Every Architecture and Landscape Photographer Needs Luminar 3

Every Architecture and Landscape Photographer Needs Luminar 3

I know this article is sponsored, and some of you may pull back a little because of that. I don't blame you; I mean, I'd personally have reservations too, but I genuinely mean every bit of praise I give to Luminar 3. This software is seriously awesome, and in this article, I'm going to explain why. 

Prior to accepting this review, I was a little apprehensive about Luminar 3, because it's something new, and I'm kind of set in my ways. I thought there would be no way I'd be putting this into my workflow or switching from what I currently use. I'm so happy to be wrong, because the results you can produce with Luminar 3 are brilliant, and it now has become one of my main image editors. 

The Interface

Let's get the boring stuff out of the way first. As with most photo editors, the interface is going to be very familiar. There isn't very much you can do to make something more intuitive and simple than most current photo editors. Luminar 3 is similar in many respects to other popular image editors, and this is something that I think many new users will appreciate. This prevents the need to watch lots of boring tutorials, and you can jump right in and start editing your photographs. The editing panels are easy to find, and most of the features are where you'd expect them to be or not far from that. 

The dark theme of the software is also going to be very familiar to most, and it does help, because it's a little easier on the eyes. One of the ways that Luminar makes things easier and a little simpler is the fact that you can work in different workspaces. If, for example, you want to develop an image as black and white, then you can select that specific workspace. This removes a lot of the clutter and helps you focus on precisely what you want to do. This wouldn't necessarily be considered a feature in many other image editors, but then, many other image editors don't offer the vast number of features that Luminar does. The sheer number of options and ways you can edit your image is incredible, and this is why limiting your workspace is a huge help on most occasions. The only aspect I'm not a fan of is the fact that you can't just drag and drop images in to edit. This isn't a huge problem, because you can use the quick edit feature to add individual or several images in; however, I just think that being able to drag and drop images is a more intuitive way of doing things. Other than that, the interface is what you'd expect an interface should be, and I don't really want to spend too much time talking about that. Instead, what I really want to discuss is why I think Luminar is incredible. 

AI Editing Tools

This is where things get super fun with Luminar. This software has features that use AI to produce better results. I don't know of any other software that's actually intelligent. The time that Luminar can help save when editing is an extremely valuable feature. 

The first really useful AI tool in Luminar is the AI Sky Enhancer. As the name would suggest, this feature enhances the skies in your images. It's smart enough to recognize if an image has a sky or not and is disabled in images without one. Edits you perform with this enhancer only affect the sky, which is very useful. The time I would spend trying to select a sky to edit generally drives me nuts, especially when there are complex buildings in the frame. Luminar makes this process so much easier, and it saves me so much time. As with any editing tool, there's always a way to overdo it, and I recommend subtle touches with this one. 

For the most part, I believe that it's the subtle changes that have the biggest impact when you're editing your images. This feature isn't going to perform radical sky replacements, but the impact it has really does help. Having said that, I get the feeling this feature could be developed further to allow for full sky replacements, but then, I'm just speculating here. The major benefit of this feature is that you're able to quickly enhance the sky in your images without the need to make messy selections or have any of your edits impact the rest of your image. As you can see above, the AI sky enhancer is only affecting the sky and nothing else. 

The second AI tool that I'm enjoying so much is the Sunrays feature. I love this feature. I love using it, I love how intuitive it is, and I love all the different ways you can adjust the tool to ensure it looks real. The moment some of the staff members at Luminar showed me this feature, I was immediately hooked. Once again, there's always a way to overdo things and having some restraint is advisable, but still, I enjoy using this tool so much. 

The reason why I think this feature is incredible is not because of the fact that you can simply add in sun rays wherever you want, but because of how intelligent this feature is. The software is intelligent enough to know and understand what's in the image. For example in the image above, as I moved the sun rays around, the lighting for the whole image changed relative to where the sun rays were placed. If I placed it slightly behind a building, the sun rays changed to accommodate that and didn't just start beaming through solid objects. This is incredible, because once again, it means you're not having to create selections or use layer masks to adjust the look; the software is able to do this all on its own. The control you have is properly impressive. You can determine the warmth, the number of rays, and even how long or short they are. Simply adding some sun rays to this old image of mine brings so much more life to it and gives it a more interesting look. 

