luminar 3

Luminar 3 – the WTT Review

Adobe seems to dominate the professional photo editing market with its very expensive but extremely capable suite of software. Photoshop, Lightroom and Illustrator are all pretty much industry standard stuff. However if you’re just in it as a hobbiest, then Adobe’s move to Software As A Service (SaaS) with its Creative Cloud initiative might have made you consider your options. One of the newer options is Luminar 3 by a company named Skylum and it promises to do things differently.

Full disclosureI bought Luminar 2018 out of my own pocket and received Luminar 3 as a free upgrade as part of my purchase. This is not a paid or a sponsored review.

In the same way that some people call smartphones ‘iPhones’ and pocket knives ‘Stanley knives’, the Adobe software should not be considered the be all and end all of photo editing. Indeed, there are loads of options already out there for you to try. The question is which one is right for you?

Skylum is targeting its software as a complete alternative to Lightroom, which can be used as a photo library manager, editor, print preview, and exporter rolled all in one. So how does it fare in these functions?

Photo library in Luminar 3

luminar 3 photo library
Luminar 33’s photo library feature works well, but lacks some advanced features.

The photo library feature was added as part of the update from Luminar 2018 to 3. You can add folders and albums to your database as well. While you can take a peek at the settings of each photo, you can’t actually change the EXIF data.

Skylum promises more updates to the library feature going forward, including more advanced features. How long that will take is another question. The library feature was supposed to have been a fully functional part of Luminar in early 2018, and it was released about a year late. Though you might not care, as long as you get something that works well.

If you’re purely looking for the basics, then Luminar should satisfy your needs. However if advanced features are necessary, then you might want to look elsewhere.

Editing in Luminar 3

luminar 3 review example shot
Chinese New Year scene in Yangshuo. Taken on my Canon M50, processed using prebuilt Look in Luminar 3

Luminar 3 states that it uses AI to power some of its functions. And in some of its headline abilities, that AI seems particularly effective. For instance, you can add sun rays to your photos and it will be intelligent enough to differentiate between clouds, trees and clear skies.

You are also able to apply a bunch of pre-made adjustments to your photos. Luminar calls them ‘Looks’, and it comes with a variety of them to suit portraiture, landscapes, street photography or even aerial shots. Above, you can see the results of a photo edited using one of the software preset ‘Looks’.

If you prefer doing things yourself, you can selectively and progressively add filters as you edit. Then you can save those filters as favourites for future use. In this sense, Luminar 3 is quite powerful and flexible. If you like some of the adjustments you’ve made yourself, you can save them, or even sell them on Skylum’s website. Your mileage on that front might vary.

You can also copy adjustments made to one image and paste it on to another.

Luminar 3’s cost

luminar 3 cost
Luminar 3 is cheaper than Adobe. But will it do what you want and need?

Luminar goes by the old model of buying a license (or five in this case) and having unlimited use going forward. You can choose to update to a newer version in the future, though it’s unclear when one would be released. In the meantime, Skylum continues to provide incremental updates as bugs are fixed.

Five licenses will set you back AU$99 at the time of publication. in comparison Lightroom CC would be AU$14.29 per month, but also includes 20GB of cloud storage. Though 20GB won’t give you much storage if you shoot in RAW.

Stability of Luminar 3

While the program is very powerful in terms of editing, there appear to be bugs in the code. No program will ever be perfect, but we have seen a few crashes and database issues. One issue required the removal of relevant temp files followed by the reinstallation of the program. It didn’t take long, but if you’re doing things on the go away from home, it can be infuriating.

In conclusion

While Skylum has made a number of promises and introduced some great headline features, Luminar 3 seems to be aimed more at the casual or enthusiast customer. Professionals might prefer to continue the use of Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps, both for their power and familiarity.

Having said that, what appears to be lacking in Lumimar 3 is its library functions. If that functionality improves, it could become a serious challenger. However its editing power is feature packed and certainly better in other areas, such as the use of AI. In the end, users need to figure out which software feature is more important to them.

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