I have been following Skylum Luminar for Windows since launch. Their marketing push has revolved around being a “Lightroom Killer”. Since Lightroom is now subscription-based, and Luminar is a paltry $69, this sounds good on the surface. I suspect that as the software evolves, there will be paid upgrades released and the fairly small subscription cost of the Adobe Photographer’s Creative Cloud plan will average out to about the same thing. Not to mention, the Adobe plan includes the solid asset management of Lightroom, as well as Photoshop.
My attraction to Luminar is less about its cost structure and more about its approach to processing. Once you open an image, you can choose from a library of tools/filters and add them into your “workspace”. There are some workspace presets and you can save your own workspaces for future use. It also has the ability to work with layers, putting it in a space between Lightroom and Photoshop. The biggest shortcoming, and most demanded feature, is that of asset management, which is in the works. I’m very excited to see it.
The first version of this self portrait was processed in Luminar using three filters in my workspace (4 if you include the vignette). The Orton Effect filter was used at a low setting to soften things a bit. The Golden Hour filter appears to soften the light, and add a subtle warmth to the highlights. And finally, I used the Soft Glow filter. Its nice to be a little less attached to purely technical adjustments, and instead choose a tool by desired creative outcome. These tools are not the same as a traditional preset/filter because they each have their own set of controls, and can also be selectively applied easily with a brush, gradient or radial mask.
The second image was my original Lightroom edit (from Feb 2015). The last image is the unprocessed image exported from RAW. The Luminar edit is definitely my favorite. The look could just as well been achieved with Lightroom, but would have required a much different approach and taken more time.
So this isn’t my first time trying Luminar. My first attempts with the previous release left me so frustrated due to serious performance issues and bugs, that I got a refund. This latest update, along with some major hardware upgrades (new AMD Ryzen 5 with 24 gig ram) on my end, resulted in a vastly improved experience. Zero performance issues, and zero crashes. One feature I miss from Lightroom are the eyedroppers that can replace HSL sliders for more intuitive color adjustment. I also dislike how Luminar switches into a whole different mode to do spot correction, where Lightroom is a pretty simple point and click affair.
I’m not going to give a “verdict” comparing Lightroom and Luminar as they are not completely comparable yet. Once Luminar adds asset management and continues to refine its overall user experience, we can talk again.
In the meantime, I would suggest just grabbing it and exploring. Its a small price for a new world of possibility.