Hands on with Luminar

Keith White
14 May, 2018
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Luminar from Californian company Macphun is a highly-adaptive fully-featured Mac-only photo editing utility that can run as a standalone or as a plug-in for image editors such as Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture, Elements and Mac Photos.

At launch Luminar gives me the choice of using it as a plug-in with the image editors it has found on my system or as a standalone. I choose my unusual workhorse but Luminar informs me that my ageing Photoshop is no longer compatible, so I decide to go it alone. A rather unimpressive little screen then asks me to open an image to begin work. Conveniently I have a folder of scanned photographs from the 1970s that need quite a bit of work with colour balance and noise reduction. Boom! My first chosen image bursts open into a stunning interface with a large work area, a range of one-click presets at the bottom of the screen and a wide selection of filters on the right-hand side. If I need more screen space I can toggle both of these off. There is also a range of common image editing tools, crop, mask, erase, clone and so on. And the histogram, layers, blend modes and history functions are all comfortably familiar to this Photoshop veteran. If I do need help, a comprehensive series of short videos on particular features, presented by professional photographers, brings me up to speed.

With over 50 presets grouped into six categories, Basic, Street, Outdoor, Travel, and Dramatic there are plenty of choices for me straight out of the box. Each preset has an adjustable slider to control the amount I want to apply. Once I choose a preset, the filters display on the right shows all the settings used to create the effect. I can adjust any of these and then save out as a custom preset. If I’m still not satisfied I can download extra presets, some free, some for a fee.

A really neat feature is the vertical Before/After slider. As I drag this from left to right across the screen I see the original image on the left of the slider, on the right is the recently- edited version. Very useful for a quick comparison.

Filters? Over 35, all fully adjustable for colour, tone, exposure, focus and so on. All bases are covered. Noise reduction, masking and blemish removal tools are intuitive and sophisticated.

After about 15 minutes familiarising myself with the basic capabilities I’m ready to attack the rest of my images. I was nicely surprised by how quickly I could clean up, balance colour and saturation and get the levels right. The tired old originals came back to life before my eyes.

Suitable for novices semi-pros and pros alike, Luminar has many more features than i can cover here. Perhaps download the free trial version to see if it works for you. It runs best on newer Macs (late 2012 and onwards recommended), preferably OS El Capitan or Sierra with plenty of RAM and free space on your hard drive. Luminar supports Retina displays and is happy with a Magic mouse (or other multi-button mouse), Magic trackpad, force touch trackpad or other touchpad device as well as Wacom tablets or other tablets with pen.
At AU$99 ($84 if you already own another Macphun product) Luminar is real value for money.

For me it’s move over Photoshop, there’s a new kid on the block. From today I have a new image editor.

Rating: 4.5 mice.
Pros: Intuitive, adaptive for a wide range of imaging expertise: fast; affordable; a pleasure to work with.
Cons: None significant

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