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Luminar Neptune First Look

By on Jul 3, 2017 in Photography, Technique Tuesday, Tutorials | 2 comments

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With the sad and slow death of my beloved NIK Efex, there is a light on the horizon. That light is coming from Neptune. Not the planet but the recent iteration of Macphun’s editing platform Luminar. Recently, this platform has been creating a ton of buzz around the photography world and I decided to give it a look.

Now I must make it clear that I love lightroom and I am not looking at something to replace it. What I am looking at with Luminar is a way of taking my photos to the next level. By that I mean that I want to create images that are detailed, colourful, and evoke some sort of feeling. This means that I am not looking to simply document a moment like a street photographer but rather create an image that reflects the vision that I have. If you are looking at simply taking pictures of people waiting for their bus in black and white, read no further.

Preparing for Blast Off

One of the things that I like most about Luminar is the fact that it opens up like NIK did right from the “edit in” menu. In order to do this you have to open Luminar first and click on “luminar” at the top of your screen. Then it will bring up a list of compatible programs. All you have to do is click install and you are away for the races. Now, you can also just drag and drop from any window including your lightroom catalog. The difference is that with you instill the plugin, Luminar puts your awesome image right back into your library. This to me, is a great feature because I use lightroom to organize and backup my photos.

Ground Control

The combination of Lightroom and Luminar is an important one. I’ve called this “ground control” because my workflow starts with preparing the image inside of lightroom first. I do all the basic correction and adjustments and then allow Luminar to blast it off to the next level. I feel that this is a super important step as it makes sure that your image is adjusted in accordance to your camera and lens profile. With you touch down again (let me know if these space pun are getting old!) or apply your changes and are back into lightroom, you will not have your camera profile attached. So make those minor adjustments and corrections first before lift off (sorry… can’t stop).

Engaging the Thrusters

Taking a look around, you might think that this is just another set of flashy filters but it is not. Oh boy there is so much to Luminar that I am going to have to post more in depth material for the next little while. The basic rundown is that you have a number of presets that you can start from but I typically start with a workspace first. By default, the workspace is set to clear but you can change it to a number of preset workspaces. The cool part is that you can make your own workspace. Then you can just load that up and fire away. If you are looking for a specific look then do try the presets at the bottom.

If you are wondering what the difference between presets, workspaces and filters are, I will explain these right now. Presets are what you’d expect; they are preset looks made from filters that are already set at certain amounts. These are great starting points or a quick way to edit if you are short of time. If you have a specific look that you use, then you can create your own preset as well.

Workspaces are basically your custom develop panel. It is comprised of filters but they are all zeroed out. This is basically the same as working in lightroom but now you can choose what you want to see or pick from a set workspace. You can add filters to the workspace by simply clicking on the large “add filter” button at the bottom of the workspace area. If you are happy with your workspace then you can click on the workspace dropdown menu again and select “create new workspace” or click the little icon that looks like a + with some lines to make your changes a preset.

The filters are the backbone of luminar and are sets of editing modules similar to what you found in NIK’s Color Efex Pro. Each filter does a complex job and has a number of adjustments that can be made inside of each filter. Macphun ┬ádid a great job of explaining how each of these filters works with a pop out field that appears when you select a filter. Click the arrows that the top of the filter menu to hide it if you want.

Just What Do You Think You Are Doing, Dave?

One of the most talked about new filters for Luminar Neptune is the Accent – A.I. filter. This one filter uses artificial intelligence to analyze your image to make the best adjustments possible. Simply sliding the “boost” to the right will change your image dramatically and it’s usually fairly good. Another new filter is the Golden Hour filter that is similar to the Skylight filter in NIK color efex but it works so much better. It intelligently adds a pop of warm color to the images without making it look like the earth is going to burn up.

There are a lot of smart controls in the filters and I find that using luminar to be a very creative process. The filters do what they say they do but cannot fix a crappy image, so just keep that in mind. However, the filters do some amazing things. Take for example the polarizing filter. It actually does bring out the clouds and darken the blue skies in a way that doesn’t look like some of my early attempts at HDR.

Re-entry to Planet Lightroom

One of the things that I didn’t like about Aurora was the fact that when I went to import the image into lightroom it set up a whole new file structure. Now, this could have also been my fault and you might just have to play around with the settings to avoid that issue. However, Luminar is not just a standalone editor but it seamlessly integrates into ┬áboth Lightroom and Photoshop. For me this great improved the appeal of Luminar as stated earlier. I have a set file structure and I want all of my files organized by lightroom. Being able to pop the image back into lightroom easily is a big plus for me.

The bottom line is that Luminar is a great tool that not only fills the void that NIK left but can take your photos TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!!!! Sorry, sorry sorry, I’ve had a bit too much coffee today and I am having fun with these space puns. At any rate, Luminar does make a considerable difference in your editing and to your photos. It is a feature packed tool that can give your images the boost that they need to get noticed or achieve the look you’ve been trying to get.

If you are looking to buy Luminar, do click the links provided here as they are affiliate links. These links help me greatly and I appreciate your support. With that being said I am not just recommending Luminar because of this, I truly feel that this is a product that every photographer should add to their digital toolbox.

Learn more about Luminar here


  1. Just downloaded the trial Jason and I’m impressed so far. Not had much time to suss it out properly, but I love how, like Nik, it can be a Photoshop plugin, because i much prefer to do any masking in my Photoshop workflow. I had a quick go of the boost slider and was impressed. Very subtle and didn’t leave any strange artifacts. i’m pretty sure I’ll buy it and when I do I’ll use your link. Just a quick question though. I couldn’t see the golden hour filter. I was in the landscape work space and assumed that’s where it would be. Very interested in trying that on a couple of recent photos.

    • Jason Teale

      July 4, 2017

      Post a Reply

      Thanks Steve! To answer your question, the golden hour filter can be found by clicking the “+new filter” button. That is going to bring up a menu screen. Then click “new” and you will find it there along with the accent and dehaze filters.

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