Breathe New Life Into Pictures Taken With Old or Low-Resolution Cameras

Many professional photographers are certain to have images that were taken on outdated cameras or taken on low-resolution sensors. But what happens if you want to print these images large or bring them up to current camera technology standards? Well, Luminar Neo might just be the answer for you. 

In a recent video, photographer, filmmaker, and YouTuber Peter Mckinnon discusses how he managed to fix one of his low-resolution images with Luminar Neo. Although the image in question was taken on a modern camera, unfortunately, the camera was set to shoot small JPEG files without any raw files. 

These situations can be heartbreaking, especially when you have a great image like the one Mckinnon shot in an ice cave. What's worse is the fact that these images cannot be taken again because the ice cave that was photographed by Mckinnon no longer exists. In the past, there weren't many options available to recover images such as these; however, now, we're fortunate enough to have software such as Luminar Neo. 


The original image that Mckinnon took had a resolution of only around 1.4 megapixels, which isn't even enough resolution to appear full-size on an HD screen. With the new Upscale extension from Luminar, Mckinnon was able to increase the resolution to over 50 megapixels. This is obviously a huge jump in size, and a file like that can be comfortably printed large even for gallery standards. 

What's remarkable is how natural the final result looks. There isn't an oversharpened look to the image, and the details look realistic. The contrast between the soft water and the hard details in the ice comes through extremely well without any unwanted artifacts. 

This method of upscaling images can be used on your low-resolution and old photographs too. If you have valuable images from the past that need to be brought up to current standards, the Upscale software extension from Luminar Neo could be invaluable to you. 


Increases in resolution are obviously not the only thing that has improved over the last decade in camera technology. In fact, there's a very good chance that most images shot in the last 10 years probably have sufficient resolution to handle anything thrown at them today. What has improved over the last few years is how cameras manage noise in dark areas of an image or when shot at higher ISOs. 

Digital noise in an image is not the same as grain in film. Film grain had a specific look to it that could be replicated and managed depending on the ISO you pick. Digital noise is random, can have a massive impact on color, and is difficult to manage. This is why having software that can effectively manage the noise in your images is so helpful. 

One of the extensions from Luminar is called Noiseless, and as the name suggests, it aims to remove all the unwanted noise in your images. Getting rid of that digital noise is probably one of the best ways to improve image quality from almost any camera. 


Lens technology in the last few years has improved so much that we now have optics that are described as being too sharp. Some of these lenses have an almost clinical look to them, and depending on the kind of work you're doing, this is probably very useful. 

For instance, if you shoot landscapes and architecture, then having a super-sharp image is almost always a requirement. Architectural images, when printed large, tend not to look great if they are a little soft or lacking detail. Of course, this does not include any decisions made for artistic reasons. 

Nonetheless, the new Supersharp extension in Luminar can really help bring out the details in an image. Older camera systems may not have had the same detail-capturing ability as many lenses today. Fortunately, Supersharp can probably fix almost all of those issues. 

Generally speaking, sharpening software tends to work best on images that are already in focus, although you can use it to improve images where you may have missed focus slightly. In my experience, this software is most effective on an in-focus image that's a little soft. This is why for images taken on older and low-resolution camera systems, Supersharp is incredibly powerful. 

Improve Your Smartphone Image Quality

Smartphones these days are great because they're probably always with you, and with the use of certain AI features, they can produce brilliant results, and the images can be shared quickly to a large number of different platforms. The problem is that images form smartphones are still not quite as good as images taken on a "proper" camera. 

However, if you edit your smartphone images in Luminar with its latest extension, you can close the gap quite significantly. Most smartphones only shoot 12-megapixel files, well you can increase that resolution to 50 megapixels or even 100 megapixels. Plenty of potential resolution is available if you use the Upscale software form Luminar. 

Smartphone images can be quite noisy even in good lighting conditions. The smaller sensors tend not to be as effecient as many modern cameras. This looks especially bad due to the in-camera noise reuction applied by most smartphones. 

However, you can avoid a lot of the in-camera processing by shooting raw, and if you use the software from Luminar, you can produce significantly better results. This is not only in terms of resolution, but overall detail and clarity too. 

It's worth mentioning that it's probably not a good idea to do this for every single image you take with your smartphone. However, for those odd images that mean a little more than a quick snap, Luminar Neo is probably going to be extremely beneficial. 

Looking at the close-up of the two images above? there's a big difference in overall image quality. Both were taken on the iPhone 11 Pro; however, the image on the right looks like it was taken on a proper camera. The difference is huge, and this kind of quality is readily available when you use software such as Luminar Neo. 

Final Thoughts

Post-production software such as Luminar has made such huge and impressive leaps in the last few years. The ability to enhance images and recover low-resolution files makes this software incredibly useful. Even if you're just shooting with a smartphone, you have a real and genuine abillity to produce meaningful images based on the image quality. 

On a personal note, I'm thoroughly impressed with how much of an improvement there is in the image quality for smartphone cameras. It honestly looks like going from a smartphone to a professional camera, and that is simply incredible. 

If you want to learn more about the extensions in Luminar Neo, be sure to check out the video and Luminar's website to learn more. If you don't have Luminar Neo already, get it HERE. For a limited time only, you can use the code FSTOPPERS10 to get a discount for Pro and Explore subscriptions, as well as the lifetime option. This will work for all subscription models, except for monthly.

Usman Dawood's picture

Usman Dawood is a professional architectural photographer based in the UK.

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I had high hopes for Neo but, thus far, it's proven to be clunky on my brand new M1 iMac and brand new Macbook Pro. It takes a long time to even build image previews and I've actually resorted to using Luminar AI for final tweaks after exporting my main editing from Lightroom. Instead of adding extension after extension to Neo I wish they would have focused on making the original product better first. Hopefully it will become usable for me in the future. And, in my opinion, Topaz is the gold standard for resizing, noise reduction and sharpening.

AI upscaling has come a long way, but I wonder why the handling of edges seems to lag behind all other improvements.

It seems like they never properly analyze the hardness or softness of the edge of an object and then maintain it when upscaling, instead they tend to cause harder edges that look unnatural. This is something that i have noticed on every upscaler so far that relies on AI.

I've wondered about this too. I think it's because they believe we want to be wowed by the "After" image when instead what we need is an image that is indistinguishable from the original when upscaled 2x or more.

I don't think the tiny "Sponsored" at the beginning of this page is quite obvious enough for most people, or the FTC.

You saw it - you're assuming "most people" aren't as observant?

I was LOOKING for it after reading the article. I never saw it initially. And I have a particular kind of ADHD, so yes, I tend to see a lot more details than most people.

The before and after image of the lion stuffie directly under the title "Improve Your Smartphone Image Quality" are clearly two completely different photos taken from different vantage points. Just pointing this out because that clearly has nothing to do with any sort of "AI" processing.

The comparison is between a jpeg from an iPhone vs an iPhone raw file processed in Luminar with the latest AI extensions. Hope that helps.