As with most things, there are limits to the software when it comes to where and how you place the sun rays. For example, if in the image above I drop the sun rays down too low, the software finds it difficult to differentiate between the sky and the water, but then, it's not an issue in this particular image.

It's features like these that are incredibly useful for architecture and landscape photographers. Not only do they save a bunch of time, but they also offer new and interesting features that you can use to enhance your images. When you're shooting landscapes, one of the biggest and most impactful aspects of your image is going to be the sky. Luminar offers some very powerful and intelligent tools to help with this. 

New Life to Old Images

Luminar 3 has so many different useful features that it's difficult to go through them all and demonstrate them properly in a single article. What I will say is that this is a fully developed and well thought-out piece of software that I think is extremely useful. What I've been doing recently is going through many of my old images and re-editing them in Luminar. The vast number of features and tools yo have available just makes Luminar such a joy to use. The thing that really stands out to me is that I'm having to spend less time editing these images in Luminar and I still end up with images that look significantly better.

The above image isn't brilliant by any means and not the kind of photography I do for a living, but still, the fact that Luminar can improve these odd shots that I take on occasions makes a big difference to me. The AI features are brilliant, and I have a lot of fun using them, but it's the attention to detail that really gets me. The fact that you can use features like Dodge and Burn in the software with a brush to paint in the effect is incredibly useful. This means I'm not having to jump into Photoshop, and it speeds up the whole editing process. Another brilliant feature in Luminar is the fact that almost every feature has a slider that allows you to reduce the effect. This is essentially an opacity slider, and it's available for almost everything you do. Not only that, but almost every feature in Luminar allows you to use a brush to apply any effect at specific areas. Global changes can be good, but more often than not, I only want to apply specific effects and adjustments to one or two areas of an image. AI is fun, but the brush tool is probably far more useful as a regular tool. 

What I Liked

  • AI features that are essentially unrivaled
  • The vast number of tools and options available
  • The default profile in Luminar is better than other popular software applications I've used
  • Having a brush tool for almost every effect and adjustment
  • Individual opacity sliders for all of your effects and tools
  • Speed of the software for both importing and editing files

What I Didn't Like

  • Location of the crop tool: it's a little hidden away 
  • Export settings are a little limited
  • You can't simply drag and drop images into the software to edit 

Final Thoughts

As a writer for Fstoppers, I'm privileged to have been given this software for free to use and review. This is something I'm extremely thankful for, and I truly do appreciate it. The thing is, had I have known what this software could do prior to receiving it, I would have gladly bought and paid for it myself. Luminar 3 is one of the best image editors currently on the market, and I can't recommend it enough. 

Use this link here for a free trial.

To purchase the software, use this link here and use the coupon code "FSTOPPERS" for $10 off. 

Log in or register to post comments


David Penner's picture

After watching a video on this software I've come to the conclusion that a few developers from the Nik collection must have worked on this. A lot of the tools are pretty much exactly copies of Nik.

Usman Dawood's picture

Which tools specifically? I don’t recall Nik having any AI features and I’ve been using Nik since when you had to pay for it.

David Penner's picture

I'd have to watch the video again but the names were exactly the same and it has the same sliders. I'm not talking about the AI stuff though.

Bert Nase's picture

HaHa, sure! Today everything has to be called AI. The latest marketing thing!

Usman Dawood's picture

That's literally not true. Everything isn't called AI.

c0ld c0ne's picture

And not everything called AI, is.

Usman Dawood's picture

That’s true.

Lloyd O'Daniel's picture

Yes, The sponsorship of the article is a red flag and it should be. Anyone contemplating spending cash on this software should spend 2 minutes in the Skylum forums. Luminar 3 is the buggiest released software in the history of computing. Numerous promises by Skylum have been broken. I'm now transitioning from Mac back to Windows. I just thought I had issues with the Mac version. But the software had progressed to the point of loading the catalog without crashing. Not so with the Windows version. It is unusable. I've pretty much decided that I can no longer rely on any Skylum products for critical workflow.

