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(Last updated on October 8th, 2021)

See this in-depth Skylum Luminar AI review to see whether this program is right for you or not.

Here, we will be discussing the pros, cons, and features of Skylum Luminar AI, a powerful image-editing software.

The program uses artificial intelligence as its core, with features that let you edit a photo quickly without effort. The AI recognizes pieces of the photo, like the sky, a face, the light source, and gives you tools to alter these features fast.

Skylum Luminar AI is the newest program from the Skylum series, a standalone program separate from its predecessors. Skylum has stated that Luminar AI is a brand-new product that has a core engine run by AI. The program is a smart, innovative tool that makes editing a breeze, leaving tedious work behind.

Pros and Cons of Luminar AI

Pros:

  • Flexible Pricing Options: Luminar has both yearly and one-time fee licenses available for its users. You can own the program outright or subscribe to a yearly subscription that gives you the most up-to-date software. You can also get a discount price upgrading from a previous version of Luminar.
  • 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee: If you are not happy with Luminar, you can get a full refund within 30 days, no questions asked.
  • Powerful AI: The program AI recognizes sections of your photo quickly, separating the different parts and enabling you to jump into editing with no headache.
  • Compatibility: This program is compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems. The program also works seamlessly as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and Photos for macOS.
  • Trial: You can try Skylum Luminar AI free for seven days. After this period is over, you will need to purchase a license.

Cons:

  • Clunky Operation: In usage, the program is clunky and slow.
  • Limited Support: The online resources are slim. There are manuals and video tutorials, but they are not comprehensive.  
  • Limited Layering Features: You cannot do non-destructive editing in Luminar AI using layers. They don’t have this feature at all.
  • No Upgrade Discount: In the past, there was a discount upgrade when a Luminar user was upgrading from a previous version. Here, for Luminar AI, they would have to purchase the program in full because Skylum has said that this program is a completely different software family. The last line has ended, and there will be no Skylum Luminar 5. From now on, Skylum Luminar AI is the future of the company,
  • Fewer Features in Newer Program: Skylum Luminar AI is a less comprehensive tool than its predecessor. There are fewer advanced editing features.

Short Verdict

As an AI-powered quick editing tool, Skylum Luminar AI is an incredible feat. You get fast editing options in a simple, intuitive application.

The program as a whole is not for the advanced photo editor who needs the most control over their work. Rather, it’s for people who either want a supplementary program to Adobe or are fine with basic editing.

Should I get Luminar AI over Luminar 4?

Let’s start with why most of you are here. If you have Luminar 4, you’ve realized that Luminar AI isn’t available as an upgrade for this program but rather acts as a separate program, charged at full price.

So, is Luminar AI better than Luminar 4? In some ways, yes, but in others, no. It might not be worth it depending on your needs.

The transition from Luminar 4 to Luminar AI is rough. You will not be able to migrate your old catalog from Luminar 4 into Luminar AI because they are separate programs. You will have to process each image individually again.

You will also not be able to use all of your purchased templates from Luminar 4 in Luminar AI, devaluing your previous investment.

Skylum has announced that they will be discontinuing the older program, Skylum Luminar 4. There will be no Luminar 5, and the Luminar 4 will not receive additional upgrades or support past December 15th, 2021. For loyal users of Luminar 4, it’s the end of the road.

So, what’s so special about Luminar AI? Really, not much. You get more tools to manipulate an image, with focuses specifically for landscape or portrait photographers. Unfortunately, a lot of great features were taken out.

Unlike Luminar 4, you don’t have advanced editing functions such as layers or blending, and you get less masking functionality. You also don’t have ratings in the photo library or additional search functions either. Overall, it feels like a step backward.

So why would you get Luminar AI? Per Skylum, this software is the future of the company. If you want to get into the next line of programs, Skylum Luminar AI is the beginning, a new program built from the ground up.  While the functionality is limited now, there will be more features in the future.

If you are looking for a photo editor for quick edits only, get Skylum Luminar AI. If you already have Luminar 4, I’d say, don’t waste your money just yet. Wait until the next Luminar AI comes up with new features. While this program is newer, it offers less than the previous software overall.

