This Luminar Neo review will cover Skylum’s latest photo editing software which is available for Mac and Windows.
With its headline AI-powered tools and easy-to-use interface, Luminar Neo has been the year’s most eagerly anticipated release – but does it live up to its hype? There’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the feature overlap of Luminar Neo with Luminar AI, released only a year earlier.
With the latest version (Update v1.5.0), Neo presents a solid set of features that helps it step ahead of its predecessor, and now includes ‘Extensions’ to further expand its capabilities.
Aside from all its flashy AI features, will photographers genuinely find Luminar Neo a useful editing app, or is it destined to be a transient gimmick for the Instagram generation? In this Luminar Neo Review , I answer all the most common questions to help you decide whether you should buy Luminar Neo in 2023.
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What is Luminar Neo?
Luminar Neo is a powerful image editor for Mac and Windows, powered by AI technologies that can simplify complex photo editing tasks, making them fast and fun.
Headline AI features include the ‘god-like’ ability to relight a scene, Luminar Neo Review replace the sky, remove powerlines and dust spots, and perform various jaw-dropping portrait enhancements in just a couple of mouse clicks.
The main attraction of Luminar Neo is the opportunity for a complete novice to carry out immensely complex photo editing tasks with a couple of clicks. It’s also useful for more experienced photographers who want to save time or experiment with their image editing.
In addition to this artificial intelligence wizardry, Luminar Neo provides a solid selection of core editing tools that rival other popular image editors.
Numerous Presets are supplied (with more available to download/buy), which apply instant photo effects to images to alter their look – AI recognises the image and suggests suitable ‘For This Photo’ Presets to save time.
Luminar Neo pairs up with Luminar Share, a basic mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that allows you to wirelessly transfer your smartphone images to be edited in the desktop Neo software or vice versa to be shared on your favourite social media network.
Luminar NEO Pros & Cons
- Affordable one-time price
- Easy and fun to use
- Effective one-click presets
- Impressive AI tools
- Excellent portrait enhancers
- Fast RAW image imports
- Promising layer-based workflow
- Especially useful as a Lightroom Plugin
- Slow to respond (initially)
- Limited photo management features
- Limited print and export options
- Disappointing mobile app
Luminar Neo Review
For those completely new to the application and what it offers, Luminar NEO is an AI-powered image editor for Apple and Windows devices that are designed to simplify the most complex of photo editing tasks (masking, background removal, Luminar Neo Review sky replacement, skin retouching) and make them easy, and most importantly, fast.
The big attraction to the application is it provides beginners the opportunity to carry out incredibly complex photo editing tasks that would take large amounts of time to do manually in Adobe Photoshop and turn it into a tool that can be adjusted with just a quick checkbox and slider for “intensity and corrections.
For beginners, this gives them incredible power to play and experiment with their images to create something well beyond their expectations, and for seasoned pros, Luminar Neo review it gives them the freedom to do the jobs they have done manually in the past much faster and move on to other tasks.
In addition to the built-in artificial intelligence features, Luminar NEO also offers a wide variety of core editing tools that those familiar with RAW processors will feel right at home with, giving users the ability to leverage a combination of powerful AI manipulations, manual adjustments, as well as several included creative presets to alter the overall look of the image.
What’s more, Luminar Neo Review even analyses the image and suggests a variety of presets that can work best with the image in an effort to save time for the editor having to filter through every category and option to find one they like.
Why Use Luminar NEO
At its core, Luminar NEO was built in an effort to speed up an editor’s workflow by starting with a foundation that is coded modularly. This means the application can be updated and optimized separately and far more easily than in the past, also allowing for a more flexible editing process.
This allows users to cull their images faster, Luminar Neo Review make fast skin tone and color adjustments (which can be applied in bulk using the catalog tool), leverage more powerful AI tools to completely replace the sky of their images and relight the scenes to match, as well as create auto white balance and tonal adjustments that can return instant results.
Asily remove distracting elements in an image like sensor spots/dust (along with other unwanted items in the background of the image) practically automatically.Luminar Neo Review A process that could take hours previously in other RAW processing tools.
The best part is, Luminar NEO can be installed as a plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom Classic, allowing users to load it from their preferred editor/workflow, keeping the editing process as smooth as possible, as well as making it easy for users to keep their libraries/catalogs of images consistent while leveraging the powerful AI tools built into NEO.
Price and Subscription Plans
Luminar NEO is available in a variety of combinations ranging from $79 to $109 per year as part of the subscription plans, or for $119 as a one-time stand alone purchase. Additionally, users can buy the 2022 extensions pack which includes 7 extensions (HDR Merge, Noiseless AI, etc) for $219 for even more creative power.
