I was recently given Luminar 4 to review. It is coming out later this month — Nov. 18, 2019 — and there is already a bit of a buzz happening around it. It claims to be faster and more intuitive than previous versions, with enhancements in the User Interface (UI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

During my first look at Luminar 4, I must confess to being a little bit lost at first. But it didn’t take too long to find my way around.

On the surface, it is similar to other programs with a Library, Edit (Develop) module and Info (such as EXIF data). Looks are presets, set into different categories: Portraits, landscapes and more. It’s easy to create and save your own looks, too. Vanelli has a great post on the basics of the UI here. I won’t reiterate on these too much, but I will cover some other areas in a bit more detail.

Luminar 4 can be used as a stand-alone program, and import all images into it, as you would in, say, Lightroom. You can use the catalog features to rate, flag, cull and delete images as required. You can also use it as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop, Photos for macOS and more.

The Canvas tools

I must confess it took a bit of looking around to find the clone stamp and even the lens corrections, which are all located in the Canvas tab (top right-hand corner). You can change the aspect ratio, the horizon of your images in the Lens & Geometry area.

A quick horizon straightening tool would be a huge advantage as a later addition. Clone & Stamp was sometimes listed under headings in the Edit area, but I anticipate this bug will be fixed prior to release. Also, the lens distortion did not seem to remove chromatic aberration.

When I did an AI Sky Replacement I seemed to get a halo around some of my edges — this could be due to the fact I have not learned the nuances of this program yet.

The Clone & Stamp tool

Clone & Stamp tool

The Clone & Stamp tool, while I really liked its ease of use (so much better than Lightroom). I have some minor gripes. The Clone & Stamp opens your image into another panel, and the Undo feature is not available in this panel (apparently coming with a later update). Essentially you need to clone a section and finish, then re-open and do another section and so forth. If you make a mistake you need to visit the history panel and undo that entire clone section. Getting in and out of the clone panel itself can consume some time, so this whole feature, while it is nice and easy to use and works well on the surface is sadly not that usable.

The other thing I struggled to find at first was the History option, safely tucked away. While this is right on the screen, the clock icon threw me a bit. This seems to have an inexhaustible list of EVERY step you have taken and it seems you can take you image right back to the start, although it appears that there is no Reset button for your images. So if you really do not like your images you can go back to the original image through History.

The History tool

The Essentials tab

This is full of little expandable menus and a little confusing, remembering where everything is located. Again being a newbie has its downsides. All the essentials are there — white balance, temperature, exposure, etc. There is a tone curve located in the Advanced Settings tab.

You can locate all your color enhancements here, for color shift, removing color casts and more. The AI Structure and AI Enhance were great to play with. The Reset and Toggle buttons are great to help you get a feel for what they do — these two little buttons or switches seem to be in most of the tools. You can also edit these with a mask you either brush on or off. It’s perfect if you only want that adjustment in a section of your image.

I really liked the Details Enhancer as well. Choosing between the small, medium and large details to enhance really gives a lot of control, and of course, you can again go into the Advanced tab for even more control.

Denoise gives you control over luminosity or color denoise. Dehaze, a great Golden Hour toggle and Foliage Enhancer are located in the Landscape Enhancer tool. Here you can change the color of foliage, separate from the rest of the image.

The vignette is simple and easy to use, however, you really need the advanced functions to really get this looking nice.

Most of these features can be obtained in many other programs for basic editing, and while not specifically any great advantage, if you are just starting out in software for photo editing I believe it may be a great place to begin. It did not take me long to find my way around.

The Creative tab

Whether you use the Creative Panel as a stand-alone after basic editing or as a plugin, I really liked the creative features and control it offers. Some really great tools have been loaded into the UI. One-click Sky Replacement is a bit of a misnomer as it requires a few clicks to get it just as you want it, but it really is VERY clever and loads of fun to play with. Likewise the Sunrays, Matte Look, Mystical and Dramatic looks are just a few of my favorites.

There are Lookup Tables (LUTs) which offer a variety of different effects. There is the ability to download new LUTs as well. I found most of them a little overpowering, but, there is an Opacity slider so you can select HOW much of the LUTs you which to override your image.

The Texture overlay is simple and easy to use and you can remove unwanted areas. Flip your texture around and change the color of it separate to the original. I am not a big fan of using Glow effects in images, especially landscapes and still life, but it is there for those who do enjoy adding it to their images. I found the Fog tab a little underwhelming, but with a bit of playing around and using the edit mask feature, you can achieve some usable results.

Great fun was found with the details enhancer and the matte looks for my still life images as well as landscapes. I really liked being able to play around these. When using the Looks panel (which are preloaded Presets for various genres and styles), you can add additional tweaks over the top. It is easy to create your own Looks as well, great for a series or if you have a certain ‘look’ and feel to your work.

Exporting images

Exporting images is quick and easy to do. Size, type, name and location, output and such are all listed. If you have been using other programs for watermarking or adding a signature, it appears you may need to continue to do so, unless you add a new adjustment layer and bring in an image to overlay on top.

It does not appear you can rename a file if you are exporting a group of images. You can also export to email or SmugMug.

If you are using Luminar 4 as a plugin, you do not need to export images. Just click the Done button and it saves changes as a unique layer back in your original editing program.

In closing

I will cover Portrait and Pro tools in another article, but in closing I am happy to say that I really did enjoy the Creative tools. The overall look and feel of Luminar 4 is sleek and clutter-free. If you just want a really quick way to edit some simple images, or even if you are just starting out with photo editing and do not feel the need for Photoshop or advanced creative editing or digital artistry, then this program is well worth a look at.

I mostly preferred it as a plug-in, but for basic editing, or loads of creative fun in the Creative tools, I really did enjoy my first look at this new software.