With today’s announcement of the upcoming Luminar Neo, will LuminarAI fade off into the sunset?

The growth of photo editing powered by artificial intelligence has been astronomical. Skylum kicked things off with AccentAI back in Luminar 3. Topaz quickly followed with some amazing tools as well. And now, seems like AI is just about everywhere with things like Photoshop’s Neural filters and even smart processing on iPhones.

And today, Skylum announced Luminar Neo. Here’s the official description:

Luminar Neo is for those who want more editing options and more creative control. The application provides the ability to build detailed and expressive images with an advanced layer-based workflow and flexible tools that can be applied in any order. It also boasts a high-speed core engine that will help accelerate more complex tasks.

Luminar Neo is designed for:

  • Photographers of all levels and creative artists
  • People who like to explore visual creativity and build refined images
  • Those who truly enjoy exploring new options through creative editing

The inventor of the product had this to say:

“As the latest member of the Luminar family, we designed Luminar Neo to allow artists to take on more challenging image creation work and achieve results which often seem unattainable,” said Dima Sytnik, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Skylum. 

So, is LuminarAI dead?

Skylum is well-known for their rapid innovation. They’ve shown little fear in launching new products, making major changes and adjusting to feedback. That focus on innovation just led to them getting the 2021 Red Dot industry award for best user interface design.

But that rapid pace of innovation has often led to Skylum making quick pivots and changes in their product lineup. leading many to find themselves with a product that appears “dead” to some or “end-of-life.” To clarify, the applications keep running just fine in most cases, for example Aurora HDR is still our go-to application for HDR, but hasn’t received any new features since 2019. It doesn’t mean it’s not still a great application, it just can get frustrating for some.

So the short answer to “Is LuminarAI dead?”

No, but its complicated …

Who is LuminarAI for?

At Photofocus we’re big fans of LuminarAI. Its portrait tools are amazing. It offers a bunch of unique creative filters. And you can do some great stuff for landscapes. It also stands out for adding details with StructureAI and has the most robust set of color-grading tools on the market in a photo application.

So, who is LuminarAI for? When the company launched it, it was made clear that it was NOT an upgrade to Luminar 4. No migration of data, no layers, and a totally different way of working. The application wanted you to work with templates … but did give you the ability to custom edit. Here’s the official description:

LuminarAI is the easiest-to-use image editor fully powered by artificial intelligence for those who prefer a timesaving Template-driven workflow for quick results. The app can swiftly guide you to the best outcomes while still preserving editing flexibility. Moreover, it’s a compact and easy-to-navigate application that already packs the core tools that one needs for great results.

Skylum

LuminarAI is designed for:

  • Entry-level photographers and amateurs in photo editing who love to start with templates
  • Also useful to visual communicators looking for quality results with little effort
  • Was not designed as a replacement for Luminar 4

But a lot of folks who are professional and semiprofessional used it. Its ability to use as a plugin is what really drove this. Luminar’s AI-powered tools are much faster than those found in Photoshop. Photoshop needs to transfer data to the cloud while Luminar runs locally. And there are several tools that only Luminar AI had, so longtime Luminar users switched.

But the more advanced users were often frustrated by a lack of pro features that Luminar used to have (like layers and advanced masking).  

Explaining the relationship

The easiest way to explain it is this. Luminar Neo and LuminarAI are members of a family. A family that will also see mobile apps soon. A family is a group that often shares specific traits. You can often recognize family members. Often, each family member will have a job or a role. Families have things in common. Families have similar values.

Adobe does this well. There are so many flavors of Photoshop and its Lightroom child. Mobile apps, tablet apps, web apps. They all are a little different. They all have something in common. If you know one, the others are easy. While each application clearly shares some genetic code … they are not the same. You’ll find that some things transfer between applications, some things don’t.

They each have a special purpose.

Skylum insists that both apps remain for sale. They also are selling bundles with the two of them.

So LuminarAI IS still alive?

Sure sounds that way. Let’s breakdown some stuff from the Skylum FAQ document they posted.

Will you continue to support LuminarAI? At Skylum, we love to provide you with a variety of options that suit your workflow best. That is why LuminarAI and Luminar Neo are designed to serve two different purposes.”

Skylum

So yes, both are being sold. And if you recall from the top of the article … the descriptions do define those roles. The short version is that LuminarAI = AI photo editor and Luminar Neo = Creative image editor. That’s not too dissimilar to how Photoshop and Lightroom coexist.

Here’s some of that FAQ:

“LuminarAI is the easiest-to-use image editor fully powered by artificial intelligence for those who prefer a timesaving Template-driven workflow for quick results. The app can swiftly guide you to the best outcomes while still preserving editing flexibility. Moreover, it’s a compact and easy-to-navigate application that already packs the core tools that one needs for great results. 

“In its turn, Luminar Neo is for those who want more editing options and more creative control. The application provides the ability to build detailed and expressive images with an advanced layer-based workflow and flexible tools that can be applied in any order. It also boasts a high-speed core engine that will help accelerate more complex tasks.

“Both applications will be available on the market so that you can choose the software according to your preferred workflow and the desired outcome.” 

Choice is good

Making things a little confusing is that fact that today was just the announcement of Luminar Neo. It doesn’t ship until this winter (historically they tend to ship apps just before the holiday season). So Skylum has room to add more details to Neo. But it looks like it significantly builds on what LuminarAI can do, by adding the following features:

  • Layers
  • AI powered masking
  • Portrait Background replacement
  • Ability to stack filters in custom order
  • Ability to use multiple RAW files in a composition

So let’s be specific

Because the internet loves a good rumor … we’re already seeing posts that Skylum killed LuminarAI.  

The truth in that is no …. but with a tiny asterisk. Let’s breakdown that official response a little more

“LuminarAI is a complete set of tools that will not grow in complexity.”

This sounds like they don’t plan to add more filters beyond what’s already there, but might add other things.

“You can continue to expand its template-driven workflow with new additions from the Luminar marketplace or with Luminar X.”

Since its template-driven, and you can buy more templates that’s cool. They also release free ones too and others as bonuses to customers. Templates are the editing and color grading recipes and the application even suggests them based on the photos you open. It scans the image and recognizes more than 7,000 details before it recommends things.

“We will ensure, however, that [LuminarAI] receives updates to its performance and camera support, so it provides an excellent experience for those who rely on it.”

This means it will get updates for operating system changes. It will get support for newer cameras (although Skylum lags behind Adobe here sometimes). And they’ll update existing tools for speed as well as fix bugs.

So bottom line, if you like the application, it will keep working well into the future and they intend to polish the experience and keep it fresh.

“We’ll also ship updates for things like the forthcoming Windows 11 from Microsoft.”

Microsoft featured Luminar AI in their Windows 11 launch events and even showed a cool Microsoft Photos integration. That still hasn’t been released and sounds like it will come in a free update. Windows 11 ships in October.

But, I want more …

That’s normal … and software is a business. Skylum has some pretty cool discounts right now on Luminar Neo and other bundles. If you already own another Skylum application they give you a discount.

Luminar Neo looks promising. Check out our first look review.

But if you’re a LuminarAI user … take a breath and relax. Upgrading is optional. If you want to push Luminar further as a creative image editor, then check out Luminar Neo. If editing is intimidating …. stay put with LuminarAI.

Editor’s note: Photofocus is an affiliate of Skylum, but the opinions above are our own. Our affiliate relationship with Skylum, as well as many other companies like Adobe and Topaz, help us keep the lights on.

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