My Love Hate Relationship With Luminar 3

I have had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Luminar since I first started using it back in early 2017.

From the outset I loved Luminar. It was simple to use with no steep learning curve for anything other than the basics. It was quick, and it looked good and felt good in use. But it didn’t have an image browsing feature or catalogue built in.

The developers – then MacPhun – promised Luminar users that a DAM (digital asset management) function was on the way. So I stuck with Luminar and waited for the DAM having made up my mind that Luminar was going to be my “go-to” software of choice for editing my photographs.

Luminar users, myself included, waited, and waited, and waited. It was during this waiting period that my love for Luminar started to wane, so I turned to other packages such as On1 for my editing needs.

Welcome Luminar With Libraries

Now fast forward to the end of 2018. MacPhun, by now Skylum,  finally released Luminar 3 With Libraries (the DAM). Reviews were mixed with many users claiming it to be buggy, or running a slow as a three-legged dog. I fell in to the latter camp. Luminar 3 With Libraries did run slow – very slow – and the “updating gallery” seemed to take forever.

As a result my version of Luminar was tucked away! I hated Luminar at that point, and started to wonder why I had purchased it.

However more recent updates claim to have improved speed and ironed out the bugs. This resulted in in a much more reliable and responsive product. I decided to take Luminar out of the cupboard  and dust it off (well download it again from my Skylum account) , install it and let the updates all take their course.

In the meantime I had moved my photo library to an external USB 3.0 solid state drive.

The result? Luminar is now much more usable and certainly faster. And now I don’t spend half my time for the “updating gallery” message to go away as reading images of the external SSD is faster than the standard hard drive in my Mac Mini.

So a few nights ago I decided to try processing a few snapshots using Luminar 3. When I say processing I mean using just the basic Luminar tools and spending only a few minutes on each photo before arriving at a finished product. And when I say snapshots I mean some of the thousands of photos that I have taken while travelling on holiday. You know the ones – the photos that would bore the pants of your friends when you get a photo album out to show your holiday snaps off.

You can see the results of just a few minutes work below. But first let me tell you why I have fallen back in love with Luminar.

Luminar Looks

I still love the way Luminar looks and feels when in use. Where most other photo editing packages use presets, Luminar uses Luminar Looks. I love the Looks! They allow you to apply a preset and then adjust that preset to achieve the look you want. It’s like working backwards in some respects.

Luminar has dozens of built-in Looks, but many more, a lot of them absolutely free, can be downloaded online.

It’s great the way Luminar lets you get exceptional results in almost no time at all, and while Luminar is great processing RAW files, it also handles decent resolution jpegs beautifully as well. Some of the photos below started as jpegs.

To summarise, let me quote Canadian photographer and blogger Jacques Gaines who says on his blog “Luminar is a powerful AI based photo editor that gives intelligent, customizable, quick and personalized results”.

Perhaps the best thing about Luminar 3 is that it also has almost all the tools and bells and whistles any one might ever need This makes it suitable for photographers of all levels from hobby photographers (like me) all the way through to professionals…

Right – so let’s go with the photos as processed using Luminar 3…..

Manhattan Waterfront

This first pair of before/after photos above were taken from the Liberty Island Ferry, looking back towards the Manhattan waterfront on a misty, drizzly day.

The starting image was a Nikon RAW file, and post processing was very basic starting with the Downtown preset (sorry – look) from the Street collection, with the Manahattan LUT mapping applied. Then a Dehaze filter was applied to bring out some detail in the buildings encased in mist. The photo was finished off with a Vignette. Probably less than a dozen mouse clicks and less than 5 minutes time spent.


Boston Engine 50 Fire Station

The second set of photographs is of Boston’s Engine 50 Fire Station.

Again a Nikon RAW file was the starting point, and again the Luminar Look (preset) was one from the Street collection – I think it was the Matte look. I wanted to overcome the dullness of the bricks in this instance and add a bit off verve or pop or zing to the overall image. Clearly I have also straightened and cropped the “after” image, but again the basic processing was done with a very small number of clicks.


Back Street New Orleans

Next we are in New Orleans with a simple photograph of a bike leaning against a set of steps in a back street.


Starting photo was a jpeg taken with a Panasonic FT5. This one took a few more clicks – but no more time. The preset was a 60s black and white look from the Street collection. Highlights were dropped back a bit, and shadows brought out using the RAW develop filter. The grain size and roughness were both reduced so as not to give the final photo too much of a grunge look.


Mt Robson – Canadian Rockies

Mt Robson is one of  the highest mountains in the Canadian Rockies – but is in fact only the 21st highest mountain in Canada.

The photo above was taken through the window of the observation car of the Canadian  – the train that runs the complete breadth of Canada – either east to west tor west to east.

The before image on the left shows a totally underexposed photograph – while the after picture has been given useable life with Luminar’s Accent AI filter – times 2 – filters can be stacked; the AI Sky Enhancer; and a wee touch of Clarity. In hindsight I believe the finished photo would have been even better had I adjusted shadows for more detail. The starting point was a Nikon RAW file.


Petersburg – Alaska

Finally, it’s north to Alaska – and the city of Petersburg which sits at the northern tip of Mitkof Island in Alaska’s North East Passage.

The Accent AI filter was used here with a wee reduction in Vibrance and a wee touch of Clarity. Some of the powerlines were also removed, quite effectively I think, using the Erase function.

There you have  – Luminar 3 – a non-subscription (i.e. you own it) photo editing package that is pretty cheap at only US$102.00.  It is available for Mac and Windows and can be activated on up to 5 cross platform machines when purchased.

Download Luminar 3

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Rick - The Occasional Photoblogger

I am Invercargill photographer Rick Harvey – aka The Occasional Photoblogger. I consider myself an opportunist photographer and enjoy taking photographs of ordinary things I see around me, and try to make them appear a little less ordinary and interesting, and while it is always nice to have others appreciate my images, my primary goal is to take photographs that make me happy.

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