Luminar AI is incredibly easy to use. I don’t use it to edit all of my images, but many landscapes or photos taken on a dull day do benefit from it. It is also very easy to replace a sky which you might want to do if an image has a dull flat sky. You can also easily create artistic effects with overlays and textures. You can do all of these things in Photoshop too, but the intuitive and easy-to-use interface of Luminar AI makes it much simpler if you aren’t familiar with Photoshop.
I always use Luminar AI as a plug-in for Lightroom, but if you don’t have Lightroom you can use it as a normal image editor. I import photos into Lightroom from my camera with an automatic preset which renames files, adds my copyright and applies some basic edits to save a lot of time. I always work further on each one, but if I think a photo might be a candidate for Luminar AI, I use the export option ‘with Lightroom adjustments'.
Exporting from Lightroom to Luminar AI as a plugin by creating a .tiff copy of an image
The beauty of Luminar AI is its templates. The purchased version comes with a good range of templates. You can buy more template packs and there are often discount deals, as well as occasional free offers. However, I suggest starting with the basic ones. Luminar AI (as it says on the tin) analyses your photo and suggests which templates might work best. Or you can choose which one to apply. This is speeded up if you ‘favourite’ the ones you like so you can then simply click on favourites and choose one. A preview of the effect is shown. You can tone a template down by dragging the overall adjustment at the bottom of the screen. Or you can adjust the edits applied by the template individually by clicking on the Edit module (top of screen). A dot next to each adjustment shows you which ones have been used in the template which you can adjust.
(L) Luminar AI suggests templates that may be appropriate for the photo. (R) My list of favourite templates is on the right panel - just click on each one to see what it does.
There are masks in most of the adjustments which allow you to apply an effect to targeted area(s) of the image. Luminar AI has intelligent targeted adjustments such as ‘sky enhancer’ and ‘foliage enhancer’ which automatically target the sky or foliage with very good results.
Note: some of the templates are over the top in my opinion, but obviously it depends on the look you want)
(L) Image processed in Lightroom (R) Enhanced with one click in Luminar AI
The program comes with a set of skies included but I think it’s better to use your own sky images, otherwise you risk a sky being recognisable as a Luminar sky. Keep a folder on your computer of your own cropped skies which you can add to custom skies in Luminar AI. Get into the habit of taking photos just of nice skies when you see them! It’s easy to try each one out to see what works best. Here is an example - nothing wrong with the sky in the original image of course - just to show some examples.
The original image (above) before replacing the sky with my own skies (below)
Note that the landscape is subtly relit to fit with the colours in the sky
I think it’s also the only programme that intelligently relights the scene according to the sky chosen and will create a reflection of the sky colours in water in the image.
Original image with blue tones
Same image with sky replaced and pink/orange tones reflected in the water automatically
You can adjust the sky in a number of ways, horizontal and vertical shifts, sharpness, blending with the horizon etc. Luminar AI does a great job of blending the sky with any objects that intrude into the sky area. Here are a couple examples of Edinburgh skylines:
(L) Original (R) Sky replaced
Effect of replacing sky in Luminar AI: slider for 'Close Gaps' needed to be increased for all cranes to be retained
Textures and Effects
Similarly, with a click you can alter the ‘look’ of an image using LUTs (Lookup Tables – which are a kind of colour filter similar to presets in Lightroom) as well as texture overlays. There are LUTS included with the program. Here is an example of a portrait before and after adding a slight sepia tone plus wrinkled texture overlay with the opacity increased to create a more subtle effect (but, using an inverse mask, texture was not added to the face). I wouldn’t necessarily want to do this to the photo, but it illustrates the kind of artistic effects that can easily be created. You can, of course, also use presets in Lightroom to alter colour tones, but wouldn't be able to apply a texture overlay. There are also different blending modes which are fun to experiment with. These work similarly to those in Photoshop
(L) Original image (R) LUT and texture overlay applied (not to face)
Another example, below, of applying a LUT and texture to an image
(L) Original image (R) LUT and texture overlay applied
Luminar AI is a program that you can use simply or technically. It is a one-off purchase for use on two computers with the option to buy extra add-ons, including templates, LUTs and textures. There are sometimes giveaways if you sign up to their online conferences or forum discussions.
You can try Luminar AI with a free 7 day trial . My referral link:
(Note: Luminar AI is not an upgrade of a previous version of the program called Luminar 4. It is an entirely new program)