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Features

  • Advanced AI Recognition: The best function of this program is the AI smart technology behind the software. Luminar AI recognizes faces, landscapes, artistic composition techniques, and more. The program takes the legwork out of technical know-how and lets you do the fun stuff.
  • Incredible Portrait Editing: If you are a portrait photographer, Luminar AI takes it to another level. You can do everything from removing dark circles, improving eyebrows, enhancing the eyes overall, and so much more. You can also make fixes to the skin, body and add portrait lighting.
luminar tool
  • Great Landscape Photography Features: Change the overall mood, add film grain, change the sky or atmosphere. There are many tools to enhance landscape photography.
  • Local Masking: Apply features to a localized part of the image. For example, if you want to apply a filter to only a section of the photo, but not the whole, you can do this using local masking. 
  • Plugin: Works great as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and Photos for macOS.
  • Clean Interface: Skylum Luminar AI is easy to navigate. The program is minimalistic and uncluttered.
  • Help tool: Leads you directly to Skylum’s video tutorials.
  • Templates: These are presets that come with the program or for purchase online. The templates have additional AI features, too, becoming adaptive to the media. If you have a photoshop with varied quality, Luminar will automatically make them look like they were taken from the same batch.
luminar download option
  • Before and After View: As you edit, view your original project next to your current edited version.
  • History tab: View past edits that you made to your project, clicking back in history.
  • Sky Replacement: Replace the sky with a click of a button. This feature is great for photos taken on a cloudy day, letting you swap in a clear blue sky or a colorful sunset. The lighting adaption is powerful.
  • Additional Online Resources: Get additional templates on the Luminar Marketplace. You can buy bundles, individual looks, and more.
  • Template Suggestion: Instead of wasting time looking for the perfect preset, Luminar does the work for you, suggesting the best look.
  • Image 3D Transform: You can adjust the perspective distortion of an image, sliding the tool horizontally or vertically to achieve your desired look.
  • Mark Approved Images: In the catalog, you can mark images as favorites or rejects.

Overall, Luminar has many features to offer, giving you incredibly powerful AI tools, providing a great quick-editing experience. However, the features don’t give you complete editing control, missing key elements such as layers or layer blending modes.

If you need a system that gives you full advanced control over an image, you will need a more robust program.  

Pricing

ProductRegular PriceDiscounted Price
Adobe Creative Cloud$52.99/monthCheck here
Luminar AI$79 (one-time)Check here

The pricing for Luminar is divided up into three different plans, with a generous discount for a second device license. Here are the pricing plans for Skylum Luminar AI:

  • Luminar License Only: $79 for one device, $99 for two devices.
  • Luminar plus Aurora HDR: $178 for one device, $198 for two devices.
  • Luminar, Aurora HDR, and Luminar X Membership: $277 for one device ($99 membership to Luminar X billed annually). $297 for two devices ($99 membership billed annually).
luminar pricing

Additionally, you can get Luminar X Membership outside of these plans as a separate subscription plan:

  • Luminar X Membership is $99/year. Just the membership without additional devices.

Here is a summary of each part of the plans:

  • Luminar: This is an AI-powered photo editing program. You also get Luminar plugins for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom Classic, and Photos for macOS.
  • Aurora HDR: This is an AI-powered program that delivers finished HDR images.
  • Luminar X Membership: This is an annual membership that gives you Luminar tutorials, photography lessons, exclusive Luminar templates, unique sky textures, additional surprise offers and perks, and a 15% Luminar marketplace discount.

Also, it is worth noting that Luminar has sales and specials on its products. At the time of this review, the basic Luminar license was going for $64.00 with a sky-effects pack thrown in. And, if you don’t like the product, you have a 30-day money-back guarantee, offering you a full refund.

Overall, Skylum is very generous with pricing, giving you a lifetime license of the main program with additional subscription-based supplementary packages, providing great value.  

Longevity

A program’s longevity highly depends on its adaptability to the changing market and providing tools that people are seeking.

Skylum has come out with a new program this year, Luminar AI, that makes editing painless, providing presets and fast editing features. So, will this new program be the future of Skylum? That depends.

In the past, Skylum offered upgrades from their previous line. Many users were hoping for a Luminar 4 upgrade, but instead were offered an entirely new program. They were also told that their current software would no longer be supported by December 2021. To add insult to injury, Luminar AI is less comprehensive than Luminar 4.

A software is only as good as its fanbase. If users get too mad at big changes to the program, they could lose enough people not to move forward. Skylum’s pricing model works with the hope that their next program will have good enough upgrades for people to buy it.

Unfortunately, Skylum AI has fewer features overall and mostly only appeals to completely new Skylum users. That being said, Skylum AI was rebuilt from its base. The program’s foundation may be much better than older Skylum programs, an aspect we can’t see outright.

If they continue to add a lot more functionality and features to Skylum AI, making it much better, then this gamble may work out great in the long run.

The longevity all depends on the direction that Skylum decides to take. Users will turn to other programs if Skylum continues to pull the rug out from under its userbase. If they provide needed features and a more fledged-out program, Luminar AI will stay around in the long run.

Compatibility

Luminar AI is a fairly compatible program, working for both Mac and Windows users. The program is desktop-only, with nothing for mobile. Luminar AI is not fully compatible with its sister programs.

Skylum Luminar AI has plugins for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and Photos for macOS. Across the board, you get AI-powered tools to add performance to each of these applications, acting as a great supplement. It is worth noting that the Luminar plugin is not compatible with Adobe Lightroom CC.

Luminar AI is a standalone program. It works separately from its sister programs such as Aurora HDR and Luminar 4. If you are looking for an upgrade from Luminar 4, this is not it.  The program is also available in eleven languages. You can use English, Dutch, Spanish, Korean, and more.

Overall, the program is relatively compatible, working for common operating systems, and available as a plugin on other programs.

Learning Curve

Luminar AI has a low learning curve, perfect for beginners or users who want to jump right in. The design is intuitive and doesn’t require hours of tutorials.

