Luminar 3 review: A viable alternative to Adobe Lightroom

Photographers who use photo management and editing apps have
been caught in a changing market. Users of Apple’s Aperture had
to deal with the demise of the app. Then there’s Adobe
Lightroom, which used to be sold with a perpetual software
license, but then Adobe changed it to a subscription-based

If you’re a photographer seeking a powerful,
traditionally-licensed package, Skylum Software’s Luminar may
be what you need. The new Luminar 3—also known as Luminar 3 with
Libraries—offers a superlative, easy-to-use image editing app
twith photo management capabilities.

luminar 1 Jackie Dove

Luminar’s expansive photo wall gives a scenic overview of
your collection.


Luminar 3 debuts a new digital asset management feature called
Libraries, which allows the app to compete with Lightroom
functionality both in editing and photo management. It syncs
with folders and subfolders and tracks all photo edits in a
catalog, so you never have to move your photos out of their
current location on internal and external hard drives, cloud
storage, or card readers.

If you change the name of a folder on your hard drive, or
create a subfolder within the app’s image folder, the app will
immediately record and sync the change on both ends. If you
have a disorganized folder on your drive containing several
shoots on a single card, for example, you can use Luminar to
organize and sync them. Photos are arranged by date, but you
can also create collections or search by star rating, color
labeling, favorites, and virtual albums, though it would be
nice if the thumbnail library also revealed file names.

Luminar’s library offers additional quick ways to find photos,
like Recently Edited, Recently Added and Quick Edits. You can
create virtual albums on the fly, but there is no smart album
feature. The Info tab contains only the bare bones camera
metadata: the app does not yet support keywords, geotags,
captions, or IPTC data.

Artificial intelligence features

Artificial intelligence has become a buzzword in the
photographic world where software compensates for the
deficiencies of smartphone cameras and operator error. Skylum’s
two new AI features, Accent AI Filter and AI Sky Enhancer,
tackle the most frequent shooting issues.

luminar 2 Jackie Dove

Accent AI Filter and AI Sky Enhancer are all you may need
to punch up your photo.

The slider-based AI Filter lets you dynamically improve your
image even when you’re not sure what the problem is, or there
are too many issues to individually correct. The Sky Enhancer
offers an automated way to bring out more sky detail, often an
issue for photographs. While the AI features are cool and
useful, I found myself using them less often than I thought—at
least not as a single mode of correction. More advanced
photographers may find AI filters provide a good starting point
to layer in additional edits.

luminar 3 Jackie Dove

You can use the AI intelligent filters as a starting point
for more targeted editing.

Photo editing

Luminar 3 presents you with a wall of photos so you can view
whole portions of your library at a glance, complete with
adjustable thumbnail views. As with previous versions, Luminar
3 is completely non-destructive, with each edit recorded in the
catalog. You can go back into the history panel to revert to a
previous edit or to the original photo.

luminar 4 Jackie Dove

The History panel records all edits for your image and
allows you to revert to a previous state or remove all

The app includes eight built-in workspaces that govern which
editing tools are automatically available. The Quick & Awesome
workspace has only four settings, including the two AI tools.
But using the AI tools doesn’t prevent you from piling on
additional edits via the Add Filter button, which lets you
access dozens of built-in professional, utilitarian, artistic
and creative filters from which you can create your own
customized workspace.

luminar 5 Jackie Dove

Even after you apply edits or Looks, you can still tweak
photos with filters.

Luminar provides an extensive library of Looks, one-click
presets that fix or enhance your images. The program comes with
seven built-in Looks categories such as Essential, Street,
Landscape, and more. Each is equipped with a slider that lets
you adjust the intensity. Additional Looks collections, as well
as additional LUTs (lookup tables), Overlays, Workspaces, and
Textures are available from the Luminar website. Some are free
and others range in price up to $29.

luminar 6 Jackie Dove

Luminar ships with preset Looks in various categories that
apply one-click fixes and enhancements to your photos.

It’s quick and easy to batch process with Luminar’s Sync
Adjustment feature. With it you can edit one photo, and when
you’re happy with it, you can select others and use the command
to apply the same edits or Looks.

luminar 7 Jackie Dove

They Sync Adjustments feature lets you apply a combination
of edits to a single photo and then apply that same formula
to other photos.


Even on older Macs, adding photo folders to the catalog was
swift, with the resulting thumbnail previews showing up almost
instantaneously. Single images, edits, and Looks take a
fraction of a second to come into focus, which can get
irritating if you’re sorting through many images.

The more serious performance issues came from processes like
the Erase tool—for content aware object removal—which took
longer than was comfortable most of the time. While it crunched
on the image, there was no progress bar or any indication of
how long the operation would take.

luminar 8 Jackie Dove

Organize and search photos according to various criteria.

Luminar does not support video at all. While I do not expect a
full-blown video editor, most photo apps can at least import
and play video files.

Bottom line

Luminar 3 is an outstanding prosumer editing alternative for
people seeking abundant automation and creative options for a
wide range of photos. Despite its many professional features,
Luminar is easy to learn and use and lets you create stunning

Luminar’s new asset management system is rudimentary, so if you
need more than the basics, you may want to continue using your
current utility to track keywords, geotags, and IPTC data.
However, development is ongoing, with a published
that acknowledges needed features and outlines
company plans to release them as free updates throughout the

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