Luminar software from Skylum has had a tremendous impact with many photo editors, bringing a lot of Photoshop and Lightroom-esque features along with some one-of-a-kind capabilities like one-click sky replacement and AI-based features for landscape and portrait photographers.
Today, Skylum is announcing the forthcoming Luminar AI application for Mac and Windows computers. There's no firm release date yet, just a notional early December. I spent some time talking with Skylum CEO Alex Tsepko about what makes Luminar AI different from the Luminar software that is being offered today. He said:
LuminarAI will help make image editing easier for everyone. We’ve removed the boring and difficult parts of photo editing without sacrificing creativity. LuminarAI will be a great tool in a creator’s workflow. They can focus on great results — not on the process of editing.
The new Luminar AI is largely AI-based, running from a local neural network on your computer. While Luminar AI was under development, thousands of professional images were fed to the software, and editing decisions by professional photographers were observed. As a result, the software ships with knowledge from edits made by creatives and will incorporate your own editing decisions into the final result. At the same time, Luminar AI makes suggestions, leaving you to accept, discard, or modify them.
For example, when doing sky replacement, Luminar AI will look at your sky library and suggest skies that might work well with the photograph you are editing. It will also tune the color of the image automatically to reflect the sky you are considering and show you a preview. That sky can be accepted or rejected, or you can manually tune the settings yourself.
There are similar AI-based features for portrait work, using tools like Body and Face to sculpt and refine a portrait. Eyes can be adjusted with the Iris tool, and blemishes and imperfections can be eliminated with the Skin controls.
Many of these features will be familiar to current Luminar users, so what's new is that the software will now analyze your image and reportedly make smart suggestions. This release is going to be a controversial one. A lot of image editors, myself included, like to make their own editing decisions, and not give them away to some "smart algorithm."
Tsepko insists that Luminar AI will preserve creativity without taking over your image editing. On the other hand, he and his team at Skylum believe that current photo editing can be done a lot faster using AI for the slow-going work like masking and layers. If the current sky replacement feature of Luminar 4 is any example, smart AI can do a lot and save lots of time. Tsepko also told me object recognition is a major part of the new software, making selections easier and more precise.
Ultimately the market place will get to decide if this radical approach to image editing will make sense. Certainly, easier and smarter editing should help less seasoned editors get a good result, and Luminar AI is aimed at those people as well as pro editors looking to speed up their workflow.
The lasting leaps in any technology are usually not incremental but instead belong to people who are willing to go out in a new and worthwhile direction. The iPhone in 2007 comes to mind, as do Tesla electric cars. No one outside the Skylum team has seen Luminar AI as yet, and next month, reviewers like myself will get an early look at what's coming. No real screenshots have been offered, so it's hard to know exactly what is coming.
Until then, we can debate and speculate and decide when we see what the capabilities are. Even though I tend to make my own photographic editing decisions, I'm anxious to see what Skylum is going to do. I have every confidence it will be great for less skilled photographers, and many of the features may be compelling for pros.
As for the pricing, Skylum will have early bird rates available. An early bird is one of just 30,000 customers who preorder Luminar AI first. If you’re an early bird purchaser, the app will be available earlier than to anyone else on the planet. You’ll also be invited into the Luminar AI Insider program.Those who order early receive Luminar AI at the lowest price. If you own a previous version of Luminar or Aurora HDR, Skylum also will extend a loyalty discount. For current customers, Luminar AI (for use on two machines) will cost $69. For new customers, it will cost $79.
The current Luminar 4 software will no longer be offered, but Luminar will continue to offer performance and compatibility upgrades for one year.
I'll have a detailed look at the software and share my own thoughts as soon as Skylum lets me play with a beta, probably in about a month.