Support resources are limited. Online, there is a “Getting Started” manual, difficult to find in the support menu. Skylum has filled out their Frequently Asked Question list to the max, clearly with the intent of users turning here first.

skylum faq

There are video tutorials online. Here, you can watch everything from a quick start tutorial to core skill lessons. There are also inspirational artistic tutorials, webinars, and more.

If you have a pressing question that needs a specialist, you can contact the Luminar team directly by email form or talk to bot-run chat.

Skylar Luminar AI is easy and straightforward to use. You shouldn’t run into many problems. And, if you do, you have some resources available to you anyway.

Users

What kind of users are drawn to Skylum Luminar AI? Let’s go over who would use and benefit most from this program.

The type of user that would use this program is a beginner looking for an easy, fast editing program. If you are a professional editor, you might get this program to supplement your current high-power software.

However, you cannot do precise editing work on Skylum Luminar AI. The program is only for quick edits that don’t give you much control.

luminar template

Luminar AI is actually a step down in terms of comprehensive features compared to its predecessor, Skylum Luminar 4.

While Skylum maintains that the programs are in completely different families and unrelated to each other, they both do similar photo editing techniques. Overall, however, Skylum Luminar AI does less.

In the world of professional photo editing, you would need a high-power program like Adobe Photoshop to edit work with the level of precision needed. Many companies also need their employees to use the same software, like industry-standard Adobe Photoshop.

Skylum Luminar AI does not meet this need. This program does, however, work great as a supplementary tool to edit photos faster. Acting as a plugin for a powerful application like Adobe Photoshop is a much better use of Luminar overall.

If you are a portrait photographer, you will find Skylum Luminar helpful as a supplementary tool. Many features let you make fast portrait edits, smoothing skin, enhancing eye color, and more.

If you are a landscape photographer, you would also find this program helpful as a plugin by switching out skies quickly, add atmosphere, light points, etc. You can even change the lens distortion of the image.

Luminar AI is mostly geared towards beginners looking for quick edits or as a supplementary program for everyone. Getting the program depends on your needs.

Workflow

Skylum Luminar AI has a great workflow, moving you from the beginning and editing a photo quickly. The workspace is uncluttered and focused on specific edits.

There are five tabs at the top of the screen for navigation. You can:

  • Add Photos: Add photos or an entire folder of photos to the program.
  • Catalog: Here, look at all of the photos in your library. You can filter your photos by recently added or edited. You can also organize your photos, adding subfolders.
  • Templates: These are preset filters. All you must do is click to apply them to your photo, dragging to adjust the filter’s strength.
  • Edit: This panel lets you adjust your photo in detail. Here, the AI has separated parts of the photo, ready to be edited. You can also edit the details of the photo here, adding mood, grain, and more.
  • Export: Here, you can export your photo, saving to a disk, emailing it, uploading to SmugMug, or 500px(an app).

Skylum Luminar AI heavily uses AI at the core of its program. The AI recognizes the photo’s content in detail, choosing adjustments based on its data analytics and separating each piece of the image into categories. The program recognizes pieces such as the face, background, sky, water, skin, and more.

This recognition allows you to easily make adjustments to the photograph, letting you replace a sky, smooth wrinkles, enlarge eyes, and more.

The AI in the workflow speeds up the editing process. For example, if you were retouching a photo in Adobe Photoshop and wanted to make the eyes bigger, you would use a pen tool, manually selecting the eyes and then scaling them up.

In Skylum Luminar AI, the AI does this work for you. Instead of spending time manually selecting pixels, all you have to do is slide an adjustment tool; no extra steps are required.

Overall, the interface makes the workflow from start to finish intuitive and easy to use.

Final Verdict

Skylum Luminar AI is a great quick editor and supplementary tool. The program is not yet a comprehensive editor, letting you do non-destructive layer-based editing. If you need an editor to make your photos look great quickly, the program is the perfect fit for you.

If you owned the previous Skylum 4 and are looking for an upgrade, Luminar AI will be a disappointment. There are fewer features in the program overall, and it’s mostly incompatible with Luminar 4. Future iterations of Luminar AI might be much better and worth the buy in the future.

The AI in this program is its focus and is impressive. You can do so much without effort. As far as quick editors go, this one is hard to beat. It’s easy to use, powerful and can create beautiful results.

Frequently asked questions

Is Luminar AI worth it?

If you are looking for an AI-powered tool for quick, fast edits, then yes. If you already have Luminar 4, you may be disappointed by its lack of compatibility and feature list.

Is Luminar AI available?

Yes! Skylum Luminar AI has been available since December 15th, 2020.

How much is Luminar AI?

Skylum Luminar AI costs $79 for a lifetime license. You can also get bundled plans, getting additional programs such as Aurora HDR for $178 total.

Is Luminar better than Photoshop?

No, Adobe Photoshop gives you more control over the final image. Luminar is best for quick edits, specifically focused on effects and retouching rather than complicated, layer-based edits.

Is Skylum Luminar Free?

Skylum Luminar AI has a free, 7-day trial. After this period is over, you will need to purchase a license.

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