Marcus Joyce's picture

Does not have support for latest camera raw either...

Usman Dawood's picture

Ah yes actually that’s true. I couldn’t use it for the EOS R, sorry I completely forgot to mention that as something I didn’t like.

Colin Robertson's picture

Dammit! And I just downloaded the trial...

Usman Dawood's picture

Why is it a red flag? Something sponsored can never be a true?

There were two ways I could have written this piece. If I was doing it for the sake of it I would have simply provided an outline of what the software could do and not written something that gives my personal thoughts and experience using Luminar.

I’m genuinely using Luminar 3 in my workflow now and I don’t need to.

I’m using the current version and I haven’t been faced with any bugs or glitches. In all fairness, no software on the market is perfect.

Jason Frels's picture

Were you using the Mac OS version or the Windows 10 version?

Usman Dawood's picture

Windows 10

Dylan Zoebelein's picture

I actually liked a number of the features the software had to offer, but my program crashed at least once every session. Maybe I look back into the software in a few months.

Bert Nase's picture

They should use some more natural intelligence instead of artificial ;-)

Jason Frels's picture

I downloaded the trial for this about a year ago (Windows 10) and it was very slow and crashy so I gave up on it. Maybe I'll try it again if it is better. It would be nice to get off of the Ligthroom subscription.

Greg Wilson's picture

Tried - it's slow, buggy and the colour science is still rubbish. I wish FS would give a better coverage to some higher quality solutions, like Capture One + RNI Films 4 for example. Howe I doubt they would be interested in paying anything for the FS articles or even talking to you...

Usman Dawood's picture

Capture One is amazing Its my main raw processor. I think people already know how awesome it is so generally when I’ve written articles about it I talk more about additional things you can do in it as opposed to why anyone should use Capture One.

I’ve done articles about how to creat LCC profiles and how to use the colour checker passport prior to X rite supporting it.

Fristen Lasten's picture

Cigarettes in the promotional photo?

Usman Dawood's picture

What cigarettes?

Marcus Joyce's picture


Usman Dawood's picture

Oh dear... hahah I completely missed that LOL.

Well, I guess it's ok considering my profile pic.

Tony Pitale's picture

I’ve had nothing but the worst experience with Luminar 3. I’m excited for what comes, but for now it crashes, locks up, fails to perform tasks, or completely corrupts my library. To top it all off the support is abysmal and apathetic.

Mark Smith's picture

I don't know if you have experienced this but I try never to use the "undo" keystroke in Luminar 3 because it makes everything just grind.

Colin Robertson's picture

Regarding AI being used (specifically in image editing tools), Luminar is hardly alone. Adobe uses it's "sensei" technology throughout it's applications, such as detecting faces and auto-tagging images in Lightroom based on the content of the images, and is even built into the auto button now. Pixelmator Pro and Pixelmator Photo on iOS has "machine learning" (indicated with a nerdy and should be changed 'ML' button) built into virtually every slider in the app. It works pretty well from what I've used of it.

I mean, the iPhone uses AI to take incredibly balanced exposures now (smart HDR)! It's getting to the point where this tech makes me feel like a bit of an idiot... What I mean is, it's getting so good at getting you to 90% of where you want to be for an edit (often in one button press) that duplicating the same results (because a machine won't out smart me dammit!) is often a time consuming process that leaves me questioning how far to push this or that slider, which areas to crop, etc...

Alfredo Luna's picture

I'm a Luminar user and maybe it's because I'm not a Photoshop proficient user yet, I find Luminar very helpful. I've retouched many photos with good results. My clientes are very happy... Just saying.
p.s. I'd like to see a CLOSE BUTTON! FGS! Skylum guys don't believe it is important but IT IS...

Mark Smith's picture

Of all the things to praise in Luminar 3, the sunrays feature would be near the bottom of my list. Luminosity masking (which is not even mentioned) would be near the top.