I’ve been looking forward to writing a Luminar AI review, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I could lay my hands on a copy of the software. Now I’ve had a chance to see what it can do, and I have to say, I’m impressed.

Disclaimer: We are affiliated with Skylum Software, so if you buy from a link in this article we will get some small reward. Having said that, we only promote software that we like and use ourselves. Reviews are always objective. 

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Luminar AI Review

What is Luminar AI?

Artificial intelligence is a means by which software can make informed choices on behalf of the user. It is already used by DxO in PhotoLab 4 and Adobe are ploughing many research dollars into bringing AI to bear on Photoshop. Luminar 4 is the first program to use AI to make creative decisions based on input from hundreds of Photographers.

Who is Luminar AI aimed at?

Luminar AI ReviewLuminar AI is aimed primarily at content creators. It is not intended to replace and is not as full featured as Luminar 4. The intention is to make it possible to create professional looking images to post on social media, quickly. For example this photograph, shot in RAW, took around 30 seconds to process.

How does Luminar AI Work?

The process in Luminar AI is this:

First load the picture or series of pictures. This is done by clicking the + icon at the top centre of the screen.

Luminar AI will offer you a choice of templates to apply based on its analysis of the type of photograph you have loaded. In this case the choice was Big City Lights, Urban Style or Big Screen. So far, so good, these seem like reasonable starting points. Other categories of template include

  • Landscape
  • Mother Nature
  • Portrait
  • Macro
  • Cinematic
  • Lifestyle
  • Aerial

Luminar AI Interface


Within the Big City Lights collection I can choose between Frosty, City Thrills, B&W Streets, Electric City and Street Theatre, each one representing a template that I can accept or adjust.

If I want to adjust, I can either temper the effect via the single slider at bottom right – the default is 100%. Or if I want more control than that, the next step is Edit

The Edit screen, selected from the top menu looks like this:

Luminar AI Edit Screen

This is where Skylum have been very clever. I’ve chosen the template from the category the software suggested and the edit categories have a little bullet point next to them. So I can go in and see what edits the template has applied to my RAW image. Here I can see Light, Enhance and Structure have been altered.

On the right the options are Essentials which gives me access to the basic grading tools, Creative which opens up a world of replacement skies, sun rays and other atmospheric effects. Portrait offers a set of tools applying effects and corrections to skin, and intriguingly body shape.

I’m not a portrait photographer so I can’t comment on the effectiveness of this section. Pro offers some more sophisticated options around colour and colour harmony, dodging and burning, cloning etc  that you do need some skills to master. Each one has a rollback option so this is an easy software to experiment with.

First though Composition – this is clever, the software will suggest a crop (or not) depending on whether it thinks it can improve the photograph. Great for ideas, a couple of the shots I experimented with were not ideally framed, the software made a better job of it.

Luminar AI Essentials

Drilling down into the Light category in Essentials I can see that the software hasn’t altered the colour balance, but has added some Smart Contrast. I reduced the highlights a touch myself.

What we can see immediately is that this software works in precisely the way it is intended to. To get this far in the process was a matter of four or five mouse clicks and not a lot of soul searching.

I was able to finish this edit and export the file for social media in less than a minute. I would not have been able to do that using my normal toolset.

There are enough templates to offer variety and you can create your own too. Oh and I nearly forgot. You can apply a look to every image in the batch, so in this particular case, five pictures were edited to an acceptable degree in around five minutes.

Luminar AI Export

Once you’re happy wit the picture, the last task is to Export.Luminar AI Export Dialogue


Your options include “Save to Disk”. “Mail”, “Messages”. “SmugMug” and “500px”. No mention of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I guess the first two may arrive later. I chose “Save to Disk” and the dialogue gives me the usual options, I opted for jpeg, 1800 px wide at 85% quality.

Luminar AI Usability

The interface is very straightforward, its been designed to be used by non-professional photographers and if taken in that spirit it’s a nice piece of software. I haven’t mentioned the three icons at top right – they control the image you are working on.

The first gives me a slider revealing before and after, the second a button that reveals before on mouse click, the third the size of the image in the viewer so that I can inspect it for blemishes.

Luminar AI Review: The Verdict

So I’ve only had 24 hours to play with the software, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting something akin to Instagram looks, what I got was way more sophisticated. For photographers who enjoy the processing part of the production, it will not replace those tools as it doesn’t offer as much choice or control.

I can absolutely see the point in using this software for content creation, it saves time, lots of it. it’s also a fast enough process to make it more worthwhile creating original images rather than buying them from stock agencies.

Luminar AI is primarily a tool for content creators and Skylum have put a great deal of thought into simplifying the interface, making this a tool that supports experimentation easily and effectively. If your ambition is to create images for social media this is an awesome piece of software.


My guess is that the established photographic community will react strongly, just as they did when digital cameras and Photoshop arrived. Prepare for howls of outrage along the lines of “it will make all photography look the same!” “Its not proper Photography” etc.

This is what I think. We’re in a technical industry. Progress happens. We’re at the beginning of. the curve with AI. This software potentially could change the nature of photography, putting decent processing within the reach of the casual photographer.

Just as Mobile Phone photography has put decent cameras in the hands of non-photographers. Professionals and Skilled amateurs can’t complain, we simply have to use our creativity to make the difference. That’s the curse and the opportunity of technology.

If you’ve found the Luminar AI Review useful, do please take a look on the Skylum web site using the link here

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