Is Luminar 4 the Best Alternative to Adobe Lightroom in 2020?

Luminar 4 is the latest photo editor from Skylum Software that was released for PC and Mac at the end of 2019. We had some time to play with this tool, and now we’d like to share this overview, highlighting the unique features of Luminar.

This post in one minute:

Luminar 4 is a photo editing software for Mac & PC that uses AI technology for the fast and effective editing process.

The AI tools of Luminar 4 automatically identify objects in images and improve them in an intelligent, content-aware way.

Luminar 4 is an all-in-one photo application that can replace Adobe Lightroom. It has a library module for organizing photos and a powerful editing module with all the necessary tools for processing and improving images.

Yes, Luminar 4 works perfectly as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Luminar 4 is a one-time purchase, so it’s not a subscription-based application. The current price is 89$ or 89€.

What is Luminar, and how does it compare to Lightroom?

Luminar 4 is similar to Adobe Lightroom and other photo editors, but the main difference is that Luminar uses artificial intelligence to speed up the editing process. And we must say that works exceptionally well!

So what does editing with AI mean? Well, while the backend of this function is complex, the outcome is simple. AI analyzes every image you’re working on, so when you apply a particular filter, Luminar knows which part of the image should be affected. That means you don’t need to do any masking, so it helps you achieve the results you’re looking for much faster.

Even though Luminar is an all-in-one photo application, it also works great as a plugin and an external editor for every photographer’s workflow. We believe that Luminar will be very useful for beginner photographers who may not want to spend a lot of time editing images or who are not very good at Photoshop. But also professional photographers who work with hundreds or thousands of photos will benefit from a much faster editing process.

Library Module

Luminar 4 has two primary areas: the Library module and the Edit module.

The Library view is your digital asset manager (DAM), which is similar to the Lightroom’s Library. This is where you add folders of images to organize, browse, rate, and group your photos into virtual collections (albums).

And like in Lightroom, you can use just one library for all your pictures or create news libraries (or catalogs) for a specific series of photographs. And we think the latter is better, as it is a much faster and more focused approach to work on the images.

barnimages luminar library view
The Library view of Luminar 4 with folders and collections in the side panel.

Edit Module

The Edit module is the primary workspace of Luminar, and this is where you enhance your images. Main editing tools are located in the side panel on the right, and we especially like how these tools are combined into groups based on their intended purpose. This makes the Edit view more convenient to use.

luminar 2 edit view
The Edit view of Luminar 4 with the Essentials group of tools opened on the right side.

Luminar Looks

At the bottom of the Edit view, you can find the Luminar Looks Panel with over 60 presets that allow you to enhance your images with one click. It is a good starting point for new and casual photographers, who will appreciate a simple and quick edit.

You can also create your own Looks with your image-enhancing recipes, or explore Luminar’s shop for more Looks if there is something that appeals to your taste.

Luminr 4 Looks
The Luminar Looks Panel

Essential Tools

The Essentials are the tools for core color and tone adjustments. Here you will find not only standard tools like Light Balance, Exposure, Highlights, and Shadows but also unique features that use the power of Artificial Intelligence to enhance photos – AI Enhance, AI Structure, and Landscape Enhancer.

luminar 4 ai structure tool
Image with the AI Structure tool in use. The tool is content and human-aware, so it doesn't over-process faces and skin. As a result, they look natural, while other objects look detailed.

So, what are the benefits of using AI when working with images? Usually, when you edit an image in Photoshop, you spend time working with layers and masks, when you want your adjustments to affect a particular part of the image.

With Luminar 4, you can skip it, spending just minutes on what is usually takes a couple of hours. This is because Luminar automatically identifies objects (including people and faces, eyes, lips and skin details, clouds, foliage, water, buildings, and more) and improves them in an intelligent, content-aware way.

Creative Tools

Let’s jump to the next group called Creative. Here you will find the tools to change color and style that will affect the mood of an image. The most exciting tools in the Creative group are the AI Sky Replacement and the Sunrays.

AI Sky Replacement tool

With the AI Sky Replacement tool, you can replace the sky in seconds or minutes, instead of spending much more time in Photoshop. An excellent instrument for architectural, real estate, and landscape photographers!

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The AI Sky Replacement tool in Luminar 4 Before

The AI Sky Replacement tool is designed to work with blown out or flat skies, and this is one of the most prominent features of Luminar 4. This tool automatically analyzes an image, identifies the sky and other elements in the image, then seamlessly replaces the sky.

It also adjusts the lighting and colors of the original image, so it matches the new sky to create a realistic look. The you can also adjust the Atmospheric Haze and Sky Exposure sliders for even better results.

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The AI Sky Replacement tool in Luminar 4 After
The AI Sky Replacement tool in Luminar 4 Before

Note how the Sky Replacement in the last two images only affects the sky without touching the branches and foliage of the trees.

The AI Sky Replacement tool includes sample skies, but you can also use your own sky photos. In this case, you should follow these guidelines, because Luminar requires sky texture to be photographed in a specific way.

