Skylum is pushing out a free update to their LuminarAI program for Mac and Windows with a host of new and sought-after features.
The main new features are improvements to its sky replacement technology, with the headliner being sky reflections in water. This is really the holy grail for sky replacement fans, as there is no easy way to get realistic reflections without masking or other complicated methods.
The new reflection feature doesn't even require one click. If there is water in your image and you replace a sky, the sky reflections will appear in the water. There is an adjustment tool so you can decide how obvious or subtle those reflections are.
Adobe, who recently released a very nice sky replacement feature in Photoshop, hasn't offered any reflection effects, and as far as I know, LuminarAI is the first application to really make this easy.
Other features in LuminarAI update two include some features Adobe did have in their sky replacement technology, and I'm glad to see them in the updated LuminarAI. Those include:
- Improved Scene relighting: SkyAI now provides realistic scene relighting by eliminating strong color casts from the sky on foreground objects. Improvements to these tools provide discrete control over the amount and saturation of relighting enhancements. The new Relight Human control can dramatically improve environmental portraits by matching people to the new sky for a more realistic effect.
- Seamless sky orientation: One of the toughest challenges in traditional editors is cleanly aligning a new sky to the original horizon. New controls for Rotation and Horizontal Offset join existing controls that allow new skies to be flipped, rotated, and positioned for a perfect fit.
- Easier sky selection: Quickly browse and select new skies with a new visual interface from the SkyAI panel. Skylum has added six new free skies with this release and made it easier to add your own skies or add new sky packs.
There are also some improvements to local masking in the texture overlays, and the template experience has been improved, making templates easier to find.
The app has also added new camera support, including files from the Canon EOS R5, Canon EOS R6, EOS 850D, EOS-1D X Mark III (lossy compressed files), Fujifilm X-S10, Leica M10-R, S3, SL2-S, Nikon Z 5, Z 6 II, Z 7 II, Olympus E-M10 Mark IV, Panasonic DC-G100 / G110, DC-S5, Sony ILCE-7C (a7C), ILCE-7SM3 (a7S III) and Zeiss ZX1.
Testing the New Version
I was most interested in the improvements to the sky replacement feature, and here, I think Skylum hit it out of the park. I like the ability to manipulate the placement of an added sky. Before, there was only vertical control, but now, it can be moved side to side and even rotated. As you move the sky, its scale increases so you don't run off the edge. It worked smoothly.
The reflections feature seems very smart. In several tries with different images, LuminarAI was able to detect water and get the reflection right. If I moved the sky position, I could see the reflection moving. The smoother the water, the clearer the reflection is, as it is in real life. If your water has waves of ripples, the reflection takes on those surface characteristics. I'm sure this was a lot of effort for the Skylum software team, but it all seems to work well.
Here's an image I did at Watson Lake in Arizona. It was a cloudless day just before sunset, but I wanted to see what LuminarAI update two could do with this image. I replaced the sky, the reflection popped in automatically, and with a few adjustments, I was on my way. I kept the refection subtle using the reflection slider.
Sky replacement is still controversial and not for everyone, but landscape photographers stuck on a shoot with a lot of clear skies, real estate photographers, and others will celebrate this latest version.
One change I'm not thrilled with is the scene relighting command. It's been intentionally weakened to make it more realistic, but I liked the greater range of the control in the previous version.
In my own workflow, I find LuminarAI is often all I need to finish raw images. Their tools continue to improve. It still doesn't have the depth of Photoshop or Lightroom, lacking things like an easy horizon-straightening tool, and the perspective fixer in Luminar doesn't match some of the dedicated plug-ins out there, but LuminarAI is still very good and getting better.
With sky reflections in water, Skylum has given Adobe something to catch up to again. Competition is a good thing for all of us.
LuminarAI update two is a free update for current LuminarAI users. It's out today through the app's update mechanism.
You can also buy the update directly from Skylum here. If you already own LuminarAI, the free update is a no-brainer. If you haven't tried it yet, the new features may make it more compelling for photographers.