Luminar Neo Is Going Modular: There's Good News and Bad News

Luminar Neo Is Going Modular: There's Good News and Bad News

Were you wanting to do some HDR work in Luminar Neo? It's about to be offered as a paid extension. HDR Merge compiles multiple exposure-bracketed images into a single HDR image. It can merge up to 10 photos and deliver an increased level of color enhancement, making the final result look as close as possible to what the eye sees. HDR Merge is scheduled to be released on July 28, and the preorder starts today. 

HDR is nothing new. Photographers have been bracketing photos for years, and its star has faded a bit over the years as cameras have offered increased dynamic range. It's still a big deal for real estate photographers, and landscape photographers still use it in extreme lighting conditions. 

Skylum offered their own HDR software for some years, called Aurora. It's discontinued now, so the timing is good for photographers who want to do HDR.

What Is the HDR Merge Extension for?

If your camera doesn’t have a high dynamic range, one technique to compensate for this is to take multiple exposure-bracketed images. That’s where HDR Merge can help, merging up to 10 images into one HDR photo. 

Skylum claims Luminar Neo’s HDR Merge doesn’t produce halos or artifacts. Plus, with the help of intelligent technologies, Luminar artists can create HDR images even from a single photo, with no brackets needed. Artificial intelligence allows for the highest quality of bracket merging and a spectacular level of color enhancement.

What’s unique about Luminar Neo’s HDR Merge is that it can be combined with Luminar Neo’s other tools to create spectacular photos. After merging brackets, artists have a full arsenal of AI-based tools at their disposal. They can enhance with one slider, fix colors and toning, add glow, play with super contrast, add realistic sun rays or vivid foliage. Luminar Neo gives photo artists the power to achieve the best HDR photos and go beyond in their editing, all in one app.

I was a user of Aurora some years ago and thought it did a nice job. There was more flexibility than the HDR tools I had in Lightroom, but I thought a lot of HDR was overdone for my taste and a slowly lost interest in using HDR for landscapes.

The Downside

I do use and like Skylum tools, and I think the Luminar series has been a great leap forward for photographers with the addition of AI tools that can speed up workflow. For example, Luminar Neo has world-class sky replacement tools, which other companies are rushing to duplicate. There are also intelligent masking and powerful tools for portraits.

Still, the addition of extensions seems like an excuse to grab more money in a product that has been struggling to finish all the features that were promised. It's sad to see Skylum worrying about HDR when Neo is still waiting for things like dodge and burn and cloning tools, things I use on almost every image, and while they were in the last version of Luminar, they are absent in Luminar Neo. 

The troubling knifing of products like the original Luminar and its replacement with Neo forced owners to buy again, even though there were significant discounts. Skylum now is offering subscriptions to Neo, and that will send chills down the necks of some photographers who were never happy with Adobe subscriptions. 

The Neo software, which was built to be easily extensible, is a good thing, but it will be tempting for Skylum to add new features this way, charging for every one of them. I would have liked to see this HDR extension sent to all owners of Aurora and Neo for free as an introduction to this advanced architecture. In the future, I'd love to see things like panorama assembly and photo enlargement features, all as part of the basic purchase.

Getting the HDR Merge Extension

The HDR Merge extension preorder starts today on July 15. The release is scheduled for July 28, 2022, but Luminar owners can preorder HDR Merge now for a better price. 

Aurora HDR owners will get the opportunity to buy Luminar Neo with a loyalty discount and receive the HDR Merge extension for free. Additionally, Skylum customers with Luminar Neo subscriptions will get the Aurora HDR Merge extension for free. Otherwise, you'll shell out for it. You can get details here.

Luminar Neo will also be available in the Microsoft and Apple app stores.

I'm happy to see Luminar Neo is extensible, but I foresee a lot of paid updates in the future, which I think goes against the some of the original goals at Skylum. I want them to succeed and prosper. They are nice people and innovative. Their coders are working in the Ukraine under horrible conditions. But still, finish Neo before you extend it. 

I'll have an advanced copy of the HDR Merge extension soon and will share my thoughts when I've used it.