Installation & Setup
After downloading and launching the Luminar Neo installer, you’re given the option to install Neo as a plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom Classic (if you’re already an Adobe user).
Strangely enough, you’re no longer able to install third-party plugins in Luminar Neo (such as Topaz Gigapixel, for enlargements) – something you were able to do with Luminar Neo Review . Hopefully, we’ll see this in a future update.
The program takes up 2.84GB of space on my Mac’s hard drive, which seems average when compared to other photo editors.
When the installation is complete and you’ve created a Skylum account, you’re shown a QR code which installs the companion mobile app Luminar Share.
1. Catalog Interface
Luminar Neo Catalog’s single photo view shows a filmstrip below – right-clicking photos in the single view or within the film strip reveals various options:
● Set Flag
● Open In
● Go To
● Create Album
● Move to Luminar Trash
● Show in Finder
Aside from the self-explanatory, ‘Set Flag’ allows you to Favourite, Reject or Unmark, using the same shortcut keys as Lightroom, and ‘Adjustments’ allow you to Sync, Copy or Paste any image edits made across other photos.
Open In’ allows you to open the photo in various apps you may already own: Luminar Neo review Photoshop, Lightroom, Photos, Elements and Aurora HDR.
There’s also a heart icon to favourite, an ‘Luminar Neo Review’ to reject and an eye icon which shows a before (unedited) version of your image, although I still prefer the implementation of the Before/After tool in Luminar AI.
One slight annoyance is the frustratingly narrow side scroll bar, which only comes into partial view when you move your mouse’s scroll wheel.
2. Presets Interface
Next to the ‘Catalog’ module is ‘Presets’ – clicking this reveals a selection of thumbnails with somewhat ambiguous titles, like ‘Experimental’ and ‘Influencer’.
These presets were the headline feature of Luminar AI (named ‘Templates’), promising to save hours of fiddling around with sliders to achieve the desired look.
The ‘For This Photo’ presets are your first taste of artificial intelligence coming to your rescue in Luminar Neo Review , predicting the one-click ‘look’ that would best complement your photo, based on its perceived contents.
In practice, if your photo contains a person, ‘For This Photo’ will show presets best suited for portrait photography. If the photo is of a landscape, the AI suggestion will show presets such as ‘Scenery’, ‘Sunsets’ or ‘Easy Landscapes.’
Clicking into each main preset category reveals various more associated presets, and so begins the testing process.
3. Edit Interface
The ‘Edit’ module houses all the manual and automated editing tools of Luminar Neo Review .
Anything with a slider invites you to experiment, with the partially hidden sub-menus containing options for when you’re more comfortable with the basic functionality of each tool.
Those coming from more professional-photographer-orientated photo editing software may poopoo the somewhat hodgepodge organisation of the tools, but if you’re new to photo editing, the layout is user-friendly and quickly becomes familiar,
Anything with ‘AI’ after its name denotes something with a very special party trick – more on those later.
Next to ‘Tools’ is the ‘Edits’ panel, which is kind of like Lightroom’s History tool, keeping track of each edit you’ve made to the image.
You’re also presented with another eye icon for a before/after, a revert arrow to undo each specific edit, and a pen icon, which allows you to make local adjustments like creating masks to add/remove effects.
You’ll also find ‘Layers’ on the left of the ‘Edit’ module – clicking the + icon reveals a selection of overlays which you can add to your image to produce various effects: ‘Flares’, ‘Light Leaks’, ‘Sparklers’ and ‘Stardust Bokeh’.
You can also load any image from your hard drive to use as a layer for a Luminar Neo Review double exposure effect. Any layer’s opacity and blending mode can be altered to achieve your desired look.
As you can see in the before/after above, I was able to add a cool flare/light leak effect to an image from a recent wedding I shot using the new Layers feature and the results look great.
(I also applied one of the Presets that Luminar Neo recommended – all up, the entire edit took less than a minute.)
4. Standard Editing Tools
For photographers who like to take a manual approach to their photo editing, the Develop panel is where it all starts – ‘Exposure’, ‘Highlights’ and ‘Shadows’ are familiar, Luminar Neo Review while ‘Smart Contrast’ is unique to Luminar, controlling both highlights and shadows in tandem to give your image a nice boost.
Erase’ contains two of Luminar Neo’s latest tools within its drop-down: ‘Remove Powerlines’ and ‘Remove Dust Spots’, both of which work similar to Photoshop’s content-aware spot healing tool, albeit but with no additional clicks.
