Last Updated on November 1, 2023
In photography, a perfect shot is a rare occurrence. Even the most experienced photographers understand that every image could use a touch of editing, especially if you want to achieve dreamy, flawless results. Hence, the rising need for photo editing applications.
But with so many options on the market, how do you choose? After all, there’s no single app that covers an encompassing range of features for the modern photographer. Or is there…? Thanks to the power of artificial intelligence, professional photo editing is now accessible to everyone. Enter Luminar Neo: the future of photography.
Read on as we review the Luminar Neo photo editor and let our comprehensive take guide you in whether you believe this app would be worth your money – or not.
Introducing Luminar Neo
Skylum‘s Luminar Neo, often referred to as simply Luminar Neo, is a photo editing application that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to elevate the quality of digital images.
This tool has gained significant popularity in recent times for its array of cutting-edge features that streamline the photo editing process. It offers an intuitive user interface and impressive editing speeds. Additionally, it provides access to an extensive library of textures and overlays while maintaining competitive pricing within the industry.
Its compatibility with a variety of productivity apps, including its versatility as a plug-in for other photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, makes it a standout choice.
Company Behind Luminar Neo
Luminar Neo is the brainchild of Skylum. Skylum is a software development company founded in 2008 in Ukraine by Dmitry Sytnik and Paul Muzok. The company currently has its headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, United States.
The company was originally known as Macphun. However, the software developer rebranded to Skylum in 2017 after it began developing its products (which were initially exclusive to Mac operating systems) for Windows devices as well.
One of Skylum‘s first applications was the popular Vintage Video Maker. The app was later renamed Vintagio and featured on Apple’s list of the “Best iPhone Apps in 2009.”
They have since released dozens of apps over the years. Its noteworthy products aside from Luminar Neo include Aurora HDR, Snapheal, Focus, Noiseless, Intensify, Tonality, and FX Photo Studio.
Luminar Neo Standout Features
1. User-Friendly Interface
The dashboard is clear and uncluttered, with all the tools readily available. This makes navigation quick and hassle-free. There are no pop-up ads either, except those welcoming you to the software’s nifty features or any ongoing deals and discounts.
Another aspect that makes Luminar Neo comparatively easier to use than many photo editors is its compact and dark interface. The absence of bright colors and flashing lights boosts your productivity by allowing you to concentrate on each editing session.
The developers also implemented a catalog view that displays photos in a thumbnail format. That’s a remarkable time-saving feature as it allows you to hone in on the image you wish to edit much faster. It’s even easier to upload your images from external libraries.
a) Uploading Images
Adding image files to the dashboard is rather straightforward. You begin by clicking on “Add Photos.” The software will provide options for uploading an entire folder or one image at a time. Now, select the folder or photos to import. The files should be available on the app’s library.
b) Editing Images
Luminar Neo lets you add dozens of visual effects to your images. After importing images to the software’s library, select the files you need to edit and click on the “Edit” option located at the top of the dashboard. This action will take you to the edit module containing a host of editing tools.
c) Adding Layers to Images
Layers are useful when it comes to adding overlays and using various blend modes. The layers on Luminar Neo are available on the left side of the interface. Options in this editing category include Sparkle, Light Leak, and Flares.
2. Limited Number of Modes
Luminar Neo has only three modes, namely Catalog, Preset, and Edit. But contrary to what you may think, fewer modes is actually a drawcard in terms of improving the software’s user-friendliness.
The Catalog mode is of notable mention, as it lets you zoom the screen by spinning the mouse wheel. This mode is unaffected by major stop points, such as 33%, 50%, 67%, etc.
Note that the Catalog mode doesn’t feature standard program menus, such as File, Image, and View. To display these menus, you’ll need to click on the Luminar logo.
The Preset mode resembles the templates in Luminar AI in both appearance and function. This feature makes it easy to tweak your photos further to your liking. Luminar Neo’s preset options appear in the top-right corner.
When you import a photo, the app’s AI engine quickly evaluates the image and picks the most appropriate presets from the dozens of options available. You can readily apply the suggestions with a single click of the mouse or perform additional tweaks, depending on your desired outcome.
The latest version lets you preview your presets by simply hovering the cursor over them. This gives you a sneak peek of how your photos will look before applying the presets.
