Will the New Luminar 3 Let you Ditch Lightroom?

Will the New Luminar 3 Let you Ditch Lightroom?

The long awaited version 3 of Luminar from Skylum arrived this month. It held the promise of new features, and digital assets management tools (DAM) that would rival Lightroom. That's important, because some percentage of photographers don't like the Adobe subscription model, and while powerful, Lightroom's Library management can be a pain. Of course others love it, and would never switch. 

We've reviewed Luminar 2018 here, and the editing is pretty much unchanged. It's mainly the library/catalog that is the attention getter here. The new Luminar 3 with DAM was due in 2017, but it missed the mark, and a few other projected dates. It made it in 2018, but just slipped in. 

The new Library tools allow you to create catalogs, and the photos its cataloging can be local, on a NAS, a thumb drive or even in the cloud. Unlike Lightroom, if you move a photo, Luminar keeps track of the location changes, and doesn't throw a fit as Lightroom can do. Move a file in the Luminar catalog, and Luminar updates its database. That's all good, and it's easy to figure out how the Luminar library functions work. 

Luminar is lightning fast. Working on my 2.9 GHz Macbook Pro Luminar cataloged more than 50,000 files in about 3 minutes. At that point I could assign ratings from zero to five stars, mark them as flagged or rejected, or apply five color labels, and after some editing it is easy to find files by date, rating, or if they were recently edited. Edits can be easily synced to other photos, similar to the Lightroom sync feature. Edits are of course, non-destructive, and there is a backup system for your catalogs.

So is it time to junk Lightroom? Not really. Adobe has had years of perfecting photo editing and cataloging. Lightroom keeps improving, but Skylum is moving pretty fast with Luminar, notwithstanding some slipped release dates. 

Luminar 3 struck out on one major feature I use all the time. When I want to send brackets to Aurora (another Skylum product), I could select the images in Lightroom or Adobe Bridge, and a right click would send them off for HDR processing. Now you'd expect Luminar to do the same, since they make Aurora. But no, if you try it, only one image makes it over to Aurora. I talked to the Skylum people, they are aware of the issue, and expect it to be fixed in the next update. 

There is no ability to import your Lightroom catalogs, something that competitor ON1 does quite well. Skylum says a Lightroom migration tool is coming, but I think think that's going to take a lot of work to get right. Essentially, when you create a Luminar catalog, you are starting fresh. Your camera metadata makes it over, but that's it. Also, there is no way to add keywords, which seems pretty basic to me. Keywords are a big feature of Lightroom. 

This is all fixable, and I imagine it will be, but Luminar 3 as an asset manager is not a mature product, but rather an opening flourish. As a photo editor, I prefer Luminar to Lightroom and On1.

It's all very natural, easy to work with, and in general I like the results. I have some little nits to pick, for example, the gradient tools are weaker than the ones in Lightroom, but in general, Luminar is a great editor. Their sky adjustment tools, polarizing filters, and AI adjustments are quite good. 

If Skylum can make the Library/cataloging functions more robust, they are going to seriously challenge Adobe. But that won't happen in a day, or even a year I'll bet. 

Having said all that, Luminar is an excellent buy at $69.00. Even better, it's free if you have Luminar 2018. Luminar works well as a Photoshop or Lightroom Classic plug-in, so you can have the best of both worlds in a simple workflow.

Yes, the DAM is quite a bit less than the hype that surrounded its release, but for a photographer just getting started and not importing thousands of previously cataloged images, Luminar 3 makes some sense. If you're a pro or semi pro, Luminar is still a great editor, and I think they will rapidly build on their library foundation and eventually have a first class, highly competitive product. 

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25 Comments

This article is pretty spot on. I enjoy Luminar 3 quite a bit and will most like use it a lot more once it supports the new Nikon Z RAW files.

I have been a fan of Skylum products way back when it was called MacPhun. I've been an avid user of Luminar and Aurora, but I must confess Luminar 3 left me unimpressed in its initial version. The absence of keywords is baffling to me Folders by themselves simply won't be enough. Let's hope Skylum moves fast and improves Luminar 3. For now, it's a long way to cause users to ditch Lightroom.

Chris Silvis's picture

Good article. Kinda makes me wanna give it a go.

