Skylum's Luminar 3 has been rapidly advancing with new features, and today, they've released Luminar 3.10. It's a free update for current users. This new update features significant enhancements and content-aware recognition to the software’s Accent AI filter, as well as other improvements to its Library.
I received an advance copy of the software and tried it out it through a series of edits with a variety of photos. The AI features are much improved, particularly when the software has to deal with facial lighting and tone. Skylum says the AI algorithms are now human aware, and I would concur, as the 1.0 version of their AI feature could be harsh on faces, adjusting them to the same degree as it adjusted backgrounds and landscapes. Version 2.0 gets this much better, and faces stay natural.
Here's a before on a portrait:
And an after using the Luminar AI tool. (Both photos by Robert Vanelli)
I do mainly landscapes, and there again, I thought this new version of Luminar 3 does a more natural job with outside photography, and as I played with the sliders, the lower ranges of adjustments stayed quite natural looking. My image at the top of this article was improved using only the AI Accent Slider and the AI Sky slider. That's it.
Here's another before and after with a landscape by Raffaele Cabras:
Sure, you can achieve these kinds of results with standard editing, but these edits are simple and fast with the AI tools.
Skylum says Accent AI 2.0 also includes more careful color correction, as well as a smarter detail boost. They claim that if it can’t make an object in a photograph look better, it won’t be touched. I didn't look at hundreds of photos, but did edit a few dozen of my images, and yes, the improvements are easily seen, and the AI component never wrecked a photo.
There are some improvements to the library functions in the Windows version, and the Mac and Windows version get the ability to sync a photographer-created style across a group of photos. It's similar to a function Lightroom offers, and in my testing, it worked well.
Skylum says they expect to add even more AI features in versions to come. This raises the question of just how much AI photographers want? In general, I shy away from automatic editing tools. Editing to many photographers is a highly personal train of decisions, and it's not my style to let the software decide.
Having said that, this latest version of Luminar makes some good decisions and can help speed a photographer's workflow. Since the controls are sliders, you get control of how much effect you want. This is similar to sliders in Photoshop or Lightroom, but with the AI filters, you are not adjusting a single factor like highlights or saturation, but you are changing a whole host of inter-related image characteristics with a single slider, without control of the balance of those characteristics.
At the end of the day, editors will have to view the results and see if they find them satisfactory. My exploration of the app concludes that it all works rather well, but ultimately, each user must decide. For my own work, I prefer to use the single effect controls and can get great images from Luminar that please me. If you are pressed for time or less experienced, I think you'll get good results with the AI features. If you are a pro or semi-pro, it's worth exploring these new AI enhancements, because to a greater or lesser degree, they can work pretty well.
Skylum is quite committed to Luminar, and they will continue to work on it. They tell me these new AI features will show up in Luminar Flex as well in the near future. Flex is basically Luminar without the library feature, and I'm not happy with the library yet, so I work in Flex.
Users with Luminar 3 can update for free to version 3.1.0. Mac users can update by choosing Luminar 3 in the top menu bar, and then clicking “Check for updates.” Windows users can choose Help > Check for updates on the top toolbar. The application is normally $70, but it can be purchased for $60 through May 14.
What I Like
- The AI tools work well, and if used judiciously, don't damage an image or make it garish
- Editing tools that generally work as well as what is available from Adobe (However, Luminar can't do all the things that Adobe can do. It's just not as feature rich)
- Easy to use
- Low price/no subscription
- Constantly updated with new/improved features
What Could Be Better
- All Skylum apps, including this one, use an oddball color profile, Melissa RGB, that can play havoc with other plugins. They should drop it and offer a choice of more widely used color profiles like Adobe RGB, sRGB, etc.
- The library feature still seems half-baked compared to Lightroom.