We are members of Skylum's affiliate program, so please don't expect this Luminar 4 review to be bad. I will say only that we never endorse products that we do not use ourselves.
Luminar 4 is an AI powered processing tool from Skylum that challenges Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop combination. I have used it professionally for real estate work for a year now and have been impressed with what I've been able to achieve, particularly in the extreme light conditions of Spain. Skylum also make the excellent Aurora HDR software. This review is of Luminar 4.
So let's jump in. How does Luminar differ from Lightroom?
Digital Asset Management
Firstly, Luminar 4's Library capabilities are evolving rapidly. This is to say that in my opinion, if you're a professional photographer shooting hundreds of images a week, then you're probably not going to move from your favourite method of storing them yet. If you are a hobbyist, you may well be tempted. The software will scan your hard drive and build a library reflecting the structure it finds there. I know, this is not a good thing if like me you're prone to using your hard drive as a scratch pad!
On top of that it supports virtual albums which enable you to impose a new order on things without going to the trouble of moving everything around. One great feature is that it will automatically add new photos to the library if it finds them on the hard disk. Anyone who creates 360° images will be delighted by this, it means in a nutshell that your workflow can round trip from Library to process to stick to export without having to import the results of the final export. It may not sound like much, but that feature alone would knock a hour out of the time it takes me to build a virtual tour, without leaving a host of orphaned images on my hard drive.
For hobbyists Luminar 4 comes with a library of pre programmed looks that you can apply to your image. In this it is not unlike Nik Silver Efex Pro. You can use the look as a starting point and use the tooling to tweak the edit. For old school photographers Luminar supports the well known Dodge & Burn tools, layers and masks similar to Photoshop and offers some special features that go a way beyond what is available in the Adobe world. In fact its probably true to say anything you can do in Lightroom, you can do in Luminar 4. In some cases better, easier and more intuitively.
Let's take a look at some of the things that you can't do easily with Adobe tools.
This is one hell of a tool - simply one click and your sky is replace with one that you choose. The tool works out the horizon and can handle complicated things like trees, architecture etc with ease. This tool alone is worth the price of admission. It even alters the lighting in the photo to match the new sky.
AI Augmented Sky
We're getting into augmented reality here - this capability is all about enhancing the existing sky with added effects like the Northern Lights, Moon, Clouds etc. Technically excellent, people will love it.
Yes, you can add sunday's in Luminar 4 and as you would expect, they're pretty realistic.
AI Skin Enhancer & Portrait Enhancer
I have amassed quite a few portraits over the years but I'm not drawn to beauty retouching. That being said, I'm impressed by this tool. In fact it is scarily good, the tool removes shine, skin blotches etc in a way I had thought that could only be done by a human. Another human. Not me!
Again, this tool is effortlessly superior. It can apply structure selectively, differentiating between say faces and trees and applying structure sympathetically.
So this tool adds a warm pre sunset glow to a photograph. As a technical achievement its immense.
Luminar 4 Review: Verdict
I'm going to qualify this statement, not for the first time by saying that as a professional photographer with a sideline in Fine Art photography, there are things in this software that do a lot of my work for me. I use it mostly for commercial real estate work because it does a great job that my estate agent clients absolutely love. I don't use it for product photography and I prefer to do my own processing around Fine Art. For me, I think the photographs I have produced using Luminar 4 are of a style that others could fairly easily achieve, using the same tools. That makes me feel a little uncomfortable to be honest. Perhaps I'm getting old!
These tools are spectacularly well designed. Therefore the AI is convincing in a way that I haven't seen before. Here's an anecdote supporting that statement. I did some work in Spain for an agency that makes their use of AI processing a feature of their sales pitch. They pay me to take the photographs with good composition and optimal exposure. They do the rest. The estate agent on this particular shoot was so dismayed by the results that he was sent that he called me up and said "I watched you do this shoot and there's no way these photographs reflect the way you approach your work." Flattery gets you everywhere! I processed the whole shoot for him using Luminar 4 and both he and the vendor loved them. I've used it for Real Estate ever since.
Luminar 4 is a very sophisticated editor that is user friendly in a way that Photoshop will never achieve. If making your photos pop is the end game then beat a path to their door. Seriously, this suite of tools is very capable indeed. If you're interested click on the link below and check it out. Next week I'm going to do a walkthrough Video so I'll post the link here - check it out.