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15 Comments
Eric Segarra's picture

Totally agree. While I really like and use Luminar Neo regularly, I too believe that the program is incomplete and that the feature set it currently has falls short of what they led us as consumer to believe was coming. Hopefully, this particular move is limited to the Aurora HDR target customer, which regular Luminar NEO customers who are not big on HDR photography, probably had no intention of buying, so it is of no consequence to them. Having said that, the Luminar NEO folks should also be aware that other customers are still waiting for them to fully deliver in the articulated vision of the company so NEO can become their only software of choice. That wait will not last forever. In fact, having to leave NEO to go to some other software in order to make up for the program's limitations, is something that is beginning to get old these days.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

Totally agree. And as a NEO user I will include here my list of missing features:
Dodge and burn
Use of other programs (like Topaz Denoise-ai) as plug-in from within NEO
Any image stacking options (HDR/focus/Astro/panorama)
Better image layer implementation, like auto align

Hope they could add a few of these this calendar year. Aware of their unique circumstances been based in Ukraine.

Jay Galvan's picture

"currently has falls short of what they led us as consumer to believe was coming."

You can read the website and know what it contains before you buy it. Simple.

If you notice bugs or that something is incomplete you can email the developers as they dodge falling bombs with their family and yet still manage to respond to customer feedback.

LightAffaire Photography's picture

This company and ALL of their products are a CON. Not one product is finished and works as advertized. Continous alpha/beta code with promised updates to fix what should have been in what was purchased. Updates rarely appear but an upgrade to the next version which fixes all the problems keep slamming your mailbox on a regular basis. Stay away from this con artist firm!

Jay Galvan's picture

You must work for Adobe Sensei :)

LightAffaire Photography's picture

Why must i work for Adobe? I have commented based on the couple of purchases I made from this company. My comments above stand.You do not get a finished product or updates to fix the problems. Special offer price to upgrade to the next version is not customer support... that is a con trick. Fix the bugs in the current version is customer support. End of story. You are being conned but if you accept that then power to you. Will never buy another product or service from this company.

Brendan Kavanagh's picture

"Luminar Neo has world-class sky replacement tools"

You're clearly not using the same version that I tried just a couple of days ago then.
Luminar Neo is as utterly appalling as each of its predecessors were.

Manny Robalino's picture

Luminar 4 is an excellent program.
Use it every day.

What came after that is useless and many steps backward.
They should have polished 4 and had a world class product.

Juan Isaias Perez's picture

Luminar 4 is also my primary editing software. My only current issue with it is that it not always reads my R5 raw files correctly. That is when I go to NEO. Also NEO is more stable on my Mac than Luminar 4. That is why I hope they can soon elevate NEO to the level of Luminar 4. Overall Luminar 4 is still their best offering to date.

Scott McDonald's picture

There is no one size fits all...depending on what you use your software for, there will always be a mix of those who are satisfied with a product and those who are not. Since I do not create photos for sale, then my needs are relatively simple...fast enough, user-friendly, and nice outputs. Luminar checks those boxes for me. Maybe not for you. I have Luminar 4, AI, and Neo (they gave me Aurora for free). It would be great to have Neo complete, but it takes time (according to my programming friends who I used to complain to about this stuff). The only feature I am waiting for is the Clone & Stamp tool (if I really need it then I use AI). I know that no one likes to pay for new versions of what might look like the same products but our camera brands do the same thing with "new" features, no? I also commend them for continuing to work through these issues while the Dark Side is dropping bombs all around their country.

Klaus Scherer's picture

Hello friends, if you are discussing this approach, don't forget that Skylum is located in Ukraine as mentioned before and needs all the support. And certainly some money too.

derek j's picture

Few points. I think people are upset that they are launching a new product rather than fixing an existing one. That is unrelated to the war, as those resources could have been reallocated. Second, there are better ways to support Ukraine than buying software. Sureley a donation to a charity would do more for the people than photo software.

Francois de Melogue's picture

Skylum products will never replace Adobe for me, but I like them a lot as a plug-in. I do real estate - sometimes the sky replacement in photoshop works better and sometimes it is in NEO or AI. AI and NEO also handle things differently. Aurora HDR is a great HDR program. I wish they would just update that.

Thomas Reddish's picture

I agree with most of the comments herein. I have used Luminar AI and Luminar NEO as a Lightroom plugin along with other products from Topaz and ON1. I realize these guys are in a fight for their lives but at least let the community know that we will hold off on future development until this crisis is ended!

Jay Galvan's picture

They have. But they are still putting out work despite all that is going on.