Luminar 3 falls far short in the area of metadata. I cannot see or use my geotags. Key wording does not seem possible. Star ratings that I have created in other software do not show up in Luminar 3. After all of the delays and all of the hype, this is disappointing. Luminar 3 definitely cannot replace Lightroom or CaptureOne Pro. It cannot even replace Apple Photos.

Alex Tsepko's picture

Mel, thank you for the post. Everyone, we will continue to work hard to make the software better and better: we have a plan;) Thanks for all the feedback (both positive and negative). Happy Holidays.

Michael Aubrey's picture

I'm looking forward to (eventually) ditching Lightroom. One thing I need is a solid alternative to LensTagger for adding EXIF info for MF lenses

<b>"It made it in 2028, but just slipped in."</b>

The Lightroom licensing issue will still be going 10 years from now? Very depressing. :-)

Working as a Photoshop Plug In is a great advantage.

unfortunately just like its other product PhotoLemur; you can't automate Luminar within Photoshop; unlike say the nik collection, it doesn't retain the settings that you use once you go back to photoshop.

(1) You wrote “2028” where you meant to write “2018”.

(2) Please expand your article to cover the massive amount of crash bugs most people are experiencing with Luminar 3- the official Skylum forums are a warzone. Not informing your readers that they are likely to experience data loss is disingenuous.

Mel Martin's picture

Dan-
Thanks for pointing out the typo.Corrected. I did not see any of the crashes you have seen. So it would be irresponsible of me to note them. Don't know if you are on Windows or a Mac, or what OS. I gave version 3 a hard workout and did not see any anomolous behavior, but I certainly trust people who say they are seeing it. I expect any bugs will be cleaned up by Skylum, they seem to be pretty good at staying on top of issues with their products. Thanks again for your comments.

Campbell Downie's picture

Sadly the first version of Lm3 and then today's upgrade are still both bug ridden on mac. Crashes galore, functions stop working and the library system is all over the place, plus lightning fast? Sadly not. I love luminar 2018 so was hoping this was gonna blow my mind... sadly it was like stepping back in time :-( It seems like this has been rushed to market because they kept promising and missing dates. I would happily have waited another 6 months to get awesome than wasting a lot of time trying to make it work. :-(

I tried it. In less than 2 hours I found a bunch of major gripes with it. It crashed and I lost all of the editing on one image, had to reset it to be able to edit it again. Not only is it "not a full DAM", it lacks the things I need to be able to do what I do.

+ No info displayed for each image. Filename, Exif info, etc. I shouldn't have to click info to see each one. When setting up for a pano, you need to see the date/time on each one.

+ Automatically adds subfolders with no way to remove a folder other than deleting the images. I store my output files in a subfolder of the original. I don't want to see them when I'm in the parent folder.

+ Always shows all images in the folder and child folders when you only want to see images in the current folder.

+ Straightening an image in the crop tool sucks, there's no tool for drawing a level horizon and the rotation is too touchy.

+ There's no escape from the Free Transform tool, clicking done applies the transform you've already messed up.

+ Clone stamp tool, clicked 5 stamps, then Done, then kept pressing Undo, got error: "Something bad happened while processing image: [image name], Try to recover it back to normal? Chose the left-most option and now the image is all messed up, basically desaturated mess with the clone stamps. Clicked to zoom and now it has a big banner of exposure difference across the top and bottom (had a 2x1 crop) and the clone stamps are gone. Reset Adjustments and it's still there.

+ During Edit, clicking Library takes you back to the folders list, but does not switch the view to all photos grid, I don't know how to get back to that view. Tried to reproduce it again and Luminar crashed. Ah, found it. You have to double-click the image to toggle it!

+ Clicked edit on a the above edited/crashed image, it shows a low res image, and won't let me do any editing of it. No add filters, nothing in the edit tab works. I reset the adjustments and now I can edit it.

+ There are no tooltips for icons/buttons. Guess you just have to click them to find out what they do!

+ There are no keyboard accelerators for accessing the menus.

+ There are no export presets, you have to change the settings each time.

+ Selected two images, chose View -> Compare, it did nothing. Oh, now I see, that's only for when you're viewing the image. That brings up the point that a lot of the menus are enabled when you're not in the mode/view that they pertain to.

