms.

If your mind is still not made, I suggest you opt for a free download that comes with no strings attached.

Luminar 4 Review
Luminar 4 Review 2

In-depth tutorial of the arguably the biggest Lightroom competitor.

Price: 89

Price Currency: USD, EUR

Operating System: Windows, IOS,

Application Category: Photo Editor

Editor's Rating:
4.5

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