Once you return home from your travels, with lots of images to review and process, there is a good chance you will do whatever you can to quickly complete editing your images. You will be excited to show your pictures off to friends, family, or clients. My suggestion, no matter what your workflow may be, don’t move too fast. Take the time to carefully consider your finishing touches–subtle enhancements you can make to your photographs once you have more or less completed processing them. As slight as these enhancements may be, they may make the difference between an ordinary photo and an extraordinary one.

I primarily use Lightroom to process my images, moving over to Photoshop now and then for specialized adjustments, such as blending images in layers. Once I finish my initial image editing I almost always move from Lightroom to the filters offered in Luminar 2018, to complete most of my work on finishing touches. I might only use one filter in Luminar, or I might experiment and totally change the look of my image. Sometimes I will even wait to complete certain adjustments, holding back from making them in Lightroom, because I know from experience that the enhancements will look better using Luminar’s filters. My photo friends often ask why my images after processing look better than theirs. My response is that Luminar is my “secret sauce.”

Occasionally I will use Luminar as my primary image editor, and not Lightroom, such as when I want to take advantage of the presets Luminar offers. I will still use Luminar filters for my finishing touches.

I should probably note that I first purchased Luminar immediately upon its initial release by Macphun (now Skylum). I had used Macphun’s previous products, predating Luminar, and was excited the company had moved on to the next level. I also always update my software when a new version is released because I have learned that things really do keep getting better.

Vignette Filter

My favorite filter is the “Vignette” filter. I find it much more effective than creating a vignette in Lightroom because I don’t use this filter as a true vignette, evenly darkening the edges of a photograph. I use it to draw attention to my subject, which can be located anywhere in the image. I first mark the subject as the “Center“ of the image (using the “Place Center” tool). For example, Yosemite Falls is the center of the vignette although it is not in the center of the photo. I carefully adjust the provided sliders–they all make a significant difference in the look of the vignette. I would like to emphasize the word “carefully”. I am very light-handed in whatever I do in Luminar, and I experiment with sliders, moving them back and forth until I get the look I like. I basically use the sliders to make adjustments to highlights and shadows, as if I were burning and dodging in a traditional darkroom.

Microstructure and Structure Filters

If I am processing an image with a lot of textures or details, I will typically use the Structure and Microstructure filters, to more fully define the details or textures. I lower the opacity, almost never using filters full strength. I am looking for subtle changes. I view my image at 100%, to be sure I am not overdoing the filters. At times I may also use the “Enhance Detail” filter.

In this Venice canal scene, not only did I use the structure filters, but I used the Vignette filter to lighten the buildings from the back center forward by using the “Inner Light” slider in the Vignette filter.    

Soft Glow and Image Radiance

Other favorite filters are the “Soft Glow” and “Image Radiance” filters, which can add a glow or ethereal quality to a photograph. I find that the “Orton” filter, which blurs and sharpens an image at the same time, can be a bit heavy-handed, but it can also provide an interesting effect, particularly if the opacity is adjusted.  Again, I move around in the different sliders, sometimes adding warmth and adjusting brightness.  

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

My best advice is to experiment and explore your artistic vision, clicking between the different Luminar filters as you put finishing touches on your images. With time certain filters will become your favorites, and you will find that you return to them often.

And remember, you don’t necessarily have to use a filter on your entire image. Many times I will brush in enhancements just into certain areas of my images.  I will also put filters on different layers, if I want to brush in different effects in each layer, or if I want to change the opacity of different layers. Chris Anson has written a series of articles for Photofocus on using Luminar Brushes, Filters, and Masks. His last article provides links to his first two articles. Vanelli has written an article on the difference between layer and filter brushes which you may also find helpful.


Final Thoughts

Probably many of the enhancements I make with Luminar can be completed in Lightroom or Photoshop, but it would take me a lot more time to figure them out and I might not figure them out as well as Luminar does. Luminar gets my creative juices flowing, as I meander through the various choices available to me in filters and presets. These choices allow me to see my images in so many different lights, they become the key ingredients in my photographic “secret sauce.”