Can Luminar 4's AI Sky Replacement Beat Photoshop?

Replacing the sky in a photograph is traditionally a fairly tedious process, particularly if you are dealing with a complex structure consisting of things like tree branches and the like. However, Luminar 4 brought with it a new AI sky replacement tool that promised to drastically reduce the amount of time and effort that goes into the process. Can it hold its own with Photoshop? This great video pits them head to head to find out. 

Coming to you from PiXimperfect, this excellent video takes a look at Luminar 4's AI sky replacement feature and if it can hold its own against Photoshop. I have been using the program for about half a year now, and I personally love the sky replacement features. It is not always perfect, but it is pretty darn good the vast majority of the time, and it has really inspired my creativity and set me off exploring all sorts of different ideas. One thing that really impresses me is that the program works beyond simply masking in the new sky, with features like the ability to relight the scene to match the new sky and adjust its blur to match the depth of field. It's pretty neat and powerful; check out the video above for Dinda's full thoughts. 

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In terms of identifying sky area and doing the replacement, Luminar is downright magical. It works around branches and leaves which makes it perfect for real estate and tourism photographers.

From a user interface standpoint, there's no contest -- Photoshop wins hands down. I have an easier time running DOS programs from the 1980s than I do this program.

Daniel L Miller's picture

I don't know why but I haven't been able to shake the guilt from using Luminar 4 for sky replacement. I've never had any issues with time saving apps or short-cuts to better photos like presets, LUTS, AI, etc.. For some reason this seems different.

I even limit my use of this feature to only my sky images as a way to avoid being "discovered" as a fraud. I'm not judging anyone who uses it — because I still do. The feeling may go away but for now I feel a little less of a photographer.

Rick Knight's picture

You made a BIG mistake posting it here, now everybody knows you're a fraud. With all jokes aside, if that was the case then everybody is a fraud. So you are in the clear :-)

Tom Reichner's picture

Hmmmmmm. Your comment causes me to give thought to this issue.

I guess I have the opposite mindset. To me, if I spend a lot of time in order to get a really good photo of a bird or a landscape or whatever ...

... and then I take a few days to go out and take sky photos to use as a background for that good bird or landscape photo ...

... and then after a few days of photographing the sky, I finally connect on a sky photo that would be a perfect match for the bird image ...

... and then I combine the two images together using software ...

... then I feel like that makes me even more of a "real" photographer, because I put so much more work and time into the final image.

It's not like I would just be pulling a sky image out of an image stockpile - I would go out and look for sky opportunities for each and every image that I want to replace the sky for. This would ensure that the final outcome perfectly expresses my artistic objectives for the shot.

Somehow, this seems like a very legitimate way of going about things when it comes to using cameras and computers together to create art.

Daniel L Miller's picture

I can appreciate that approach but don't think that is how most photographers use it.

I remember visiting a nice viewpoint four times over a month's time to finally get the best weather and light. With sky replacement and the related "re-lighting" tab I don't have to work that hard or be as good a photographer. My fear is the filter will make us lazy.

Scott McDonald's picture

I've been using Luminar 3 and 4 for a while now and am fairly pleased with the results of its AI features and now Sky Replacement...although at times I get a little frustrated with the experience of slow renderings and outright crashes BUT each update has gotten better in these areas so hopefully someday...Luminar will be a true contender with the big boys on the block. It's also very economical for what it delivers!

Finally, something new about sky replacement in Luminar on this week!

And at least ten articles on this site about that.

Four articles are from you...

Those who can't, write articles. ;-) jk

Those who can't write articles, write comments :)

I love the simple replacement Luminar 4 offers. Saves a huge amount of time and effort, not to mention the physical disk space. Will be making another video on this soon, for now...This is how you can work around the images when Luminar 4 is not able to figure out the sky...

What I'm finding interesting in this market is how some companies like Luminar are "besting" companies like Adobe in some specific areas. Add software like Topaz Denoise AI and Nik Silver Efex, and you could be forgiven for even contemplating the thought that Adobe is not invincible.

Topaz is different, but, Nik and Luminar offer complicated and time-consuming processing in Photoshop available to all in a few clicks. For Adobe, it is simply marketing and keeping the difference between the products. In my case, I purchased Luminar and ON1 during the lockdown and skipped Topaz and C1 as also Nik. LR + PS still remain my choice so far...I do have hopes from ON1 and am quite happy with Luminar as an add-on.

Matthew Lacy's picture

I got ON1 as well, and I am very happy with it.

The only issues, besides the app, with ON1 is that their customer support seems to be the worst of all I have come across so far. Their site for the "project" is dated with no response for years, the user support board has moderators who have no answers and bug reports, even when ack'd, have no resolution timelines...Let's see...

Matthew Lacy's picture

I'll keep that in mind if I ever need customer support. It's hard to believe that a company these days could still get away with that.

Just check out their "Project Raw" where they asked for suggestions and stuff and then some of their videos where the people conducting those are unable to answer their own queries...I still have hope...

Tom Reichner's picture

This sounds like great, very useful software! But the video makes it seem very difficult to use .... like you already have to know how to use Photoshop or something in order to use the sky replacement software. He mentions things like layers and "smart objects" as though we already know what those things are and how to use them.

Yet he said in the beginning that it is available as a stand-alone, so you shouldn't need Photoshop, or need to know anything about Photoshop, in order to use it, right? I dang sure hope so.

Dinda is good at PS and that is the comparison. I have made some videos on Luminar and absolutely love that for birding. All the BIFs against the sky are transformed in a click or 2. It does have some nuances like any other software, but, it is a lovely addition to any reasonable DAM like LR, ON1 and the likes...Yes, it is stand-alone and does not require any other software, but, it is not a DAM so, best used with one...

Tom Reichner's picture

Another thing .....

Can you use your own sky photos with this software? I would love to change the sky out in some of my images, but I don't want to use a picture of the sky that somebody else took. That seems like it would open up a big can of worms when I go to license the images to publishers and so forth. Plus I have no desire to use someone else's work.

Totally...I have a pack for download in one of the videos...Since I did not get much response there, I have not made other packs so far...I have hundreds of shots that I use as backgrounds and both Luminar 4 and ON1 can use those. Now that you mention this, I will make a short video on how to use this amazing feature in Luminar just to demonstrate the possibilities that I have tried myself :)

Just for completeness, I mostly do wildlife, but, Luminar has amazing stuff for landscapes and portraits as well. The best part, like the sky replacement, it does the job wonderfully well in a few clicks. The same might take hours in PS assuming you knew how...Just try it out and maybe, like me, you might purchase a license for it with some discounts around on the net :)