Fstoppers Takes a First Look at Luminar AI

Let’s talk about the newest software from Skylum called Luminar AI, editing software that is powered by AI technology.
In recent years, there has been a rising consumer base of casual photographers, and the demand for more user-friendly editing software has been increasing. It started with simple mobile editors, which then evolved to their desktop counterparts, promising a quick and simple process of editing compared to mainstream editing software. These past few months saw an evolution of more intuitive iterations of famous photo-editing apps that rose to the occasion with the help of AI.

Skylum is no stranger to this field. Since starting off in 2009, they’ve developed several popular programs like Aurora HDR and Luminar. This time, they’ve taken it a step further and developed AI-powered software aimed at professional and casual audiences alike with the idea of minimizing the time and effort in post-processing and leaving more time for photographers to take photos.

Don't confuse Luminar AI with Luminar 4. They are not the same software, and it's not an update to Luminar 4. As they put it, Luminar AI is built around a solutions-based workflow, while Luminar 4 is built on a tool-based workflow. So, Luminar AI is focused more on the results while Luminar 4 is focused more on the process.

This means that Luminar AI will help get things done the fastest and most accurate way possible, with the guide of the user's artistic prowess.

One big change I noticed is that they removed the layers function that you'll find on Luminar 4. They simplified it with the use of local masking. You can just loosely select the area, and the AI will intelligently determine the point of interest. The adjustments would then be just applied to the masked area. Think of this as a simplified version of Luminar 4, since most of the stuff you need will be done for you by AI. All you need to do is decide what it is.

I’ve been given access to the beta version and there are several unique features of Luminar AI that will appeal not just to photographers but to visual communicators and basically anyone who edits photos.

1. Templates

Templates are identical to looks and presets. They're a set of adjustments saved into one file that you can easily apply to images. Luminar AI comes with several pre-built templates for you to choose from. You'll notice something that says "For This Photo" on the upper right-hand side. This feature analyzes the photo and makes specific recommendations or templates you can start off with.

You can change the intensity of the template on the lower right-hand side by sliding the circle down to the left.

Now, like all templates, it's not meant to be the end of the edit. Though sometimes, some images look great when applied, it is still suggested to do modifications on them to your preference. It's just meant to be a starting point. You can quickly make edits to the image in the Edit tab.

Similar to how looks or presets function, you can also sync up multiple photos or batch-process them using templates, so this saves you so much time when editing a group of photos that are part of the same series.

2. Composition AI

To keep it simple, this is an intelligent auto-crop tool. When you use composition AI, it automatically identifies the subject and determines the best way to crop the image. It also fixes the alignment of the photo and removes unwanted tilt or distortion as best as it can. The AI-determined crop is a result of machine-learning through thousands of suggested crops of photos from photographers who contributed to the testing.

3. Atmosphere AI

Atmosphere AI adds mood and drama by adding fog, haze, or mist in your image, and does this quite magnificently. However, you’ll still need to do some tweaks by adjusting the amount, depth, and lightness to your preference. This is a perfect add-on to your images in case you miss out on that foggy morning shot. 

4. Sky AI

Sky AI, or most famously known as the Sky replacement tool: in Luminar AI, they changed the name and made it much more intuitive to use, especially when blending it with the image.

You can choose to relight the scene based on your chosen sky, add atmospheric haze, and even change the white balance to match your scene. You can also ease out the transition of the image with the sky using horizon blending. 

According to Skylum, there will be a slider to add the reflection of the sky to the water, which will be available in a future update. You can also have the sky take the shape of the water by adjusting the Water Ripples slider based on your preference.

5. Augmented Sky AI

Augmented Sky is a feature that allows you to add objects to your sky, usually like a single clump of clouds, to add some drama. There are several other options to choose from in the dropdown. 

You can drag these objects around the image to where you want to place them. Like other options, you can also change the color temperature or relight the object according to the scene.

6. Accent AI, Sky Enhancer AI, and Structure AI

Accent AI identifies areas with issues of brightness, contrast, and color, then balances them off optimally. Sky Enhancer does almost the same but only focuses on the sky and makes it pop out naturally.

Structure AI adds in selective details without adding noise. It's quite similar to Lightroom’s clarity, but this one does not add any details where they aren't needed, say like the blues of the sky.

7. Face AI

Face AI is similar to AI Portrait Enhancer in Luminar 4, but they improved it and added “Slim Face,” which identifies the subject’s face, and it can easily adjust the shape based on the user’s preference. It still has tools for the mouth, like lip saturation, redness, and others.

8. Iris AI

Iris AI focuses on the subject's eyes to maximize the details of the eyes. It adds an arsenal of tools you can use to modify the subject’s eye color, size, eyebrows, and several other features.

9. Skin AI

Skin AI is the renamed AI Skin Enhancer from Luminar 4. It’s a very useful tool where you can choose to remove skin imperfections and shine.

10. Body AI

Body AI is a tool that makes bodies appear lighter or heavier with subtle adjustments that do not compromise the image. It automatically detects the body in any lighting and in any position, whether the subject is walking or just standing up.

Another planned feature that will be available in a future update is a tool called Bokeh AI, which, as the name suggests, creates a bokeh effect in your images. 

There are still several desired improvements I would want to see in the software, like improving the eraser tool and the accuracy of Sky AI in the presence of snow and water, both of which have been suggested to Skylum.

Overall, the software looks promising. I prefer using it over other editing software for quick edits and batch processing because of its ease of use.

