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Luminar 4 Review: Better than Photoshop?

Updated: Nov 1, 2020


Autumn image with water tower NYC


There are countless photo editors available on the market today, aimed at everyone from amateur snappers to social media shooters to pros. Perhaps one of the best image editors is Skylum's Luminar 4, an program based around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 'smart' editing tools. Before I start exploring these features, however, some background is needed.


Luminar was first launched in 2016, and over the years it's become a popular alternative to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the industry standard for photo editing. The latest update, released in late 2019 to much fanfare, introduced a number of tools based around AI.


And that's when we come to features. Luminar features no fewer than 30 tools, organized around a slate-grey interface that's based around 4 sections - Essentials, Creative, Portrait, and Professional - alongside panels such as Canvas, Layers, Library, and Info, to name a few. 6 of these tools feature AI, which is genuinely useful when it comes to basic edits. The AI Enhance tool performs simple tasks in just one click, which is useful for fast photo editing, and the AI Structure tool adds a gritty, urban feel to your shots. These settings become as integral to your workflow as contrast or saturation settings, and will be used in almost all of your images. The other AI tools, such as AI Sky Replacement and AI Portrait Enhance, however, aren't so impressive. Though they are Luminar's headline features, most of the time they're simply there - often unused. You shouldn't buy Luminar simply because of its AI toolkit - you should buy it for the 24 little known non-AI features that quietly fold away into its menus. They offer genuine advantages over the competition - specialized tools for vignettes, a wide range of creative looks, and a B&W conversion section replace masks and slow selections.


Luminar is a reliable and capable editing program - ignore its flashy AI tools and you can truly create some fantastic images. Does it rival Photoshop? That's up to you and how you work.



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