+ ZERO preferences for the program.

+ No ability for virtual copies.

+ No keywording, titling, copyname, etc.

+ No ability to resize the edit panel. I've got a 40" 4K monitor, I want it wider!

These are all really good and important points to consider. What pisses me off is people like Trey Radcliff pushing Luminar to his followers because he gets a piece of the pie. No one with that many followers should be pushing something that is clearly flawed just so they can cash in.

And I really don't like this trend of vloggers and bloggers who review/push products and software to earn money. And often they don't disclose that they didn't pay for said product or software with their own money. Disingenuous so say the least. Peter McKinnon is another who never discloses this information and I hope no youtube videos of his are ever placed here on Fstoppers.

Exactly, that's what bit me. I saw "pros" pushing it and figured it must be decent. It does do some cool stuff, but it isn't ready to replace Lightroom.

Robert Lehrer's picture

Couldn't agree with you more. Luminar's organizer is a joke. Until it allows me to tag my images, it's of no value to me. I've looked at ACDSee as an alternative to LR and the pricey Capture One. Are you familiar with ACDSee?

I used to use ACDC 10 years ago but haven't since. I think it's definitely worth trying out. Perhaps give it a go and submit an article to Fstoppers about your experience with it?

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

I downloaded the trial and had a very similar experience as you. Sad because when it worked the results looked pretty good. I was ready to buy but not now.

Kevin Harding's picture

I've had every MacPhun and then Skylum (after the renaming) product from Day 1. I've had issues with every new release even though when eventually fixed I've loved all of the programs.

Currently I can't do anything in Luminar 3. Every single time I load it and add a folder it fails - just a spinning disk and then it crashes. Emails to Skylum have not been answered.

Definitely wait a few months until these issues have been resolved. Currenlty I'm still using Luminar 2018 which is great and has replaced my LR and PS use in every aspect bar adding logos and signatures.

Luminar is a wonderful piece of software and I love to use it. But often I really find that Luminar is far behind to LR and it's opportunities ... e.g. masking, spot removal, lense correction, upright etc. ...
Luminar 3 isn't able to handle a big amount of files and it's far away from the opportunities LR offers. And in my case the speed of the software is a pain.
I believe in some future it could be serious a replacement of LR, but at this moment for me LR is still the first choice. I use Luminar just as a plugin to make its opportunities available for me.

Wes Jones's picture

Just fired up Luminar 3 and installed the latest update. First thing I noticed is that the library previews for PSD files sometimes appear as negative images or just a white rectangle.

Ian Douglas's picture

DO NOT DITCH Lightroom for Luminar! This particularly pertains to Luminar 3 released around Dec 18th 2018. Don't get me wrong Luminar is interesting and worth owning (Luminar 2018) and quick to get impressive results but Luminar 3 has killed all that joy for me! Crashes, too slow (cannot handle 65,000 raw images) - not that Lightroom CC Classic is fast but it feels so versus Luminar 3. But as usual you do not have to take my word for it, get a trial, particularly if you have a large image library with large raw files in it. Make your own mind up.

Scott Andrews's picture

I downloaded Luminar 3 before reading this article; I am enjoying it. Compared to Lightroom and Affiliate, I much prefer it.

For example, I have a NAS drive which has all my images in date order for the last 5+ years. Lightroom forced import is just not workable for me. I also really like the non-destructive editing and that the bulk of the data stays on my NAS drive. I also edit the file from the NAS drive over a fast Wifi connection and it works fine.

Generally it has always done everything I have asked it. It was hanging a little but to be fair, it's on a MacBook Air.

I will be buying it at the end of my trail.

I downloaded L3 earlier this evening onto my iMac. In the 2 hours I’ve been trying to use it I spent more time resetting thing as it constantly crashes. It is extremely slow - I tried the eraser tool and it took nearly a minute to open the tool after crashing first.
My Mac has 32gb of ram and is no slouch on lightroom or ON1. So L3 not so good.
Price is good though.

Robert Lehrer's picture

Informative review, Mel. Thanks. Luminar's organizer is half-baked right now. When it gives users the ability to tag their images, it may warrant serious consideration. But until then, it has little value to me. I'm looking for an alternative to LR that's not as pricey as Capture 1. Is ACDSee a credible alternative?