Also of note is the ‘Landscape’ tool, which allows you to dehaze a photo, add the illusion of a photo taken at golden hour and even enhance the foliage in a scene.
My favourite is the ‘Sunrays’ tool, which still blows my mind despite being several years old. The ability to place a realistic sun in your image, Luminar Neo Review & have the sun’s rays wrap around or poke through objects as if the entire scene were three-dimensional is simply incredible.
The ‘after’ image above is just from applying the default sunrays settings – from here, you can use various other sliders to fine-tune the look to your preference – see the screenshot above which shows the options.
The ‘Portrait’ panel contains mostly AI tools, and finally, the ‘Professional’ panel, which houses ‘Supercontrast’ and ‘Color Harmony’.
‘Supercontrast’ allows you to adjust the highlights, Luminar Neo Review mid tones and shadows contrast individually, then use balance sliders to fine-tune the adjustment.
‘Color Harmony’ deals with ‘Brilliance’ and ‘Warmth’, which seem similar to ‘Saturation’ and ‘Color Temperature’ found elsewhere in the panel.
AI Editing Tools
OK, so this is where all the fun starts.
If you’ve read any other Lumnar Neo review, you’ve no doubt already been bombarded by images of skies being replaced and faces slimmed – Luminar Neo Review it’s easy to become desensitized by just how incredibly simple and realistic complex photo manipulation has become.
In a nutshell, Luminar Neo offers a suite of non-destructive RAW editing tools powered by artificial intelligence that lets you carry out complex editing tasks in just a couple of clicks.
As a professional photographer with over 10 years of experience editing photos, I have little need for certain AI tools offered by Luminar Neo.
I can achieve similar results to ‘Crop AI’ Luminar Neo Review ‘Enhance AI’ and ‘Structure AI’ manually by using tools found in the standard adjustment panels.
Things like adding realistic bokeh to an image, removing a background or relighting a scene (controlling foreground and background brightness), I can definitely handle, but it takes considerable time to do properly.
However, I draw the line at replacing an entire sky, changing the shape of a subject’s body or performing delicate facial retouching. This is the realm of a professional retoucher with years of experience.
With Luminar Neo Review , you can achieve all the above in a couple of clicks – sometimes, with just one click, like in the example of the Eiffel Tower below.
Out of all the AI-powered tools, Sky AI is still my favourite and most impressive. Whether your photo is a pure landscape or an urban scene with people and buildings, Luminar Neo Review Neo does a jaw-dropping job of swapping out the sky and relighting the scene to suit.
You can see in the screenshot above the incredible level of detail retained by the Sky AI tool – every gap in the Eiffel Tower shows the replacement sky through it! Cloning and masking something like this in Photoshop would take hours and a very skilled hand.
I’m also impressed with the Portrait enhancement tools which can perform edits to faces and bodies that could rival even the best professional retouchers.
I can see the portrait manipulating features being useful for quickly editing selfies to be shared on social media – things like whitening teeth, smoothing skin or even changing eye Luminar Neo Review colour can be done in a couple of seconds with Luminar Neo.
Aside from the ability to slim faces, darken lips and whiten teeth, by far the most useful application in my opinion is the ability to control the face light even in photos of multiple people – this is incredibly helpful for me when editing family groups, with the software controlling the brightness of each face in the photo.
You can see in the ‘After’ image above how the software uses artificial intelligence to recognise each of the subjects’ faces for me to manually add the Face Light feature with the slider.
(If you look closely, you’ll notice the second girl’s face is unaffected by the tool, presumably because the Face Light tool has brought the exposure up on the other girls’ faces to match hers.)
Another great tool which is exclusive to Luminar Neo Review is the Portrait Bokeh AI feature, which using AI to recognise the subject(s) in your photo, separating them from the background so a fake-bokeh can be applied (blurring the background).
There’s no denying that Luminar Neo has some impressive party tricks.
The entire focus of the Luminar Neo Review Skylum marketing and the furore surrounding its release has been on these headline AI features, and in that, Neo completely delivers.
As a ‘regular’ image editor, it offers all the tools most photographers will ever need for a manual editing experience.
Where it falls short, however, is as a one-stop-shop for all your photo management/editing needs – this is why it’s also been developed as a free plugin for Lightroom, a far superior DAM.
At first, I thought a professional photographer like me would have no need for Luminar Neo Review , but I was wrong. In fact, I find myself opening Neo to perform quick image edits that would normally take much longer or just simply to have a play around with my photos.