Skylum has announced yet another new feature for its upcoming Luminar 4 software — AI Structure. I was lucky enough to get an early look at the new tool that’s coming to the platform with the Luminar 4 release this fall.
Whether it be landscapes, people or even food shots, I was curious as to how AI Structure would enhance my images. How does it work, and is it something that can be useful to your everyday workflow?
How AI Structure works
Skylum uses content-aware algorithms to apply Structure to only the parts of a photograph that need it. It doesn’t negatively impact certain objects, like faces and buildings. The tool boosts hidden details and improves local contrast, which help those fine details come out.
I photograph a lot of landscapes for fun during my time off, and to practice new techniques. Being in Michigan provides me several opportunities to do so, whether it’s golden hour at the lake or exploring our many nature trails.
I tend to not over-process my landscape images, so they look as natural as possible. Still, it’s nice to have the option to add some additional detail to my images, which is when AI Structure can be handy.
It also did a great job at enhancing this photograph that I took a couple of years ago in Ireland. While Structure was added to most of the house, there were some parts that it didn’t touch, which created a more life-like scene.
I also tried out giving one of my landscapes some negative structure, to better blur the area surrounding the lighthouse. This was really effective for this use case, as it allowed me to further place an emphasis on the red lighthouse.
Portraits and events
While I don’t photograph a ton of studio portraits, I do photograph people at events quite a bit. I was interested to see how AI Structure would work on these photos, as well as some environmental portraits I had in my archives.
You can see in the image above, that the woman’s back part of her hair was brought back into view.
AI Structure really shined on this photograph, boosting the fine detail in the hair, taken at an outdoor movie event for downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
For some of my event work — specifically that inside in a darker setting — I found that giving AI Structure a negative value is most effective. This reduced some of the details around the main subject, letting the person “pop” more than before. Below, the effect is subtle, but it smooths out the podium a bit.
Food and drink
I was super curious to see how AI Structure would work with some of my food photography. I’ve recently been photographing more food for a local magazine, and I’m always interested in how to set myself apart from other food photographers in my area. Below are some examples showing how I applied AI Structure on some of my food photographs, with the goal to bring out some of the finer details in the shots.
I quickly found that, with food, AI Structure was only realistic up to an amount of 50. Going above 50 meant that the photograph got somewhat unrealistic because of its edginess.
For the most part, AI Structure boosted the details where I wanted them enhanced — except for one image specifically. Below you’ll see a plate of French toast. While it did boost the details on the plate, it also boosted the black and white floor, creating a competing element with the plate of food. This is when being able to brush out the effect really comes in handy.
Below you can see AI Structure at amounts of 25, 50 and 100. Compare the differences.
For me — especially with food — I was more excited to see what a negative value on AI Structure would do. I worked with this photo, taken at a local coffee shop, to see if I could make the coffee cup stand out more by blurring the elements around it with AI Structure.
You can see that giving AI Structure a negative amount softens the background slightly, where it’s still realistic. It helps to pop the main subject — in this case, the coffee cup. The results are subtle — you see the most obvious effect in the reflection on the tabletop.
When I apply a Boost of 50 to the image though, that’s when things get a bit … well, magical, bringing that softer look to the coffee cup as well. Bumping that to a Boost of 100 definitely increases this effect.
While I definitely would use negative values of AI Structure for this, I’d probably stay away from the Boost slider when it comes to food.
While I’ve never been one to use structure controls other than adding a bit of Clarity to my images, I can definitely see where AI Structure would help my images take a step up. Being able to mask out certain elements from AI Structure with the brush tool is very handy, and works just like Luminar’s other filters. The content-aware technologies that Skylum has developed are pretty exciting, and I can’t wait to see how AI Sky Replacement and AI Structure will enhance my images in Luminar 4.