Skylum has released Luminar Neo close on the heels of LuminarAI. Is there a difference between the two?

Luminar Neo and LuminarAI: General observations

LuminarAI and Neo differ in intent.

Skylum designed LuminarAI for people to quickly process a photo. Indeed, they have many Templates where one can quickly obtain a certain look, make quick adjustments if necessary and be finished.

Luminar Neo, on the other hand, is designed for people who are willing to roll up their sleeves. It offers many tools and adjustments, but have Presets instead of Templates. While either one will let you make lots of minute adjustments, they do seem to differ in approach. 

Luminar Neo and LuminarAI: Importing photos

Curiously, LuminarAI requires that you hit the + sign before importing a photo. Neo also has this, but allows you to simply drag a photo in as well. It’s a little surprising that LuminarAI does not do this.

Luminar Neo and LuminarAI: Templates

Both LuminarAI and Neo are easy to use. The interface is relatively similar except for one giant difference: Templates. LuminarAI uses them; Luminar Neo does not. These Templates allow you to process photos with a single click. Many of them seem like they would be useful to most people. They would seem to appeal largely to those new to post-processing phots. The flow of the interface suggests that the edits flow from the Templates although you certainly can head straight to Edit mode.

Luminar Neo may not have Templates, but it does have Presets. They’re sort of like Templates except for one thing: You cannot edit them. And you can’t create your own. On the other hand, LuminarAI allows you to edit their Templates in Edit mode.

In Luminar Neo, if you adjust a Preset, it shows in the Edit mode, but only as a slider, allowing you to adjust the effect by percentage and nothing more.

Oh, and more about those Templates. Skylum states that you will be able to import LuminarAI Templates into Luminar Neo soon. And yes, that includes the ones that you purchased earlier.

Luminar Neo and LuminarAI: Layers

We’re going to have a look at the Edit features in both. I do want to point out, though, that Luminar Neo displays their Layers prominently, located on the left of the image. Like Serif Affinity or Adobe Photoshop, Neo supports Layers, enabling the user to make finer adjustments.

While LuminarAI currently does not support Layers, it does offer local adjustments and masks.

Luminar Neo and LuminarAI: Features

LuminarAI and Luminar Neo share similar AI editing tools. These include EnhanceAI, SkyAI, Augmented SkyAI, CompositionAI, AtmosphereAI, Portrait BokehAI, FaceAI, SkinAI and BodyAI

Luminar Neo RelightAI Menu
Luminar Neo RelightAI tool, one of the new features.

However, Neo also offers added functionality to the Erase tool, RelightAI and Portrait Background Removal (coming in a future update).

Luminar Neo Erase Menu, including the Objects Removal section.
Luminar Neo Erase Menu, including the Objects Removal section.

Within the Erase tool is the much-discussed Object Removal sub-section. This includes one-click options for Remove Powerlines and Remove Dust Spots functions. While these may not always do this perfectly, they can often save a few minutes of time for you.

Then there’s the usage of layers. This should give additional control and flexibility over editing that LuminarAI does not have.

Who is Luminar Neo for?

Luminar Neo Portrait BokehAI Menu.
Luminar Neo Portrait BokehAI tool

It’s a fair question. After all, Luminar Neo is not named LuminarAI 2.0.

Skylum states that these two are intended for different audiences. The approach does appear to bear that out. And Skylum states that Neo is based on a different engine, one based on a modular system. According to Skylum, this means that different parts of the application can be individually optimized for best results.

Prospective buyers may be confused in part from the different product names, which don’t offer a clue to the intended audiences. Also, Skylum releases new products at a rather rapid rate while supporting older products for approximately 1-2 years. Indeed, Skylum no longer features Luminar 4 on their website. And support for Luminar 4 will end in mid-2022.

Furthermore, confusion also results from the products having considerable overlap in their features.

For now, though, the removal of Templates, the slight change in the user interface, the new features and the use of Layers points the way to Luminar Neo appealing to someone who wants more precise control over their image. 

Night photo of an abandoned aircraft.
Night photo of an abandoned aircraft. Luminar Neo can help process photos like this with a variety of tools.

How I like to use Luminar products

I have been using Skylum products as a plugin with Photoshop for the past several years. I do realize that with Luminar Neo, this gives me the slightly fun bonus of using an app that has layers with Photoshop, which has more Layers! But I think this can potentially complement the power that each brings to the table. I can use the non-destructive editing of Photoshop to further fine-tune the image if necessary.

Neo seems promising. Promising enough that I would love Skylum to slow down, let customers get used to a particular product and interface, and support that product for many years.

Create the photos you imagined, with Luminar Neo

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