AI Augmented Sky Tool

The latest update of Luminar (version 4.2.0) introduced a new tool – The AI Augmented Sky tool, which allows you to easily add to the sky objects such as birds, planes, mountains, or northern lights. There are 33 objects to choose from, but you can also use your creations.

Luminar automatically detects the sky and creates a mask that ensures that the new object will not fall into unwanted areas. Therefore, the introduction of objects is easy and fast, and you don’t need to spend a lot of time creating masks and adjusting lighting and colors for a good match.

When or why to use the Augmented Sky Tool? On the one hand, you can enhance your photos by bringing in a detail that will enrich the scene, keeping the image realistic. On the other hand, you can let your creative ideas flow and create surreal photo composites in a few seconds:

Luminar AI Augmented Sky tool example After
Luminar AI Augmented Sky tool example Before
Luminar AI Augmented Sky tool example After
Luminar AI Augmented Sky tool example Before

Sunrays Tool

Working with the Sunrays tool, you place the source of the light somewhere on a photo, the software then analyzes the image and places the rays with the awareness of the objects on the photo. You can control position, warmth, amount of light, and penetration. These adjustments are useful when trying to composite the rays into a photo naturally to make the final result seem realistic.

Luminar 4 Sunrays tool After
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Portrait Edit

The AI Sky Replacement and the Sunrays tools are useful for landscape photographers, but Luminar 4 also has something to offer for a portrait photographer. Portrait retouching, which is a time-consuming task, is very fast with Luminar because it uses the power of AI to recognize facial details.

For a faster and convenient workflow, all the tools and filters oriented to processing portraits could be found in one separate Portrait group. Let’s go over the tools offered to us.

AI Skin Enhancer

Luminar’s AI Skin Enhancer is a simple but useful and effective tool that automatically finds all the skin in a picture and smooths it out. It also fixes imperfections like acne, freckles, and moles while preserving pores, skin texture, and hair.

With this tool, you have a professional level retouching, which is done with a couple of clicks and in a couple of seconds. The final result is pleasing and natural; skin doesn’t look too plasticky. And the AI Skin Enhancer works for any age and skin type.

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luminar ai skin enhacer Before

Here is the result of automatic skin improvement with the AI Skin Enhancer. The original image is taken from the Fixthephoto free raw photo archive.

Portrait Enhancer

Portrait Enhancer is not just one tool, but a collection of useful tools that can improve portrait photos naturally and pleasingly. Let’s quickly go through each of them:

  • Face Light is the emulation of a flash or reflector that brightens a face and doesn’t impact the rest of the image.
  • Red Eye Removal fixes red-eye problems caused by flash.
  • Eye Whitening makes whites of the eyes whiter.
  • Eye Enhancer sharpens, bring up the contrast and add vibrance to the eyeballs.
  • Dark Circles Removal removes dark circles or shadows below the eyes.
  • Slim Face makes a face thinner and is useful to correct lens distortion on a face.
  • Enlarge Eyes increases the size of the eyes. It might be useful if the person in the photo is squinting.
  • Eyebrow Improve thickens and darkens brows.
  • Lips Saturation enhances the amount of color in the lips.
  • Lips Redness increases the redness of lips.
  • Lips Darkening lowers the luminosity of the lips.
  • Teeth Whitening brightens the smile in a portrait.
luminar portrait enhacer After
Before

This portrait was edited using all the filters of the Portrait Enhancer tool, except the Red Eye Removal and the Teeth whitening, that are not needed in this case. The original image is taken from the Fixthephoto free raw photo archive.

There is more

Luminar 4 has more to offer: lens and geometry, adjustment layers, advanced contrast and gradient tools, split toning, photo filters, dodge and burn, erase, clone and stamp. These professional tools are designed to offer precise controls to advanced users, and they are present to make sure that Luminar can be the all-in-one photo application you ever need.

Price

One of the complaints that we often hear from photographers these days is that they don’t want to pay a monthly subscription for a photo editing software. And Luminar solves this problem by being a one-time purchase. The current price is 89$ (or 89 for customers from Europe), and by using this link, for 89$ you will get Luminar 4 + the “Inspiration Looks” collection of presets.

Conclusion and once again, Luminar 4 or Adobe Lightroom?

With Luminar 4, Skylum Software gives us something powerful and efficient. This application is different from other photo editors, and it offers another way of working. Using AI technology is a great way to speed up the editing process, a great way to save so much time. Now, with a couple of sliders, we can make some significant adjustments!

We don’t think you should necessarily look at Luminar 4 as a replacement for Adobe Lightroom (but also, why not?). These tools complement each other, so it’s well worth using them together within your current workflow. And as a powerful and affordable plugin to Lightroom, this thing is impressive.

If you take pictures and are enthusiastic about your photography, try Luminar 4 for free and see how it works and what it offers to you and your photography. And if you consider purchasing it, use our affiliate link to get a discount, additional presets and a pack of sky photos.