There are several illustrative thumbnails to pick from too, including Portrait, Landscape, Lifestyle, Macro, Filmatic, etc. You also get sliders to increase the intensity of the selected effects. And on the off chance that you’re dissatisfied with Luminar’s exquisite presets, you can always purchase additional effects from the official website.
Lastly, the Edit mode lets you switch seamlessly between Tools, Edits, and Presets. This mode contains the Develop tool for raw file importing and editing. Some of the features under the Develop panel include Exposure, Highlights, Blacks & Whites, Color, Sharpness, and Noise Reduction.
3. AI-driven Functions
Most of the software’s functions now rely on AI for higher speed and accuracy. They include;
i. Relight AI
The Relight AI tool lets you adjust your photo’s atmosphere. It’s particularly recommended when shooting outdoors or in environments with unstable lighting conditions.
It doesn’t matter how noisy your original images are. Simply enable Relight AI to muffle the noise while highlighting the subject. The tool will help you to adjust brightness in both the image’s near and far elements.
Note, however, that Luminar Neo’s Relight AI works best for images with human subjects. The tool may prove ineffective for non-human photos.
ii. Remove Powerlines
Remove Powerlines is another AI-driven tool that makes Luminar Neo worth every penny. Available in the Objects Removal section of the Erase tool group, it is designed for cityscape photos. The filter cleans up all distracting power lines with a single click, rendering your images clean and beautiful.
iii. Remove Dust Spots
Remove Dust Spots is also found in Object Removal section’s Erase tool group. This AI-powered filter automatically finds and cleans up all dust spots from the subject.
iv. Sky Replacement AI
As the name implies, Sky Replacement AI uses artificial intelligence to replace the sky in your photo. This tool quickly scans your image to determine what’s sky and what’s not. It then replaces the fake or unsightly sky with a more gorgeous one while maintaining a realistic horizon.
v. Mask AI
Luminar Neo was the first Skylum software to implement Mask AI. This tool performs quick scans to identify and highlight different elements within your photo. It saves you the time you’d have otherwise wasted mapping out the areas manually with a brush.
vi. Background Removal AI
You’ve probably interacted with Skylum’s Background Removal features in previous Luminar iterations. However, the software’s latest model makes the most of this tool.
Background Removal AI is available in the Masking section of Layer Properties if interacting with the app in Edit mode. Once your image is open, click on Background Removal AI. You can choose to replace the background or remove it altogether.
vii. Portrait Bokeh AI
Portrait Bokeh AI uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect human subjects in a photo. It then blurs the background, accentuating the subject.
viii. Face AI
Luminar’s Face AI feature is ideal for close-up photos. It lets you lighten the faces, enhance the eyes, and slim down the cheeks. The idea is to produce a petite and unblemished face.
Luminar Neo Extensions and Add-Ons
1) Supersharp AI
Supersharp AI is an extension that comes with a paid subscription but can also be purchased separately. Its primary function is to fix blurriness resulting from camera shake.
2) Noiseless AI
True to its name, the Noiseless AI extension lets you refine your photos by removing all the noise. There are different noise adjustment options, including Low, Middle, and High. You can choose between Motion Blur and Universal as well.
3) HDR Merge
HDR Merge is a standard feature in many photo editing software. But for Luminar Neo, the tool comes as an extension. Merging images on the app is trickier than in other photo editors. You’ll need to select the photos to merge, drag the files to the HDR panel, and then click on the Merge button.
4) Upscale AI
Upscale AI is a lossless image enhancer. The tool lets you increase the size of your photos while maintaining their original quality.
5) Clone Tool
Use the Clone tool when you want to replicate certain elements in an image without copy-pasting them.
All you need to do is set the source from which you intend to clone. Next, add any desired effects from the command box, such as adjusting the brush size and strength. Lastly, click into the target destination for the clones and paint over the area using the cursor.
6) Focus Stacking
Focus stacking allows you to get different distances within the image all in focus. It’s the opposite of rendering your photos in shallow field depth.
7) The Dodge and Burn Tool
Dodge and Burn is found in the Professional section of Luminar Neo’s interface when viewed in the Edit mode. The tool lets you apply more customized edits. For instance, you can lighten, darken, or erase certain areas of the image.
