Skylum Wants to Completely Reimagine Editing with Luminar AI

Skylum Wants to Completely Reimagine Editing with Luminar AI

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:

LuminarA​I​ will help make image editing easier for everyone. We’ve removed the boring and difficult parts of photo editing without sacrificing creativity. L​uminarA​I ​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. 

There's a preview video here, and a page on the Skylum website where news about the software will be updated. 

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.

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This would be really exciting if Skylum hadn't totally blown the recent 4.3 upgrade 2 months ago. Literally every user who has upgraded has had issues with Luminar. Users who were able to successfully roll back to 4.2 are fine, but the majority now own useless software. When it works, it works great. It just currently doesn't work. Additionally, new users who purchase Luminar are downloading unusable software which, in my opinion, is borderline criminal.

Agree. I have had Luminar 4.3 hang up on me so many times I have just stopped using it. A disgrace.

Based upon my personal experience, 4.3 works flawlessly if installed after removing any previous version thoroughly. A mere uninstall is not sufficient. You need to use regedit and remove one by one all luminar files. If you know how to do it, it takes less than 5 min. Then, you install luminar 4.3 and you should not get any problem at all.

Software that requires the use of regedit to work flawlessly? Wow.

I was just telling my experience on a piece of software that by the way I don't use frequently. You could have been nicer.

My negative feelings are about the software, certainly not you personally. Thank you for sharing your experience and I apologize if I caused you any unhappiness.

Ive had a similar experience .. I got Luminar 4 - then it would crash often .. but I kept going and soon it wouldn't even start up - I got support from them, but it was only partially helpful .. I did lose quite a bit of older edited work which made me not feel confident to keep using it .. so generally lost the feeling to use it ..
now, I've reverted back to Adobe workflow and wondering if there is any need to upgrade it .. it does have a few niceties, but unstable software is just a no go. Time is too valuable to lose over it.

If Skylum wanted to improve its product, they could start by showing people how to use it. I had an easier time with DOS in 1982.

Off subject but had to comment - Just days ago I threw away my owners manual for DOS 3.11; and it was difficult to do.. haha.

I think that the biggest selling point for the previous Luminar versions was the combination of AI and classic editing. I rarely used the AI when I was on Luminar 3. I feel that fully giving up control to the algorithm is going to alienate many users. That's just my take on it. There will be users who want to use it, but that's just not for me.

There are times when I get really tired of all the AI claims.

I think that AI can be a powerful tool, but it isn't a tool I want to use. I want to control the edit. I don't even use auto lighting while editing.

Interesting and I will probably take a look as more information becomes available. I currently do own Luminar and enjoy using it though I rarely dip into the AI sliders or sky replacement. If the "loyalty" discount can stack with the "early buyers" and it's down to like $40, I may pop on it... But like anything, more information needs to be known first...

Though I can utilize photoshop for everything I currently use Luminar for; sometimes it;s just nice and relaxing to jump in and play with sliders.

Their current version keeps crashing occasionally. I hope they fix that instead of releasing a new version.

Those where Luminar is unstable and is crashing -

Just wondering, what's your image size on the long side? If I load an image with 8000 pixels on the long side (+), Luminar will nearly 100% crash or never load at all. 7500 is about 50/50 chance, and 7000 and less, pixel wise, it almost never crashes.

Just wondering if anyone else noticed this pattern?

Yep, and never ever use RAW files with it. It is so slow that it seams it is not supposed to work with it.

Yeah def issues with raws, I just get colored streaks when they load, if they load.

Topaz has the same issue. I'm using a Z6, it's been out two years now; loading their raws should no longer be an issue for any company at this point.. Ugh. But yeah I have to convert then load. frustrating.