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Luminar AI review

Luminar AI speeds up workflow and improves photographs simultaneously with a flick of a button but also appeals to purist editors with traditional toolsets

Luminar AI: image shows Skylum Luminar AI web page
(Image: © Skylum)

Our Verdict

A huge amount of editing functions powered by artificial intelligence makes Luminar an extremely reasonable one-off cost

For

  • Super fast edits with powerful AI tools
  • Templates make it easy to enhance images with no prior knowledge

Against

  • Batch processing could be simpler
  • No dedicated astro tools

Available for both Mac and Windows, Skylum’s Luminar AI can be used as a standalone image editor or as a plug-in within Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and as a Photos extension in MacOS. Marketed as the first image editor fully powered by Artificial Intelligence, Luminar has AI running deep through its veins as it takes photo editing to a whole new level.

It doesn't quite sit at number on in our round-up of the best photo editing apps, but it does rank highly thanks to its speedy editing processes. Here's what we make of the non-traditional image editing tool.

Luminar AI review: Features

  •  AI-powered image tools 
  •  Templates available to speed up editing 
  •  Professional editing control for lighting, color, and more 

As well as traditional editing tools you might expect such as exposure and levels adjustments, cropping, tone, color correction, and more, the image editor pushes astonishing automation thanks to the AI engine sitting underneath the hood. That isn’t to say that AI is the only way to edit images, though. 

Standard editing tools are still available for purists and those used to full control over their photographs. The benefit of using Luminar AI is that you can make better photos in an instant with easy-to-use sliders and drag-and-drop commands, with the option of taking a little longer to make fine-tuned edits that are more involved.

What’s new in 2021?

In Luminar AI 2021, Portrait Bokeh AI introduces artificial bokeh into portraits that have a long depth of field, with autonomous distance identifying technology it can apply just the right amount of bokeh blur for portraits of one, groups, or even people in unusual positions thanks to intelligent mask control. 

It’s improved textures with a visual view, allowing easy overlay textures to preview before applying. Sky AI now has a precision horizon control for perfect sky replacements, and you can download more assets with brand new download buttons.

Low-quality images can be improved through the use of Infinite Pix, and PhotoXpanse adds the option of introducing 3D effects to images to introduce depth and creativity. Able to perform edits on single images, Luminar AI also allows users to batch process photos to speed up workflow and improve autonomy. 

Luminar AI's features include powerful landscape enhancing tools to help replace dull skies, introduce atmosphere to scenes with the addition of crepuscular rays and rolling mist, and also help improve portraits with skin retouching and body shaping controls. Each AI tool works by scanning the image fully and identifying visual landmarks within the scene before offering a hassle-free option to edit specific control points, with none of the masking or cut-out effort normally required from standard image editors.

Luminar AI review: image shows image editing software

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Luminar AI speeds things up further by providing a Templates mode. From the Templates tab at the top of the application window, it’s easy to switch between templates that automatically improve images in a preset fashion. If you haven’t experienced this feature before it’s similar to how other editors and even online media such as Instagram and TikTok apply filters, but it works much more deeply. 

Immediately suggesting what it considers as the best template options for your selected image, Luminar AI can apply edits instantaneously to improve photographs, but there’s also a full catalog of templates to choose from should you wish to do so. Presently, there’s no specific astro option for templates, nor is there a specific space-related AI tool, but everything included in the software aids in the improvement of photos in general.

Luminar AI review: Compatibility and plugins

Luminar AI runs on both Mac and Windows. Mac machines need to be running macOS 10.13.6 or higher and Windows devices should be on Windows 10 (64-bit only). It runs standalone as an image editor and can be used as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, and as a Photos extension for macOS. 

Luminar AI review: Price and subscription options

You can buy Luminar AI with a $47.40 one-off payment to get a lifetime license for one device, 30-day money-back guarantee, and 24/7 support. There is no subscription option for this software.

Luminar AI review: Image shows a portrait being edited with the software.

(Image credit: Skylum)

Should you buy Luminar AI?

If you’re a photo editor who wants to let the machine do most of the heavy lifting, or perhaps you’re a photographer who doesn’t have time to get into the nitty-gritty of editing images, then Luminar AI might be for you.

It gives plenty of fast AI-powered features and templates to help improve photos but also stocks strong, traditional editing tools throughout as well. Luminar AI would best suit someone who wants to experience good automated editing to save time and do it at a very reasonable cost.

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An award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK, Jason is an expert on all things camera-related. He's worked across a broad range of disciplines, including portraiture, landscape, astro and wildlife photography. You can find him writing numerous guides and reviews for Space.com, along with other big name brands like Techradar, CreativeBloq and FStoppers.