Luminar Output and Sharing Capabilities
The photo editor has a mobile app that lets you transfer photos between desktop and mobile devices. Its iOS version deserves a special mention for allowing users to view live edits on their smartphones by simply scanning a QR code with the phone.
Images sent from your Luminar Neo’s smartphone app to the desktop app are bundled in a newly created folder. This folder is easily accessible in the Catalog view.
In addition to smartphone-desktop transfers, you can also use Luminar Neo to export edited files to a local folder or share them directly with your email or social media clients. There are multiple ways to export files, including as JPEG (.jpg), JPEG 2000 (.jp2), PNG (.png), PDF (.pdf), and TIFF (.tif).
Luminar Neo Compatibility
Luminar used to work only on macOS devices prior to 2017. But that was before its parent company rebranded from Macphun to Skylum, a milestone that also saw the launch of its products on Windows devices. Luminar Neo also comes as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop (from version CS5) and Lightroom Classic (from version 6).
Luminar Neo Pricing
Currently, you can try Luminar Neo FREE for seven (7) days. Just enter your email address for the unique download link. After that, you will be prompted to select a plan that suits your needs.
The software comes with a subscription package known as a Pro plan, as well as a Lifetime plan. What you pay for the Pro plan depends on the billing cycle. The longer the cycle, the cheaper the subscription. Luminar currently charges $11.95/month for monthly billings. That works out as $143/year.
It costs $6.58/month or $79/year if you opt for an annual billing cycle. Lastly, a biannual billing period (every two years) costs $4.96/month or $119 for the two years.
Each subscription plan entitles you to Luminar’s most updated version, all Pro extensions, activation on two computers, and 10 skies + 10 presets. You also get a $20 discount for printing services, a 33% discount for a portfolio website, and a 10% discount on marketplace items like Skies, LUTs, Presets, and Overlays. Bear in mind, however, that these offers change from time to time.
If you prefer to buy Luminar for life, you can pay a one-time fee of $199. That’s a massive discount from $549, which Skylum charged as the lifetime fee only a few weeks ago. The Lifetime plan entitles you to Luminar Neo photo editor, one perpetual license, and 8 Pro extensions.
Cancellation and Refund
It’s easy to cancel a subscription anytime. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you need to test-drive the software before spending on it. On the off chance that you’re unsatisfied with the services, simply contact 24/7 support for a full refund.
Getting Started On Luminar Neo
It works both as a browser-based service and as a mobile application. You can access the software on your desktop through its official website (skylum.com/luminar). Alternatively, you can install it as a plug-in for Photoshop or Lightroom Classic.
When signing in through a mobile app, you may be asked to scan a QR code to be able to transfer images wirelessly.
Once signed in, you can import images one by one or simultaneously by selecting the image folder. You can then edit the images as desired before exporting them to an external storage or readily sharing them via email.
Luminar Neo Pros and Cons
• Excellent photo editing tools
• Quick and easy to use
• Different interface modes
• AI-powered functions
• 24/7 technical support
• Regular updates for paid users
• Absence of face recognition
• Limited premium plans
• Some functions are slow
How Good Is Luminar Neo Compared To Its Competitors?
It’s definitely one of the best photo editing apps around.
The software may pale in comparison to Photoshop, especially in terms of image rendering and layer-based editing. But the fact that it comes as a Photoshop plug-in makes it easy to marry the two programs for better editing.
Luminar also excels from Lightroom in certain areas. Although both apps provide impressive cataloging options and RAW image development, Luminar offers more editing options under one roof.
Topaz Studio is another popular Luminar alternative. The tool uses artificial intelligence, same as Luminar Neo. However, Luminar boasts a more intuitive interface. Besides, Topaz only comes with a lifetime license with no provision for subscription plans.
With intuitive AI and a rich array of features, Luminar Neo emerges as a powerhouse in photo editing. It bridges the gap between professional-level editing and user-friendliness, offering everyone a tool that streamlines the editing process without compromising on quality.
Add rapid editing capabilities, a diverse library of textures and overlays, and compatibility as a plug-in for popular software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and you’ll see how Luminar Neo is lightyears ahead of its time. The app is definitely a testament to the possibilities of AI-driven creativity.