You can check out the video above to see these tools in action and actual editing I’ve done using the software.

Marvin Grey's picture

Marvin Grey is a multi-award-winning Fine Art Landscape and Architecture photographer from the Philippines. Some of his works have been exhibited and published in several publications since 2019.


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Not a tool I would use. The face was awful as was the body slimming. This promotes the issue of body shaming, everyone has to be thin to be ok. I don't even like the sky replacement tool, it is not something that would I'd be proud to display.

Hi Michael. Thanks for reading through the article! I'm sure that is not the intention when they created the feature. It's merely a tool to equip photographers and artists with a multitude of options that best fit their artistic vision. What editing software do you use? And what features would you like to see added in Luminar AI?

I’m using the photographer subscription version of Adobe, both LR and PS, and have been a Adobe user since PS 5 (the first 5) and LR since it’s intro. I also use Photo Mechanic and Portrait Professional as well Luminar 4 but I’m not a regular user of the later. Portrait Professional can be abused as a body slimming tool as well but my use is limited to acne retouching.

Face and body slimming are only 2 of many features offered with this software.

I already use sky replacement and it has nothing to do with pride - it’s because my clients like it.

But if you don’t want to ever add anything artificial ever, then you don’t have to. It’s still an interesting Lightroom alternative that doesn’t require a subscription. I use Luminar 4 for some stuff and like it.

Thanks Jason, Sky replacement has its uses and completely agree that it is based on preference (or request, in your case). I do like Atmosphere AI personally.

The landscape stuff could be cool for social media projects and quick stuff, but the body and face stuff is just bad in making Instagram more toxic for body image stuff

I disagree. The problem is people not software. Although i probably wont use the software myself, i dont they should stop developing photo editing software just because a few people may be sensitive.

Just No!

The body slimming is dangerous slippery slope.

I always try to avoid posting critical comments, but in this case, I have to say that almost all of the images in the video looked garish. Didn't make me want to try the software. Reminded me of someone who obviously has on too much makeup.

Please don't push the sliders into 100.

Luminar is already good enough at sliders like 15 to 20. Or sometimes less. I imagine this too will have to be used sparringly.

Please, stop promoting this shady company, I made a huge mistake buying in to their Luminar 4, that still has critical problems.
As far I saw on their forums, they did the same to Luminar 3.. they overpromise and never deliver.

They seem to be a company that keeps rolling out partial software over and over again without fixing their current lineup.

Will it be luts friendly? Terrible experience on Luminar 4 when you are trying to use your own lut.

Hi Louis, yes. I use my personal LUTs from Photoshop. It's usually part of creating looks even for Luminar 4. I haven't had any issues. What issues did you have?

Don’t bother with this product. If I wanted an engineer to choose how my images look, I’d shoot jpg. But my biggest gripe with this company is they apparently drop updates for the product you purchased after they release the next version...which seems to be in about the time it takes to learn to use it (e.g. 3 to 4 to AI) Skylum:”we’ll support Luminar 4 for another year.”

Seriously.. this felt more like a paid commercial for Luminar AI than a review. He sounded like he was reading off the company's product sales points. Either way.. this isn't something I would ever find myself using in my work flow.

I am really torn about this new program.
I used Luminar 3 and liked it, used 4 - had issues (mostly performance) but really liked a lot of what I could do to my photos.
Moved over to Lightroom and found it easier to use and having the ability to edit on my iPad is a big plus. But there are things that I can do in Luminar that I cannot do in Lightroom and would need Photoshop to produce the effect.
I know a lot that I like about Luminar 4 will be in AI, but my fear is there is as the program goes one year after year, Skylum is going to push the AI more and more, and slowly take away control from the user.
I also am not a fan of the body effects, the example used here with the eyes... sorry... she looks like an alien, very unnatural in color and size.
I don't like the sky changing option, but I get why it is there and why people use it, just not something I would use.
And performance wise, I feel Skylum really dropped the ball with Luminar 4 and made the program worse as time went on, and to no surprise, found it was unusable for the past year right around the time they introduced Luminar AI.
I am not using Luminar 4 on some old machine, 2015 iMac with 32GB of memory and an i5 chip, so it has the power, but it can take up to 20 seconds just to see a slight slider change effect int he image show up.
So now I am staring to question Skylum in general with their practices.
So for me it is do I use Luminar AI that has the features in 4 that I like and miss out having in Lightroom, but possible have to deal with another sluggish program that might get ok support? Or stick with Lightroom where it is faster, get the results I like, most of the time, have an iOS version to use, but miss out on stuff that requires me to have Photoshop that I don't want and stuck paying $10/m?

Where i found luminar 4 useful was for batch processing of previews.

I throw all the selected photos in t
It with a hint of portrait corrections, a few settings i like and let it process minis for selection.

Once the client selects them i grab originals and work in Lightroom and photoshop in only those.

I can send previews and minis for selection pretty much the next day with this.

Of course the result is much worse than working by hand, but good enough for its purposes and a lot faster.

Hi Tommy, I also had the same issues with Luminar running slow on Windows, but they did a lot of fixes in recent updates. It's not perfect but it's improved significantly. I was also told that they are continuously improving speed and stability. Personally, for maximum flexibility in doing edits I go for Luminar 4 versus Luminar AI. They serve two different audiences. Luminar AI focuses more on easy and effortless editing with some flexibility and Luminar 4 gives you more flexibility and decision making on your edits.