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It has taken me a while to figure out how, when and why to use Luminar to make fantastic images. Mostly this is due to my adverse reaction to change. I figure, if I like what I am using, why change it? Well, you just don’t know what you are missing until you’ve tried. So, I am giving Skylum’s Luminar a go and am enjoying the results I’m getting so far.

Following is how I’ve come to understand the workspace and features in Luminar that either aren’t in the other photo processing programs I’ve used or are a combination of elements. Luminar seems to be an interesting mix of Adobe Lightroom — basic RAW processing, Adobe Photoshop — layers and dodge and burn and Alien Skin Exposure — presets and film filters.

Since I use Lightroom for my file management, all photos were opened directly out of Lightroom with the Luminar plug-in.

The first thing I do when I open an image in Luminar is basic processing. Check white balance, exposure and white/black clipping.

After the basics are taken care of, I have a little fun to see how I can make my image look its best. First, I click on each basic preset. I mean, they’re right there at the bottom of the screen and I think it’s interesting to see if I like what they do to my image. Next, I play with the opacity of the preset, then I go all wild and make it my own.

I turn the setting on and off (eye icon in the top menu) several times to help me decide what I like about it and what I don’t. If I like one of them, I select it, but I don’t stop there.

My next move is to create an adjustment layer over my preset layer.

I then switch to Professional mode where I have the whole toolbox to work with.

For the following photo, I decided to play with the LUT Mapping Filter. I liked the effect that the Genius LUT Map gave it at about 50% opacity.

The next example was a photo that was intentionally underexposed to see what Luminar could do to preserve the colors. I’ve got to say, I’m impressed.

As with the first photo, I tried one of the presets that is so handy at the bottom of the screen. I chose the Fix Dark Photos preset and was well on my way to liking what I was getting. I then added an adjustment layer and decided to hit Fix Dark Photos again. I lowered the opacity significantly on that layer and was happy with the result.

After adding another new adjustment layer, I spotted the Tonal Compressor preset and wanted to see what it would do to my image. Whoa! It was a little overkill, but with a bit of opacity adjusting I was happy and didn’t feel the need to go any further with the image.

My playing here and there with Luminar doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the capabilities held in the software, but unless I’m doing a full out retouch on a headshot, I don’t like to spend a lot of time editing photos. The Layers feature in Luminar takes it a step above other programs I’ve used for basic processing.

Oh, that top image: Tonal Compressor, followed by a new adjustment layer. But, this time instead of selecting Professional I chose Quick and Easy, along with a 50% Boost with the AI filter and done. So simple.