Luminar 4: Is It Worth It?

There are a lot of programs and plugins out there that many swear by or even swear at. When Adobe moved to the subscription model, there were people swearing up a storm. Some moved on to free software like Gimp others looked for an equally powerful replacement. The trouble is that up until now there has not really been a decent editor that could do all the things that Lightroom can do and still be affordable.

Enter Luminar 4. I have been a fan of Skylum products since they were still called Macphun and you have no doubt recently read my glowing review of their Flex plugin. In a slightly perplexing move, they recently released Luminar 4 and more recently the update 4.1 that in all honesty leaves previous iterations of Luminar in the dust. So the big question is… is it worth it? That is difficult for me to answer but it will have to depend on what you are looking for and how impressed you are with the following features.

What’s New?

Any app these days from your phone to your computer can sharpen, increase saturation, adjust the contrast, and crop. So for something to really rock the photography world it has to do much much more. Thankfully, Skylum was up to the task and knocked it out of the park with this update.

They are getting ever closer to high-grade editing with a single click and still giving you control to add in your own artistic touches. With the addition of the features below, Luminar 4 is quickly becoming one of the better photo editing tools out there.

Sky Replacement

This has been the prick of the trade for some time. Many instagrammers and landscape photographers will be reluctant to admit this but it is true. Many of those stunning landscapes that you have see where the sky almost seems too good to be true, probably isn’t. However, the reason that you don’t see me doing it is because it is hard to do in photoshop. Well, hard to do right. By that I mean relighting the scene, accounting for temperature and whatnot. Skylum recently came out with this feature that does a pretty darn good job of it.

It is almost too good in some cases as it caused quite a number of posts on Skylum’s facebook page. Say what you will, this is a lot better than their sunrays filter and a lot more useful. It saved a few of my shots from Tokyo when the skies turned grey.

AI Skin Enhancer and Portrait Enhancer

The overall look and feel of Luminar has changed and I will get to that in a bit. However, one of the sections that is now available is the new portrait section which offers a number of features directly designed to help make stunning portraits. I am not that kind of photographer but I did dabble with the features a bit and they are pretty impressive. Skylum has added cutting-edge features to make your portraits look amazing. I am not just throwing that “cutting-edge” phrase around either. There really is a ton of technology added to these features.

What they added is the ability to make quality “magazine-style” portraits without spending a lot of time airbrushing skin and whatnot. The results are really good if you don’t go overboard with the adjustments.

New Layout and Interface adds an AI Skin enhancer which can detect skin even on other parts of the body and effortlessly remove and blemishes or “defects” as they call it. However, it is the Portrait Enhancer tool that really brings this all together.

They have added so many great features, it might make me want to start photographing people more. The main thing that I love is that even I can get a nice looking image of a person… Now I just have to actually find people to photograph. I had to use the stock image from the affiliate area to show how this tool works.

AI Structure

I almost wrote this one off as I normally use the details enhancer for landscapes. However, while the details enhancer is still there, the AI Structure tool works really well. You may not see the difference right away but it is there. What the tool does is it uses the AI technology to find the areas the need a boost and then adds structure to only those areas. The most common issue that people have is when you are wanting to add structure and it adds that same structure to a human face.

For landscapes, this supposedly can detect water and other areas so that you can add more structure to the sky and but not have to deal with crunchy looking water. I tested this out with the image set above. You can see that it added more definition to the sky but added very little structure to the water. I cranked it way up in this case and overall it did what they said.

Everything Else

All of the updates that were introduced with Luminar 3 and flex are still there. You have the sunrays filter and the smart contrast as well as the Accent AI and the AI Sky Enhancer. Not to mention that you still have the ability to use the program as a plugin or as a standalone Digital Asset Manager (DAM).

This is shaping up to be a fairly robust SINGLE PURCHASE photo editor. With the release of Luminar 4.1, Skylum has also addressed a lot of the technical issues. However, people are still complaining about performance issues.


I only have a few issues with Luminar 4 and to be honest maybe I am being a little nitpicky. The first one is the removal of the custom workspaces. For me, this was a great feature to have as I have a certain style and I want to use my most frequently used tools right away. This also leads me to my more pressing issue.

Then there is the user interface… and well… it takes some getting used to. Essentially, they categorized the tools into different sets and tabs. This gets a little confusing because everything was switched around and recategorized. The sky replacement tool is in the “creative tab” but that would work better in the Landscape Enhancements area which is in the “Essentials” tab. The graduated filter is in the “Professional” tab but that to me is an essential tool. The golden hour tool is located in the Landscape Enhancer menu but the Sunrays tool is located in the Creative Tab.

I can sort of understand the logic in some cases, as the sky replacement tool and the sunrays tool are adding in new elements but they are also primarily used to “enhance” landscapes. The main issue is just that I now have to hunt around for the tool that I need and there is no clear indication of where to find them.

The bottom line here is that Luminar 4 is a great tool. It might not be the Lightroom replacement that people are looking for but it is a very powerful photo editor. I personally use it now for almost every single one of my shots. It is what gives the images a little more power in my opinion. It goes beyond just over-saturating them and takes them into a higher level in some cases.

If you are looking to test out Luminar for or pick it up then click my affiliate link button below to head on over to their site.


  1. Graeme Worth Reply

    Hi Jason
    Interesting post. I played around with Luminar quite a while back but gave up as I’m a Windows user and the Win version was not very stable, some things didn’t work, promised updates and features never arrived……..
    So the obvious question – are you using Luminar 4 on a Mac or with Windows.

    • Jason Teale Reply

      I am using it on a mac and I think that the experience is probably a better one for that reason. However, I feel that with Luminar 4 making a stable version for windows has been one of their concerns and it seems that they have done their job. At least in the groups, I have seen as many complaints as I saw when they first released it.

  2. Graeme Reply

    Thanks Jason
    I hope you are right. I got the impression from some of the astonishing replies I was getting from them that their programmers were probably Mac guys who weren’t really up to the mark with Windows – maybe they have learnt a bit since then . And their support was terrible, which isn’t the combination you need. I finished up going with Topaz Studio for my editing – I had used their plugins for ages, and their new AI filters are very good.

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