I have been using Luminar for a few years now. Over the years the product has changed and grown. Originally it was mostly an effect program designed for giving photos a certain look. It still allows for that functionality. However, it has added the ability to do raw processing. Most recently, it has added the ability to function as a Digital Asset Manager, or DAM for short.
The DAM aspect allows you to import your images and keep track of them in a library. I will be honest, I don’t use this functionality at all as I already use Lightroom for this. However, the functionality is there if you don’t have Lightroom or don’t want to pay an ongoing monthly subscription. Lightroom has a onetime cost to purchase the software. There are, however, update costs to each new major version. The update costs are reduced over the initial cost. The cost of Luminar is still less than a year’s worth of Adobe’s plan.
Luminar can function as a standalone app, wether you use the Library function or not. You can import images from your camera in either raw or jpeg format and then manipulate them to look however you want. I find this part of the program to be very powerful, especially with the “Lightroom Looks”, more on that later.
If you use Adobe’s Photoshop or Lightroom, you can use Luminar as a plugin. This is honestly what I use Lightroom for the most. I almost always do all my edits in Lightroom and then export to Luminar for finishing. Lightroom makes a tiff file of my original raw file, with the edits I have done and sends it to Luminar. Once I am done in Luminar and hit apply, it returns the updated file back to Lightroom.
Luminar has dozens of tools to manipulate your photos. You can do all the sorts of things you can do in Lightroom, but a few things that you can’t do as easily. One of these that I use is the “Matte Finish”. In Luminar it is a slider panel that lets you easily adjust several options and reset easily. You can also adjust the strength of the effect. In fact, you can adjust the strength of each effect and as well as the summary of effects.
Now you can do a Matte Finish in Lightroom as well by either selecting one of the Profiles or making adjustments to the curves of the image. However, I find that it is much more straightforward in Luminar.
In addition to the normal filters, Luminar has two AI powered filters. One for the overall image as well as one for making skies pop. It also has a sun flare that allows you to put in a sunburst into your image and adjust how it looks, how powerful it, and several other functions. I will admit, while the sun filter is a bit intriguing, I find it to be a cheat and I personally don’t use it.
This is the part that I use the most. Luminar has some built in “looks” as well as a gallery of free and paid looks. These allow you to basically “one button click” your image and apply a bunch of preset settings. Some of them are just Luts that simulate film stock looks. This is what I do the most. I use a series of looks that simulate the Fujifilm camera looks. I like the Acros simulations the most. Below is an example of that look.
I find that I can get some unique looks to my photography by using Luminar as an enhancement. I find that experimenting with the various filters, I can get a very unique look. Sometimes, I just want a quick finish and so I use one of those Looks I mentioned.
You need to understand what all of these filters do and when to use which one. Once you get a decent handle on your preferred looks, you can even save those settings as your own custom looks, allowing you have a consistency to your images. This is important if you are trying to brand yourself.
However, if you are not in that place yet with your photography, you can use Luminar as a one click post processor, similar to the filters of instagram. It all depends on your desire and expected end results.
I want to stress, your process is your process. Wether you enjoy endless tweaking of settings, or would just rather click a button or two to get your desired output; Luminar will help you accomplish your favorite looks.
Note: I am not sponsored by, nor do I work for, Skylum/Shinyfields Limited. All views and reviews of this product are based on my personal experience with the product.
Clay is happily married in Maryland where he lives with his wonderful wife and twin boys. His daughter lives with her mother in Idaho. His hobbies include photography, martial arts, music, and technology.